May 22, 2017

A fantasy cycling map for inner Melbourne

Here's master mapmaker Adam Mattinson's vision of what a high quality cycling network could look like in an Australian city. At present, unfortunately, it's sheer fantasy

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

A fantasy cycle route map for the inner suburbs of Melbourne by Adam Mattinson

According to the Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity (VISTA), 2% of all trips taken by residents of Melbourne on an average weekday are by bicycle. Might not sound like much, but it’s more trips than they take by either tram (1.5%) or bus (1.8%).

Cycling’s share is much higher in suburbs closer to the city centre. It captures 5% of all weekday trips and 9.2% of journeys to work taken by Melburnians living in the inner ring of suburbs i.e. within a radius of 8 – 10 km from the CBD (see How important is cycling in Australian cities?; for a map of rings, see How important is public transport?).

That’s been achieved despite very modest levels of investment in infrastructure and minimal restrictions on driver behaviour. Imagine what could be achieved if Victorian governments were serious about improving safety for cyclists. Imagine if Melbourne had a comprehensive network of safe on-road and off-road cycle paths (see Is it time our cities got cycling superhighway? and Should cycling get a huge increase in funding?).

Imagine if governments committed to the sort of funding Bicycle Network recently recommended to the NSW Government. BN called for investment “in a $1 billion dedicated Bicycle Infrastructure Fund over the forward estimates for the next four years to significantly increase the construction of consolidated networks of separated cycleways, protected intersections and other cycling infrastructure”.

Adam Mattinson, who’s previously developed fantasy network maps for trains and trams in Melbourne, has done the imagining; he’s turned his hand to developing a ‘fantasy’ cycling route map. He says:

I’m a commuter cyclist myself, and I think Melbourne is such a great city for cycling, the topography alone makes it a great option, but it’s often neglected financially, despite the increasing interest as a mode of transport. Other countries have high-quality bicycle route networks, so I thought it’d be interesting to create one for Melbourne.

The map presents the major network as a number of regions, each with its own colour and numbering system to aid navigation. Major on-road and off-road paths are distinguished by the thickness of the lines. The fantasy element comes from imagining these routes are of a high standard e.g. similar to Pigdon Street in Carlton North or the Copenhagen lanes on Swanston Street. Roads like Chapel Street would likely require removing on-road car parking.

Adam used the VicData bicycle path dataset as the basis for his fantasy network:

Looking at the raw data you can see the Capital City Trail acting as a “ring road” with the various waterside offroad trails acting as freeways, then the roads with bike lanes as connector routes. 

The map comes with a collection of road signs to improve navigation, safety and the visibility of cycling (see his Tumblr):

If you were stuck in traffic and saw cyclists zooming past, and saw a sign with a bike route number with your destination on it, it would certainly make the alternative more appealing.

This is a broad-brush network; it’s inevitable that detailed knowledge of local conditions will in some cases suggest change e.g. a slightly different route. Ideas for improvement are welcome; an agreed network would be a powerful tool for cycling advocacy. Unfortunately though the attitude of the incumbent Andrews Government indicates Adam’s vision is sheer fantasy.

Linear cycle route guide for fantasy network, by Adam Mattinson


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5 thoughts on “A fantasy cycling map for inner Melbourne

  1. Flynn

    There really is a lot of low hanging fruit in Vic for sweating more out of infrastructure. So much on-street parking, even on clogged arterial roads where the clearway times don’t even stretch to include the ballooning peak hour(s) commute. The community will probably roast any politician over a slow fire for daring to take away this parking, but it will have to be done someday.

    I also look at a lot of the on-road bike lane “infrastructure” and wonder why the money was spent at all – a few dotted lines and a bike symbol painted here and there, painted lanes that end as quickly as they started. I feel like I’m going mad.

  2. meltdblog

    Even on such a big scale its important to make clearer distinctions between on and off road facilities, they largely serve very different users who wouldn’t consider the other option. Canberra made a good effort with their mapping:
    It shows on and off road facilities as distinct functions, and grades roads based on their levels of on road facilities which at a glance provides much clearer information and help guide route choices.

  3. Jacob HSR

    Why not build a cycleway atop the railway lines?

    Under the high voltage electricity pylons?

    And atop/alongside motorways?

    1. meltdblog

      They’re all great places to include shared paths, especially where they need to provide maintenance access for vehicles anyway. Most of the shared paths around Melbourne are built on the recreational model where the intended user is a family going for a weekend “activity” or someone walking their dog. While they are important facilities to have, bicycle transportation for people going to work or school don’t want meandering paths to nowhere but direct and straight. Power lines, highways, and railway lines are straight and flat, and go to-from activity centres, all perfect for building longer direct bicycle routes!

  4. James

    Masterpiece of design

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