Active travel as a checkbox

Infrastructure where pedestrian and cycling movements have been designed into the system are easy to forget, as they just naturally fit into the journey and require no thought to use so attract no attention. Then you have roads where motor traffic has been the only focus of the design and all other modes are left with whatever can fit around the fringes added just to meet a checkbox on a list, today is a look at one of these second examples.


It took a few double takes to trace this map from aerial photography as the footpaths (in blue) appeared to be woefully misaligned but going down and looking at them closely this is an accurate representation of sloppy layout. As seen throughout Melbourne the bicycle lanes ignore the Austroads guidance that where lanes are used they should continue into and through the intersection. One of the bicycle storage boxes is entirely useless and should never exist, while the other is almost entirely redundant as its also impossible to get to safely/legally.

Running through an industrial area Salmon Street in Port Melbourne has seen its on road bicycle lanes incrementally adjusted/trimmed to increase space for motor vehicles. This signalised junction has multiple lanes for queuing and passing turning vehicles but leaves cyclists to merge (without priority) back into normal lanes as they approach. Having successfully joined the flow of traffic making right hand turns should be relatively safe since the single lane approaching the intersection is given full width to allow passing in the two marked lanes.

Instead the driver of this unbranded truck (license plate 88397-F) decides to both perform a close pass and sound their horn for an extended length in a show of intimidation, the heavy vehicle causing the road to shake as captured in the video. With an empty lane to their left designed specifically to allow them to pass safely they instead choose to make their feelings clear and harass the cyclist. Even without causing the driver any delay or slow down compared to any other vehicle making a right turn they feel its acceptable to threaten people in this way knowing full well the police wont take any interest. This is the everyday behaviour which prevents people from using bicycles as transport. Even when the infrastructure provides space a small minority of drivers will intentionally make you feel uncomfortable.

An alternative is to of course dismount and walk, using the pedestrian crossing lights to separate yourself from traffic.

Here the driver of a cement mixer (license plate ZSM046) has not just driven through a red light, but crossed the line to enter the intersection both after the light has turned red and the additional second and a half delay for the pedestrian lights to change to green (the chirp sound heard in the video). Such behaviour is commonplace at this intersection with and shares a common pattern across Melbourne. But here a professional driver operating an identifiable and branded truck simply sails on through. A complaint to the Hy-Tec company about this incident over a month ago yielded no reply.

When even a short journey involves interacting with hundreds of other people it only needs just a tiny fraction of obnoxious and threatening drivers to make journeys routinely unpleasant. Leaving the roads as a free for all where the law of the jungle rules (the biggest strongest animal does what it pleases) is not providing an environment where people can make choices about their modes of transport and further entrenches private motor vehicles as the only option.

Throwing poor infrastructure at the problem is solving little. Although a shift in culture is harder to achieve it is required for any shift away from motor vehicles to succeed even with perfect high quality infrastructure. Its not possible to completely segregate all transport modes and given that we all need to be considerate of others and have effective measures in place to exclude those few who’s actions are putting others needlessly in danger.


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