The State Government could strike a blow for cycling in this city if it were to declare Yarra Boulevard at Kew a ‘Bicycle Boulevard’.
This road is currently used by a range of recreational cyclists for riding and occasionally by some clubs for competitions. Although it doesn’t have heavy traffic there are enough cars and motorcycles to create a hazard for those on bicycles.
Drivers expect cyclists to ride single file within the marked lanes on the edge of the Boulevard. However this is difficult because of the number of cyclists using the road and the need to move onto the road proper (the ‘car lane’) to overtake slower riders. The bicycle lane is also rough with lots of gravel washed off the cliffs on the non river side.
At the moment, motorists ‘own’ Yarra Boulevard and ‘suffer’ the presence of cyclists. What I’m proposing is a reversal of that onus – cyclists would be the natural ‘owners’ of Yarra Boulevard and drivers would be required to behave as their ‘guests’.
The proposal is simple and low cost. Only a few actions are required:
- Install prominent signage indicating that the full width of Yarra Boulevard is a shared bicycle/car route with drivers obliged to give way to cyclists
- Declare a 30 km/h maximum speed limit for cars
- Paint out the existing cycle lanes and tear up the Copenhagen lane that was built along part of the route
- Provide an initial period of visible enforcement with occasional follow ups thereafter
I’m not sure if there might be legal issues involved with the concept of a bicycle route where cyclists have priority but if there are they need to be addressed. That would be an institutional investment – it’s likely that there will be increasing demand for these sorts of road sharing arrangements in the future.
I’ve suggested making Yarra Boulevard a ‘Bicycle Road’ before but way back then I had something more elaborate in mind. This approach is simpler and cheaper.
The impact on motorists would be minor. Yarra Boulevard is not heavily-trafficked and there are alternative routes. There is very little parking along the route – it’s mostly confined to the northern end around the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre.
There are only a handful of residents who access their properties from Yarra Boulevard. Residents might feel they would be better off if traffic were slowed.
The big beneficiaries would of course be individual and family cyclists, especially those who live on both sides of the Yarra within (say) 10 km or so of the Boulevard. In addition, Melbourne’s profile as a good place to live and visit would be enhanced, as would the Baillieu Government’s standing with certain demographics it needs to court if it wants to stay in office over the long haul.
Something like this proposal would also be a good starting point for improving the cycling environment in and around the CBD.
Graphic from World Streets.