The Shaky Return of Swanston Street


Following what seemed like a really long construction process for a roadway, Swanston Street between LaTrobe and Lonsdale has emerged from its cocoon into a big beautiful butterfly...or has it.

First, let me go on record to say that I made this call years ago: Bikes and pedestrians don't generally mix well. Swanston Street is a crucial north south connection for cyclists. The bike paths of the northern cycle-heavy 'burbs of Brunswick, Carlton, Fitzroy, Clifton Hill and Coburg all funnel into Swanston Street. It's one of the view safe (ish) ways to cross the Yarra as a cyclist, and its the most direct route. With that said, the concept of upgrading Swanston Street for cycle and tram priority sounded great when it was announced years ago (following old man Doyle's backflip on the issue).

But the chosen option seems almost to encourage pedestrian cycle clashes. It blurs the line between road/cycle lane and footpath and forces cyclists to slow down completely and pedestrians to not know if they are standing on bike lane, road, footpath or tram stop.

The Age is going to town on the whole issue and for some absurd reason I can't help but feel sorry for Doyle.

People need to understand that Swanston Street to cyclists is a freeway. It's not ever going to be a slow moving thoroughfare, its a commuter backbone as important to cyclists as the Eastern Freeway is to car drivers.



4 comments:

  1. Agreed, except that I don't think there was every a viable solution that would safely let that number of cyclists get through that number of pedestrians at reasonable speed. There's a similar situation on the St Kilda foreshore, where a bike path goes through prime cafe territory. The solution there was to ditch the bike path entirely, and just make a very wide area of pavement. So cyclists have to slow down a bit, and negotiate their way through the pedestrians - it's a compromise that actually works ok in practice.

    The real WTFs in the Swanston St plan are the rather narrow width of the bike path, the odd (and unique) zebra striping, and the lack of signage. Oh, and the incredibly long construction time.

    Speaking for myself as a cyclist, I avoid Swanston St completely. I much prefer Exhibition, which connects smoothly with the Yarra Trail down through the southeastern suburbs. It's steep, and there is traffic, but almost no pedestrians, and the cars are usually pretty well behaved.

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  2. Sorry to say this but cyclists should slow down. It isn't a bike fwy and we always had to stop behind a tram with open doors. But designing pavements that look like ped spaces but are bike lanes when trams aren't around? Pure stupidity! Particularly given the fact Elizabeth Russell and Exhibition streets are such shonky routes so swanston street was the safest option.

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  3. what's needed is some yellow paint and warning signs. Or even better some form of god awful tactile paving to warn against any potential conflict whilst simultaneously desecrating our public realm. The odd conflict should be part of everyday urban life and am sure cyclists will quickly learn to slow down/stop when a tram has its doors open and likewise peds will realise the platform is only for when trams stop.

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  4. I don't know if they've painted it since Monday, or I just didn't notice - but there are now little bicycle symbols painted between the zebra stripes.

    I'm still not sure what they're trying to communicate with those stripes instead of a solid green strip or something, though.

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