Following the announcements of the elevated Veloway months ago the full scope of the West Gate Tunnel Project is now public with the state governments release of the Environment Effects Statement, but there is little time for the public to respond. The 10,000 page EES, works approval application and draft planning scheme amendment are on public exhibition from 29 May to 10 July 2017 at which point submissions are then closed. How does it look for cycling?The headline act of the cycling infrastructure is the elevated veloway proposed to follow Footscray Road, suspended between the elevated highway and the existing road beneath.
A rather creative place to put a bicycle path when there will be a parallel and separate shared path at ground level. Getting into the detailed design of the path the dimensions appear to satisfy the minimum requirements for such a pathway with a 4000mm (13 feet) clear width specified.
But when you see the view from inside this box it becomes much less inviting.
This section is approximately 2km of length continuously inside a perforated metal cage surrounded by traffic. Such a closed and lengthy design is questionable from a safety perspective with no visibility from other people in the area or access should someone require assistance, in a nod to this 2 “emergency egress” routes have been tacked on the side of the route.
Having doors at both ends, stairs, and a narrow passage which would all be challenging to transport a bicycle through these areas are even more concealing than the main veloway and provide possible areas of entrapment. This is not a space conducive to public safety but instead the worst kind of isolating infrastructure which provides ideal locations for assaults and muggings.
When the enclosed section opens up it remains elevated above the roadway for a considerable distance as it snakes around before returning to ground level.
Here it uses a combination of two different fences, one tall to prevent items being thrown onto traffic, and the other to waist height while being 8-10m (30 feet) above the ground below.
Here the documents are unclear with a noted 1300mm (4 foot 3 inches) height of the rail, when the Australian guides suggest a minimum of 1400mm (4 foot 7 inches) and go on to specify:
A higher fence (e.g. 1.6 m) may be considered where the fence is protecting path users from a very sever [sic] hazard (e.g. high vertical drop from a structure to a body of water or rocks).
So motorised traffic gets an “anti throw screen” to protect them from people intentionally throwing objects at them, while cyclists are given a questionably low handrail that could leave them falling over the edge in an accident. Thankfully the screen is see-through as the tight corners on this open section down to a radius of 25m (80 feet) require significant sight lines, but despite being on an incline the radius indicates the design speed of just 30km/h (19 mph). Again it shows a lack of understanding of bicycle traffic where the even the average speed of a fit cyclist would exceed this and with the downhill direction speeds in excess of 40km/h (25 mph) would be easily achieved and require a curve radius at least twice the size.
With this in mind you can look at some of the detail work where the shared paths transition:
They are simply given the excess space inside the road curvature without designing for the needs of cyclists or pedestrians, here with a curve of 14m (45 feet) radius into a narrowing path contained on one side by a hard fence and the other by the roadway. Once details such as traffic lights and signposts are added the usable width of the path will be entirely inadequate for purpose and this is designed in from the start when there is both time and space to resolve it without significant costs.
All along the route we see the minimum widths being applied to the shared infrastructure:
Here on both sides of the highway the shared paths are placed against fences without clearance reducing them below the minimum widths required by the Australian guides, in this example constrained by nothing more than an unwillingness to split the plantings to both sides of the paths. And while roads are always given sweeping curves and splayed intersections.
Paths can be given inelegant and difficult to negotiate layouts such as this proposed junction at the corners of Dynon Road and the Moonee Ponds Creek. Which even when rendered from a carefully chosen perspective:
Still looks ridiculous and can’t hide the sharp corners intended for the junctions despite highlighting the single sweeping curve in the design. For a final point of disaster to dwell on consider the fencing alongside this curve and the quote from the ESS:
The design of the ramp on the Hyde Street Reserve side, incorporating the shared use path, presents vertical fin balustrades over simple uncluttered structures to present a visually restrained and elegant interface to the reserve.
Which is a design element they hope to echo throughout the project with the accompanying illustration:
At 1500mm (5 feet) high this design certainly addresses the concerns about the height of the handrails but then takes danger to the extreme with a fence of pointed steel posts. Perhaps one of the “designers” would like to volunteer to test the safety of the design and be pushed into it on a bicycle at 30km/h, we could even let them wear a helmet to try and protect themselves unlike the free and easy image they chose to use for the illustration.
The project overall has merit in creating for once some continuous and desirable routes for bicycle transport, but then as usual falls down in the implementation by people with clearly no experience of cycling. The proposed veloway is a white elephant with extreme public safety issues and distracts attention from the otherwise poor paths planned along the route.