Swan St bridge is currently undergoing refurbishment with significant closures for cyclists and pedestrians, ahead of new expansive shared paths being installed across it as part of other works. The busy shared paths each side of the Yarra river which pass underneath are completely closed off during the works as they will be upgraded too, but whats in place while they’re out of action?
A great mass of signs are placed immediately ahead of the works, with little time to process them all (and their inconsistencies). There were people dressed in the ubiquitous high visibility vests directing cyclists to form a queue on the kerbside traffic lane in front of the waiting cars in an informal bicycle storage area (advanced stopping line).
But from there the instructions and signs ran out and the cyclists are left amongst the motor traffic travelling along a divided road with a speed limit of 60km/h (37 mph). The public notifications are similarly unclear on the situation:
If you’re travelling along the riverside trails, follow the electronic detour signs.
The riverside trails on both sides of the Yarra [river] will be closed under the Swan Street Bridge until July 2017.
But they don’t describe what is actually going on, and where the path reopens there is no signage or facilities for cyclists to leave the road.
With a width of 3.6-3.8m (12 feet) this lane straddles the acceptable minimum width of a lane wide enough for a bicycle and car to share, the Australian guides requiring between 3.7m and 4.5m (12 to 15 feet) to safely share a lane at 60km/h. These varying and intermediate widths which are not obviously too narrow can be particularly uncomfortable to cycle along as impatient drivers see enough space to physically pass, while many cyclists would feel uncomfortable with traffic passing in the available width. Even “taking the lane” to make the situation clear several drivers passed uncomfortably close until the respite of an onroad bicycle lane appeared approximately 1km up the road.
These works require a rethink of their “solution” of pushing cyclists out into the traffic, while the option to dismount and walk is always available its not made clear that the detour is amongst traffic and once underway it is much too difficult to leave the road. Off road paths are complimentary to on road facilities and each attract different users. Lumping all cyclists in to a single homogeneous group of skills, confidence, and risk aversion (or lack thereof) shows how little understanding the roads authorities have of cyclists and their needs.
Where its headed:
Given that whats pictured in these glossy media releases is so far removed from the rest of the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Melbourne it should be interesting to return after the works and look at the reality.