May 31, 2016 – 7:28PM
STATE POLITICAL EDITOR FOR THE AGE
A radical plan for a $100 million ‘sky bike’ super highway for Melbourne CBD cyclists is being examined by the Andrews government’s chief infrastructure adviser.
Infrastructure Victoria has floated a major plan to extend a network dedicated to bike corridors, including “grade separated” raised sections allowing cyclists to quickly and safely travel through and across the city.
An artist’s impressions of a proposed raised cycle highway for Melbourne’s CBD.
In a major report examining dozens of major project options, Infrastructure Victoria predicted the controversial idea would cut traffic congestion, freeing up space for public transport.
“The provision of bicycle highways, especially if they are physically or grade separated, is likely to encourage new cycling trips by cyclists of varying ability and reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities related to crashes.”
It follows concerns that Melbourne’s bicycle corridors end abruptly on the city’s edge, with cyclists facing a dangerous journey into the heart of the business district.
Although cycling infrastructure is less expensive than other forms of transport, the report warned retrofitting an “elevated veloway” could be costly, with an added risk of conflict between growing numbers of commuter cyclists and motorists.
“There may be a more crashes involving cyclists with the growth of commuter cycling, particularly in the areas beyond the upgrade infrastructure,” the report said.
It remains unclear which streets through the city could be used for the bicycle highways.
In 2014, a consortium including Federation Square co-designer Donald Bates and Pacific Strategies director Mike Potter released a plan for a 1.7 kilometre raised “veloway” that would run about 10 metres above the ground, spanning six major intersections from Princes Bridge to Southern Cross Station.
An assessment by economic consultants Deloitte and engineering advisers Aurecon, suggested a more extensive network of cycle paths through the city would cost about $100 million.
But the assessment, commissioned by Infrastructure Victoria, said the idea would not make a significant contribution to meeting the state’s overall transport needs in the future.
The idea is also being examined as part of the government’s “Plan Melbourne” strategy. It found bike transportation played a major role accessing CBD jobs. Under the idea, “strategic cycling corridors will provide separated priority routes into and around the central city that support high volumes of cyclists of all abilities”.
VicRoads has also completed a Strategic Cycling Corridors project, which is due for release later this year.
Although Melbourne boast it is the world’s most liveable city (at least according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure), when it comes to cycling infrastructure it is well behind other major cities.
Copenhagen, regarded as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world, recently completed its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake, an elevated orange bike lane that winds its way over the harbour.
And last year London Mayor Boris Johnson announced a Cycle Superhighway plan to create a network of segregated bike lanes with dedicated traffic signals.
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said the Infrastructure Victoria proposal was a sign that bikes were moving into the mainstream of planning for economic development.
“Infrastructure Victoria is thinking big, and realises that the benefits of bikes comes from major, cor-ordinated and sustained investment rather than the piecemeal approach that has prevailed to date,” he said.
Infrastructure Victoria was set up by the Andrews government to “ensure initiatives are planned with transparent, independent and expert infrastructure advice”.
But a spokeswoman for Roads Minister Luke Donnellan appeared to dismiss the cycling highway idea, saying “while IV (Infrastructure Victoria) looks at options, we’re focused on our priorities”.
“We’re establishing the $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund to invest in new, dedicated cycling and walking facilities across Victoria to help keep bikes and pedestrians away from traffic,” she said.
Source : The Age