Engineering Congestion: Public Confidence in the slow lane

Public Confidence in the City of Melbourne Traffic Engineering is at an all time low.

Councillor Oake who chairs the Transport portfolio has placed the needs and interests of cyclist ahead of the needs of the City as a whole.

Melbourne City Council’s latest proposal in its war against cars is to reduce the inner city speed limit to 30Km per hour but refuses to apply a 10KM speed limit on cyclists.

A proposal put forward by the City Council bicycle forum chaired by Greens; Councillor Cathy Oake has proposed  further measure to cause congestion within the City of Melbourne.Councillor.

Whilst the City Council claim they have consulted widely the fact is most of the consultation was meeting with select interest groups with the Council officers meetings with Cyclists and the Cyclist lobby groups in coffee shop style meetings.

Council refused to publish Public Submissions unless $25 FOI application fee paid

The City Council has refused to make public copies of submissions relied on in the formation of the City Council’s transport strategy plan. Only executive summary is available. Requests to make copies of all submissions freely available were rejected by the Lord Mayor with Council staff stating that in order to obtain copies of submissions members of the public would have to make an FOI application. 

Public review of Bicycle Lanes rejected

In August this year the City Council rjected a proposal put forward by Crs Foster and Watts to undertake a review of the City Councils’ bicycle network including the La Trobe Street Copenhargen style Bicycle lane  the City Council claiming that the La Trobe Street lane was a success and that they needed to push ahead and continue implementing the City’s transport strategy. The City Council voted agsainst the motion for a review, gagging public debate.

Motorcyclist complain on Safety issues.

In June this year the City Council was forced to defer the adoption of the City Council’s Pedestrian, Cyclist and Motorcyclist Road Safety Plan when Motorcyclist complained that that they were not consulated

The City Council engineers met with representqaives of the Motorcyclist community who are vulnerable road users and in doing so gavce a number of undertaking to consider fuirther the needs of motorcyclist in the City Council’s transport plan. The Council undrtook to develope a Motorcycle Strategy plan  and include motorcyclists needs in the formation and review of future planning reviews.

The Council has yet to deliver on its promises. 

Last month’s Council meeting failed to list Motorcyclist in the Council’s review of the Princes Bridge Lane trial review.

Motorcyclist want the City Council to provide  and facilitate lane filtration, where motor cyclists can move to the front of the queue at intersections as is current afforded to cyclist.  They also want consideration to be given to the sharing of bicycle lanes where possible. Every time the City Council installs a bicycle lane motorcycle safety is ignored and placed at risk

Selective Consultation

The City Council failed to consult with Emergency service providers such as Ambulance Victoria., or the Metropolitan Firebridge in its Transport Safety plan.

Disabled groups were also not consulted along with a host of other road users and stakeholders.  The City Engineers have ignored concerns expressed by the RACV and other community groups

Melbourne City Council’s Show Trial increments up a notch

The Melbourne City Council voted to make the Princes Bridge Bike lane a permanent feature following a report of false and misleading statements by City Engineer Geoff Robertson.

Mr Robinson in his report claimed that waiting times for traffic to cross Princes Bridge had increased by only 45 second and that there were no reports of Cyclist accidents due to car dooring.A fact that is not surprising given that cars do not park on Princes Bridge and are not expected to open their doors into mid coming bicycle traffic.

The City Council undertook a select serious of   time testing on Tuesday through to Thursday to determine the impact of the Bike Lane on City Traffic during the morning and afternoon peak periods.  They left off Monday, Friday’s and weekend statistics as they would have distorted statistics included in the Council report. Friday being the heaviest traffic day of the week.

Missing from the report was information on traffic volumes before and after the lane closure. 

There number of cars exciting into Flinders Street per traffic light cycle had decreased from 22 down to 17 engineering congestion of 20%.  Whilst the movement of traffic across the bridge may be 45 second to one minute longer this does not include the time spent stuck in quest that are extending back to Dorcus Street during the peak traffic period.

The report also failed to make mention of the other peak traffic periods along St Kilda Road most notably the lunch time period from 12Noon to 2PM and the late night evening peaks on Friday and Saturday Nights. Where traffic crossing Princes Bridge comes to a crawl taking in excess of 10 minutes travel time. What the City Engineers failed to list is that there are no bikes using the Princes Bridge Bike lane at this time.  Congestion without bikes.

Safety issues left out

Geoff Robinson’s report failed to list or mention safety concerns about the design of the bike lane at the South-Eastern corner of Flinders Street Station  where traffic de-merges from the single lane into two lanes.  With cyclists failing to dismount  whilst using the adjacent pedestrian crossing and the limited space for cyclists to travel.

This site is an accident waiting to happen.

Council’s war on horses

Geoff Robinson in his presentation attacked Melbourne’s  award winning Horse and Carriage operators complaining that the horse and carriages were using the bike lane instead of traveling in the single lane set aside for vehicular traffic. Geoff Robinson wants Victoria Police to monitor and fine the horse and carriages for travelling in the bike lane

If the horse and carriages traveled in the main traffic lanes we can expect more congestion and further waiting time delays.  The Horse and Carriages operate from 2PM until midnight most days and in the evening the bike lanes are empty.

On occasions when the horse and carriages stuck to the main traffic lanes frustrated drivers drove into the bike lane to pass the carriages on their left. A situation which would be much more dangerous then allowing the horse and carriages to use the less congested bike lanes.

Motorcyclists and Scooter riders

Earlier in response to Motorcyclist and Scooter riders safety concerns, the City Council gave an undertaking to list and include the impact of motorcyclist  in Councils reports.  Geoff Robinson has reneged on this undertaking and there was not mention or impact of motorcyclists in the published report. Motorcyclists, who are vulnerable road users, also want to be able to use the bike lane to safety pass traffic and consistently have complained that the City of Melbourne has ignored their concerns.

Haig Pulson, Senior City Engineer, previously indicated that the width of the Princes Bride traffic lane would be increased to 4.1 metres allowing room motorcyclists to filter though traffic.  Contrary to the undertaking given the width of the traffic lane has been pegged back to just 3.45 metres which does not allow sufficient room for motorcyclists to safely pass.

 Push for the Southern side to be reduced to a single lane

The City Council is now embarked on a campaign to further engineer congestion  and close down a lane of traffic on the Southern bound side of the bridge so as to be able to remove speeding cyclist from sharing the foot path.  

A lane closure on the Southern bound side of Princes Bridge would be much harder to implement and is opposed by the State Government Vic Roads.  Most of the traffic in Flinders Street turns left into Swanston Street to travel South., To reduce the number of lanes from two to one would  have a rippling effect causing major congestion and gridlock though-out the city.  Before Council can contemplate traffic lane closures they would have to reduce the number of cars traveling along Flinders Street turning left into Swanston Street.  

Alternative Options

The best solution would be to close St Kilda Road/Princes Bridge/Swanston Street to non essential traffic allowing Taxis, Motorbikes, Buses and trams only but there is no viable alternative for cars wishing to travel from the Southern side of the City into and from the City Centre currently in place.

One option that has not been considered by the Council’s Traffic management has been the use of Bateman Avenue near the Tennis Centre  that links up to Exhibition Street. Bateman Avenue is underutilized and and only serves as a exit point for cars wishing to use the toll way to access the Monash Freeway.  It’s inbound South North traffic is minimal.

The Council, in consultation with Vic Roads and Trans Urban -City Link who manage the Bateman Ave toll way, should be looking at upgrading the Swan Street Bridge or building a new bridge that crosses the Yarra river allowing traffic to link up with Linithgow Avenue on the Southern side of the river.  Providing an alternative traffic connection would address all concerns and allow for the restricted closure of Swanston Street Princess Bridge connection.

Green’s Council Cathy Oake, who chairs the Council Transport Portfolio, indicated last night that the Council had not yet considered this option even though it has been talked about for decades.

Melbourne’s Bicycle Strategy: Questions left unanswered.

Following on from the City of Melbourne attempt to gag public debate and its refusal to hold an open public review of it’s Bicycle Strategy Plan:
Albert St, Swanston St (North) are not working. Latrobe Street, costing 2.6 Million Dollars, is a disaster zone. 
 Why won’t the City of Melbourne hold a review of its Bike Path design, construction and implementation?  What has it got to hide?
Princes Bridge Bike Lane Trial.
Will the City of Melbourne be holding an open public review at the end of the Princes Bridge Bike Lane trial or will the decision, yet again, be made behind closed doors under delegation and the public denied input?
St Kilda Road Bike Lane
Why was the alternative open “Chevron” line delineation bike path design, similar to that installed in Claredon Street East Melbourne, not considered or rejected by the City of Melbourne for the proposed 350m St Kida Road Bike lane?
Consultation process 
Will  the City of Melbourne publish in full all submissions and correspondence in relation to the City of Melbourne’s Bike strategy plan in particular correspondence from VicRoads, the RACV, Ambulance Victoria, Melbourne Metropolitan Fire brigade, The Victorian State Government Disability Advocate and the Bus Proprietors’ Association,  all of whom the City of Melbourne claim were consulted in the development of its Bicycle Strategy Plan, as is normally the case in State Parliament/Government reviews/Submissions?

 

Melbourne’s Bike Plan Roll-out in need of review

300m is not going to address issues related with Car Dooring.  The so called “Copenhagen” style bike lanes are not the solution. They will only add to risk of commuter safety. A better and mare prudent cost saving option would have been to install wider open  Chevron line delineated bike paths. For the cost of 300m Melbourne could have upgraded and installed 4Km of bike path in St Kilda Road travelling down both sides.  The City of Melbourne’s rejection of a one month delay and a review of the Latrobe Street and Princes Bridge lanes closures is a step backwards.

Latrobe Street is a mistake and remains a risk to both driver and cyclist safety. Swanston Street and Albert Street lanes are also in need of review

An important aspect of any road design is the ability to read the road ahead and gauge the level of traffic management and design that applies.

The installation of wider Chevron line delineated lanes would have been consistent with the design of the Princes Bridge bike lane and  other more successful bike paths such as the one installed in Clardeon Street East Melbourne
 
Instead of Latrobe Street the City of Melbourne should have investigated installing bike lanes in alternative less used smaller side streets such as Abbeckett Street or Franklin Street

As to Princes Bridge I have no objection to the lane closure provided the City of Melbourne provides an alternative traffic river crossing to the East of Princess Bride. 

Swan Street Bridge is already congestion servicing West-East bound traffic.

A new bridge connecting Linlithgow to Batman Avenue Toll way would be in order to allow a further reduction in traffic flow on Swantson Street-St Kilda Road Between Flinders Street and Linlithgow Street.

There were a number of flaws in the Council’s consultation process not the least of its failure to properly consider alternative cheaper and more effective designs that address the safety concerns of cyclists and dooring.  Council consulted widely with Cyclist groups but ignored the broader communities concerns in pushing ahead with the design solution adopted including the safety concerns of disabled drivers and passengers.

The segregated lanes in Albert Street, Swanston Street North and recently installed in Latrobe Street are a disaster in design and implementation.  They would have been better had they adopted the alternative chevron design. The money save alone would have allowed the upgrading of a significant number of bike paths within the city not just 300m in St Kilda Road.

A pause for a review to allow assessment of the Princes Bridge and Latrobe Street developments would have been prudent,  responsible and would have allowed for a better roll-out of a safer greater bike plan that is embraced by the whole community as opposed to one that had divided and created hostility towards cyclists.

This is not a way forward but a regressive step to the side

Doyle’s Dodgy Data and Porkies about Princes Bridge Bike Lane Trial

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, and Bicycle Network lobby accused of promoting false and misleading statical data to justify the reduction in car lanes on Princes Bridge.

News Limited, Jessica Evans, falsely reported that there are 5500 bikes using Princes Bridge which services an average 40,000 cars a day. Robert Doyle also claimed that the number of bicycle movements on the Bridge represented 10% of all traffic movements.


Official figures published by Vicroads portrays a different story.

Vicroad’s maintains an induction loop counter on St Kilda Road in front of the Shrine of Remembrance and reports that the daily average number of bike movements on St Kilda Road to August in 2012 was 1652 (891N and 761S) and 2,691 bikes movements in 2011. Far less than the over inflated figure of 5,500 quoted by the City of Melbourne, the Bicycle Lobby and Journalists.

Independent counts undertaken the week before the lane closures indicated less than 2000 bikes use Princess bridge matching the Vicroads statistics A figure that concurs with the RACV’s data analysis.

This represents less than 5% of the overall traffic movements.

The greatest number of bicycle movements on the North bound lane across Princess bridge is in the morning peak hour 7:45AM to 8:45AM. 0utside this period on average there is less than one a minute.

Traffic congestion on the bridge extended beyond the peak hour period as motorists were forced into one lane whilst the bike lane remained empty. 

 
Monitoring of traffic on the Bridge during the morning peak hour showed that a number of bicycle riders continued to use the foot path as opposed to the provided dedicated North bound bicycle lane. Some even travelling in the wrong direction riding in the footpath South not North.

Activists critical of the City of  Melbourne’ Bike Network were sidelined by radio 3AW jock Neil Mitchel when interviewing Robert Doyle on Thursday Morning. Mitchel cutting them short by falsely claiming they were lobbyists.   It was clear that Robert Doyle and Neil Mitchel  did not want to have an informed debate or exposure of the false statistics espoused by the Lord Mayor.

The current elected City Council has not debated or approved in open Council meetings the closure of the Princes Bridge lane which was rushed through so money set aside for the project could be spent before the June 30 financial year comes to a close. The Princes Bridge Bike lane is on trail for 3 months.

Cyclist riding South on the footpath in wrong direction

Sign advising Cyclists to dismount ignored and not policed in full view of the City of Melbourne CCTV camera located adjacent on Flinders Street Station