Melbourne’s Bicycle Network Wreck: Solution proposals

Notes and suggestion on possible solutions to Melbourne’s Bicycle Network

Decision making process:

The oversight of the Bicycle plan is the responsibility of Greens Councillor Cathy Oake who is the City Council’s chair of the Transport portfolio. 

The final sign-off and decision to proceed with the St Kilda bicycle plan and the Latrobe Street development were not decided by Council but made under delegation of the Council officers who claim that authority and agreement was made during the Council budget papers and the adoption of the Council’s transport strategy plan.

Final approval of the closure of the Princes Bridge lane and so called trail was not made in an open Council session but by delegation.

The adoption of a budget or the Council strategy plan should not be considered as having provided Council’s consent.

As Councillor Stephen Mayne stated last Tuesday was the first time the newly elected Council had to debate the issue of Bicycle lanes as distinct from the general issue of strategy plans and the like.  And Tuesday’s meeting was discussing the idea of deferring implementation and and having the final decision brought before council for approval.  The  proposal for a review was rejected by the Council, even though it was evident that there was considerable public concern and opposition to the decision made under delegation.

Councillors discussed these issues in closed session but they were not debated in open session where the public are provide the opportunity to make a final submission and presentation in relation to any discussion to be made.

Why did the matter not come before Council for final approval?   Planning permits application readily are discussed in open public committee before they are approved why not the bicycle plan?

Future final approval of future major projects and works MUST be decided by Council in open public session and not under delegation.

Albert Street

The existing bicycle lane should be removed and a Clardeon street design solution implemented.

Consideration should be given to establishing a shared bicycles lane with buses, taxis and motorcycles.

Latrobe Street

This is a disaster zone and in need of urgent comprehensive review. A review that should have taken place before proceeding with the Princes Bridge and St Kilda Road bike lanes

Latrobe Street should never have been chosen to install a segregated bicycle lane.  2.6 Million dollars misspent.

Council should  consider and develop as alternative routes utilizing smaller streets such as Abbeckett and Franklin Street and eventually consideration will have to be made to remove the existing lane separation barriers.

On Street parking should be removed in the meantime to allow for improved traffic movements and protect commuters who are forced to park in the middle of the street with minimal protection of a safe environment

Princes Bridge

Princes Bridge should be closed to all unnecessary vehicular traffic  BUT this should only be done with the provision of a suitable alternative river crossing East of Princes Bridge.

This would allow for installation of a bicycle lane on both sides of the bridge and the development of a public transport interchange/pedestrian precinct.

St Kilda Road

The bike lane should be widened and a Claredon Street chevron design bike lane installed the full length of St Kilda Road.  This would require the consent of City of Port Phillip and Vicroads,.  A chevron delineated lane would provide a safe environment for motorist parking, disabled and emergency vehicle access and cost much less then the expense of constructing a Copenhagen close lane barrier.  More path for our buck

Swanston Street

A 10Km speed limit should be implemented along Swanston Street between Princes Bridge and Victoria Street

The Bicycle lane in Swanston Street North of Victoria Street should be replaced with by Claredon Street chevron line delineation lane as recommended for St Kilda Road and Albert Street

The Art of Delegation and Register Reporting

The City of Melbourne is required under the Local Government Act to review its list of delegations within 12 months following the Municipal election. 

There is ongoing concern at the misuse and abuse of decisions made under delegation.  Whilst there is a requirement for a register of delegations there is no mandatory requirement to maintain or publish  a register of decisions made under the instrument of delegations.  This leaves the whole system of governance wide open to misuse and abuse. No one knows who and when a decision is made and under what authority the decision had.

Individual Councillors under the terms of the Local Government Act and the Councillors “Code of Conduct” can not direct Council Staff in the performance of their duty or in exercising any decisions made under delegation. It is unclear if that applies to decisions made by the Council as a whole. (Section 76E (3) of  LG Act) By inference a Council can direct the CEO to take certain action within some limits.  

The power of delegation is limited  to expressed delegations made to the Chief Executive Officer, a member of staff and or special committee or advisory board. A person or bodies who have been delegated authority can not further delegate to someone else or another body powers or duties delegated to them. If this is required this would have to be done by way of amending the substantive authority of delegation.

It sounds a bit convoluted but it is designed to ensure that there is a clear line of responsibility and authority.  Untangling the web of delegations is an art form unto itself.

Understanding the process is made that much more difficult when decisions are made under delegation and there is no central database or record of those decisions.

We have raised the issue of delegation  and the need for a register of decisions made under delegation with the Lord Mayor and Councillor Stephen Mayne, who is chairman of the Council’s Governance Portfolio. We hope this issue will be looked into and addressed when the new Council finally gets around to reviewing the register of delegations.

From our past experience this will be one of those last minute decisions that the Council administration will present to the Council at the last minute giving them  little time to seriously pick though the list of delegations and understand exactly what powers they are delegating.

A register of decisions made under delegations, if properly designed and implemented, would give Councillors a better understanding and oversight of the delegated process.

Do not hold your breath.  Previous Councils have not got around to reviewing the process properly and we do not expect, although we remain hopeful, that this council will  get it right either. 

Maybe Stephen Mayne will be the one. Somehow I think not.

Another issue but semi related to the question of governance there is a requirement that Council must record and register any “Assembly of Councillors”

Section 3 of the Local Government Act -Definitions, states:

assembly of Councillors 

(however titled) means a meeting of an advisory committee of the Council, if at least one Councillor is present, or a planned or scheduled meeting of at least half of the Councillors and one member of Council staff which considers matters that are intended or likely to be- 

(a) the subject of a decision of the Council; or 
(b) subject to the exercise of a function, duty or power of the Council that has been delegated to a person or committee- but does not include a meeting of the Council, a special committee of the Council, an audit committee established under section 139, a club, association, peak body, political party or other organisation;

It should be noted that there have been a number of assemblies of Councillors that have taken place this term that have not been listed on the City Council’s published register But we are  noting them and recording the details along with keeping a close eye on Councillor expenses, interstate and  overseas travel.