poor planning

Elizabeth Street used to be my thoroughfare of choice by bike through the city. It never had particularly good bike lanes, and it could get a bit hairy in peak hour, but it is by far the flattest route through the city, has a great exit out to the north, and, outside of peak hour, offered enough room to ride comfortably at a good pace.

Then the superstops were built.


The Faceless men of the Super Stops

A full city block long, these behemoths are edged with massive bluestone bricks and leave a single skinny lane for all other road users. I understand the advantages these stops bring, and they are way overdue, but did they have to take up an entire lane? Was there no option on a skinnier design?

There is now regularly bike-car conflict wherever these stops are, as cars get frustrated that they cannot pass commuting cyclists, and cyclists feel squeezed out and threatened.


Feeling the squeeze



Travellin’ full gutter styles



Recipe for frustration

Council will point to the multimillion dollar works on Swanston Street that have created a popular bike corridor, but I think this is just as poorly planned – the conflict here is created between cyclists and tram commuters. Cyclists often sprint between lights trying to get ahead of the string of trams, while tram commuters are forced board and disembark in the bike lane. What genius came up with that?

Add to this what seems to be the shortest light sequences of any street in the CBD (I have no evidence for this, feels that way though), a relatively poor road surface and the noticeable gradient (compared to Elizabeth Street), and Swanton street isn’t a great option either.

Swanston Street commuter cyclists, enjoying the ride.

Exsqueeze me, Swanton Street


Travelling down Swanston Street – the road surface constantly varies.

If you’re in a real hurry, you can travel the length of Russell Street stopping at just 1 red light – the lights are sequenced for car travel and if you can keep up, you’re through!

It’s pretty dangerous though, and at peak times, well, forget it.


Russell Street is often completely fucked

So for now, I’m riding William Street. It’s a pretty sweet run once you’re up the hill and affords nice views of Flagstaff Gardens on the way past. I hope the planning department get this one right when they eventually turn their attention to it.

Flagstaff Gardens from William Street

Just quickly on the East-West run through the city – why wasn’t Bourke Street used as the primary cycle lane through the CBD rather than La Trobe Street? It has less traffic, less gradient, more appropriate retail/laneway areas that cyclists love (including a pedestrian mall) and far more space.


Welcoming street frontage on La Trobe

What’s your preferred cross-city route?

11 Comments on “poor planning

  1. “Russell Street is often completely fucked”

    Amen, Will. In so many ways. Other cities in the world seem to be able to meld tramlines, major city motor traffic and bikes in one road system, why can’t this backwater?

    • I think the tide is turning, but we need to be smarter about it, and we need to be clear about the advantages of having a cycling friendly CBD.

  2. I’ve often ridden along Bourke St Mall in preference to the parallel alternatives, Collins and Latrobe (certain death). I ride slowly and defensively out of respect for pedestrians. Then one day I got slapped with a $150 fine for riding in Bourke between Elizabeth and Swanston. So now I take my chances on Collins and expect a dooring in the gutter “bike lane” everyday. Go Melbourne!

      • I’ll ask the next one that tells me “get the F*&^ out of the way” in the mall for “their details”.

      • Shall I ask the next rider that tells me “get the F*&^ out of the way” in the mall for “their details”?

        • Just get a Go-Pro already ziz 😉
          There are definitely a few cyclists out there who seem to revel in being a ‘rung-up’ on pedestrians in the vehicle hierarchy. Ironically, they are probably the same ones who rile at being abused by car drivers.

          The vision in my head of cyclists ambling slowly through the mall on a designated bike track might be a tad unrealistic for now, but as cycling grows as a form of transport it should be considered. Maybe a ‘No Dickheads’ sign at the entrance ?

  3. I don’t drive a car, or ride a bike, I walk a lot, more than most, and do a lot of that walking in the Melbourne CBD.

    I’m a big fan of the grid network, and the forethought that went into mapping out the city.

    But I think this hasn’t allowed for flaws that develop in other cities that aren’t so well considered.
    By that I mean, other cities aren’t fortunate enough to have wide streets evenly spaced out as we are, but what they end up having after decades/centuries of evolution are a large number of streets that all loosely move towards the same direction… Take Sydney for example.

    This evolution allows for a few things to happen.
    1, A city can change, there isn’t the mystique that the Hoddle Grid has, imagine somebody trying to get a big arc of a road cutting through the centre of Melbourne adopted by the city.
    2. A city’s evolution also usually means there are streets of differing sizes, this is not too great for grand boulevards allowing parades to be held, but it’s excellent for changing a street into a one way road, pedestrian area or a bike zone.
    3, This evolution also gives residents the ability to shrug things off when change is required, “oh who could have foreseen the need for … ” which is really important in trying to plan a city as it avoids blaming any particular group of users.

    These aren’t available in Melbourne and so, I don’t know if this problem is solvable.

    We are very CBD-centric, all roads and public transport pump people into the city. This has changed much of the way people live their entire lives. We’ve got nice wide “streets” but there’s only a dozen of them and everyone wants to use them unimpeded.

  4. William St is to be beautified with some green paint around the edges this year. Should be wonderful.

  5. Exhibition Street has actually improved. There are green bike lanes half way both northbound and southbound which somedays are actually clear of parked cars. Need to be wary of cars that don’t notice the bike lane changes direction at the corner of Bourke and getting across to the bike path at Flinders Street southbound requires crossing over to the wrong side of the road.