Another round of major roadworks and major steps backwards for inclusive cycling in Melbourne with the completion of the intersection of St Kilda Road and Toorak Road. Previously looked at due to its complete lack of bicycle lanes continuing through the busy intersection, now there are some lanes what do they look and feel like?
During the phased construction there were multiple temporary alignments, including fitting the bicycle lane along the nearside kerb bypassing one arm of the intersection and held back at a cute little boom gate on the other arm (no pictures sadly). But once all the works cleared the road a lane with wands was left in place:
The lane continues the existing mid block bicycle lane across two lanes of through traffic and avoids the need to ride in a general traffic lane through the intersection. It even goes as far as providing priority for bicycles with the broken lines requiring motor vehicles to give way, but the behaviour of others is unreliable and few cyclists are assertive enough to take the space when a car is bearing down on them other than those who would already be comfortable riding in the general traffic lane.
Breaking up the lanes with wands was a bold plan and prevents the inequitable lane changing problems in Melbourne where cars will simply move from lane to lane without giving way (even to other motor traffic) but then weeks later they’re gone:
Green paint has been added to separate the bicycle lane visually, but gone is the simple mechanical protection which through their limited width also prevents cars from using the lane.
The solution in place during the roadworks was the obvious one, used widely around the world, continuing the bicycle lane along the kerbside and providing separation in time at the traffic lights. By releasing the cyclists across the junction at the same time as the pedestrians while turning traffic is held with a red light all conflict is eliminated except for the extremely rare case of a bicycle turning left (the road continuing left has no bicycle facilities and traffic then runs parallel). Widening the road here has provided space for a central lane and appears to have lost the
enforcement safety cameras installed at the intersection. The result is a very unattractive bicycle lane, when for the additional expense of some bicycle traffic lanterns that same lane could have been safer and less stressful along the kerb. Such a design would also improve traffic throughput as motor vehicles would no longer be blocked by cyclists crossing their lanes, but instead we get a design with few upsides and many disadvantages.
Cycling infrastructure needs to be designed for everyone to use, not just the existing self selected group of users who already routinely mix with traffic. The posted speed limit is 60km/h (37mph) through this intersection placing a significant speed differential between a cyclist and the traffic flows they are supposed to cross which simply doesn’t work in this city. Cyclists can and do already use the roads as a vehicle but without cycling on footpaths being legal, what’s needed are routes that will include people who wouldn’t be comfortable in traffic but would still like to ride a bicycle, not just painted spaces in the middle of traffic.