Sunday, 16 August 2015

Infrastructure Australian Style

Infrastructure Australian Style. Home brewed in Melbourne (specifically, Moonee Ponds) by thebicyclechannel 

The Canning Street crossing.






The Crossing:
This great video from The Bike Channel shows one of everybody's least favourite bike pinch points in Melbourne, the crossing of Princes St. in North Carlton (E-W) by the Canning Street cycle and pedestrian lanes (N-S). It takes an age to get across, and the traffic thunders and fumes. The proposed East-West link under here would not have removed road traffic; only sent those trucks and cars prepared to pay the tolls underneath this spot, and the cost of the entire State's transport budget for several years. 

Simple video, powerful message. Aside from fixing up this crossing to make it a bit safer last year or so (except if you want to join the main road traffic on a bike - probably designed by non-cyclists who did not think anyone would do that..) nothing has been done to improve cycling here for years. They could at least shorten the wait times, but we are obviously not as important as cars. Thousands of cyclists wait here every day. It is an embarrassment. 

It needs a tunnel....for the bikes

Infrastructure Australian Style 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRJTTXE91Fk

Classic. Welcome to Melbourne.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Rushall Station underpass, Rushall Bridge, Koonda Lat Bridge

Local Council: City of Yarra, and Darebin Council on north side of Creek
The Rushall Bridge and station. My image, no copyright
Responsibility: VicTrack and Yarra Council. Possibly Vic Parks?
Contact: try MD at City of Yarra for update on progress, or

Northern suburbs residents will doubtless be familiar with the multi-decade old campaign to get decent cycle access under,  and around, Rushall Station (see linked BV map). There is a lovely narrow bridge the crosses the Merri Creek from Westgarth to the north (postcode 3070) (see right), to Rushall Station, which is in North Fitzroy, after which you have multiple options to get the Melbourne City Centre - I tend to go straight on, on Falconer St. See Nearmap below for stunning images.

As hundreds of you will also be aware, this is a major commuter route with a bike passing every few seconds in the rush-hours (300 or so in the morning, BV says - in March 2010 the 2 hr morning peak had a count of 390).
The historic problems have been:
  1. Convoluted narrow underpass under Rushall Station, shared with pedestrians. Lots of no-cycling signs, that are rightfully ignored because they are an excuse for planner inaction on cycle infrastructure. Occasional clashes with pedestrians, lots of 'excuse-me' in the underpass, and too much slowing down.
  2. No access (see right) to Thomas Kidney Reserve, to the north west side of the railway tracks, from the Station. People, their dogs, and children have to climb a steel fence to gain access from Rushall Station, and then walk along the top of a Creek-side cliff, to attain the grassland Reserve and the bike path through it (a path that looks old, and was never completed up to the Station-currently it ends in the Creek!).
There was some cause for hope in early 2010 that, finally, Rushall Station would be 'fixed' with a wider, or better, cycle access to cross the railway tracks (somehow). The Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-15 mentions on page 44 that money has now been allocated to improve access. It says:

3.2 Merri Creek Trail at Rushall Station. Construction of new path on the east of Rushall Station to ensure the Merri Creek Trail bypasses the station underpass. Project will link existing trail south of the station to Rushall Reserve and eventually, the new crossing identified in 3.1 above. Project is consistent with the Merri Creek Trail Review. Yarra City Council with funding support of Parks Victoria. 2010 $375k (split 50/50)

However in Dec 2010, there was still no sign of any works commencing (but I did see someone who might have been an engineer there in August), and things actually got worse. In addition, a sign went up on the Rushall Bridge saying 'cyclists dismount, narrow bridge'. This is new - you could always cycle over this bridge in the past and it is a great crossing away from cars - there aren't other crossing points close by. We all ignore the sign - it appears to have no statutory authority, and anyway this bridge is not narrow - two bikes or prams can pass easily, there is zero history of accidents, and the bridge is the same width as all the older sections of the Capital City Trail, which has no such 'dismount' signs along its length!
In addition, temporary alert signs have been added around the local area, reminding cyclists that they could use an alternative route. This is the new Koonda Lat Bridge a few hundred meters to the west. The new bridge was announced by John Brumby a couple of years ago with a brief fanfare, and then built, with a combination of State and local funds, using an existing pipe bridge and in conjunction with Melbourne Water relaying the pipe.
The bridge is welcome, but if anybody thinks this new Bridge will get good cycle traffic they are dreaming:
  1. The Koonda Lat Bridge is not easily accessed, and cyclists like to take a direct route, unless they are out for a weekend meander. If you live where I live, it takes you 500m out of your way, every day, day-in, day-out on the commute.
  2. The Koonda Lat Bridge does not head towards the city - it is strongly angled away from it - if you are heading southbound, it angles east.
  3. A major screwup is that if you approach the Koonda Lat Bridge from the east on Westgarth Street, you find yourself having to go cross-country to access it - there is no cycle path approaching it from the east! Bike planners in Darebin Council could have thought of this.From Darebin Council, Aug '10 - this is because of underground service cables etc.
  4. Also the Bridge could be useful for the many St George's Rd cycle commuters coming from the north west and heading south, but only if they exit the obvious route into the city that they are on, to go out of their way to get to the Bridge in a big loop they takes an extra 5 minutes. 
I conclude that the two recent signs on the Merri Bridge at Rushall Station exacerbate what is already a crap cycle lane as it goes under the Station. But this is an absolutely vital route. It has in no way be replaced by Koonda Lat - if you live in Darebin or beyond, this is an obvious crossing point. I worry that Councils are trying to pass the buck - to suggest to riders that it would be easier to cycle off 400 m to the west, and use another bridge, even if that one is poorly located. And to say that you should dismount on the Rushall Bridge is just cheeky. Nobody has dismounted to cross that one in decades (unless they have stopped to throw shopping trolleys in the Creek or feed the ducks!). Meanwhile, the 2 major constraints in and around Rushall Station remain unresolved.

Inaction on Rushall Station is already legendary. It is a classic case of Strategy Planning not resulting in anything for years at a time, because "complex partnerships" would be involved. Improvements have been mentioned in almost every transport plan and cycle strategy for years, in Yarra and sometimes in Merri Creek Management and City of Darebin documents. Bicycle Victoria have a whole web page on it. But nobody can actually get themselves to start work on the problem. If this was a road, it would have been fixed long ago. Let us see if the latest funding allocation mentioned in the Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-15 actually comes to anything, while I am still alive..... Watch this space. Update 20 Aug '10 - Darebin Sustainable Transport say they have no plans to do anything about the Bridge right now - and the sign stays up because the Bridge is 500mm too narrow to meet new codes. Strange how we (nearly 400 people a day) have been cycling over it all these years without problems then, and it still has a cyclist painted on it....

July 2015 - in the last 5 years we have had 'no cycling' painted under the station, warnings on the Bridge, prosecution and warnings issues to cyclists in the tunnel, and a campaign by dog walkers and users of the Reserve to stop a 2015 proposal to open it up with a bike path (also useful for pedestrians). But still, hundreds cross the bridge every day because it is a major commuter route. Finally in July 2015 Yarra Council voted to proceed with a path. Now we just need to insure they build it. Still no better tunnel under the station, but at least safer access to the Reserve for those heading west. See the official council sites  http://www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/hot-topics/rushall-reserve-shared-path-decision/  http://www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/environment/Parks-and-reserves/rushall-reserve/

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Canning Street and Princes St, Carlton North

UPDATE Aug 2013 After riding the new crossing for a year, have you noticed: no provision for bikes to join Alexandra Parade. Especially if travelling north and wanting to turn east. And - cars can get trapped between the two sets of lights, blocking everything. This happens frequently.   New video 


UPDATE Feb 2012:  After almost a year and a half after the last posting below, works have been completed on the Canning Street crossing by VicRoad's contractors in Feb 2012. No underpass. What a surprise, given how the state's own bike strategy was not pursued. Impressions are favourable nonetheless. However there is a silly 'pinch point' outside the pub, currently with a sign for you to hit, which leads to a queue of cyclists in rush hour. Pedestrians have been separated and are supposed to cross on their own path. Good. Difficulty are that is is hard to know whether you can legally cross on a bike and then turn onto Alexandra Parade/Princes St - as I do every day. Are you contravening anything? Also, there seems to be no speeding up of the crossing in rush hour - still a mind numbing wait to cross the road. SO - the crossing is no longer crap, but the wait still is.

UPDATE: TRAFFIC ENGINEERS SPOTTED 4 AUG 2010 ON SITE!!!!! WRITE TO COUNCILS AND VICROADS ASKING FOR AN UNDERPASS NOW! DECISIONS BEING MADE NOW

Location: Junction of Canning St and Princes St, North Carlton VIC 3053
Council: Yarra Council north side, City of Melbourne south side
Responsibility: Vic Roads, Yarra Council (N side), and City of Melbourne (S side). Try Anita.Curnow (Director of Network Improvements at VicRoads) "at" transport.vic.gov.au, for referral to correct person. Considerable interest from Yarra in the problem - see their Bike Advisory Committee minutes. Clr Jackie Fristacky lives on the street and cycles everywhere - watch the video which mentions the crossing!
The problem: This is probably one of the busiest cycling spots in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. The city centre is to the south, and lots of people live to the north. As any commuter from the area knows, there are no easy spots to cross Alexandra Parade/Princes St- it is a jammed, six lane inner city road that joins Melbourne from East to West.  We desperately need north-south access that does not involve long waiting times and dangerous crossings. This means continuous cycling, i.e. underpasses and favourable through routes.
Canning Street runs north south and has long been a designated, pleasant cycle lane. In the morning you will see volumes of cyclists on it that are almost Copenhagen-like. An article in The Age in 2006 said "Many cyclists say that Canning Street provides optimum on-road conditions and VicRoads figures show that about 1600 cyclists use it every day. Yarra Council figures show that 527 cyclists rode through the Canning-Princes Street intersection in a two-hour morning peak period in 2006, compared with 289 in an equivalent period last year, an 82 per cent increase." By 2010 these figures were 2500 every day, 350 in the morning peak according to the new automatic monitor. A spot check in March 2010 revealed 923 cyclists passing in the 2 hr morning peak. It is designated an IMAP Priority Route because it "already has high bicycle usage".  It is a beautiful ride.
The delight ceases when, travelling south or north,  you get to the intersection with Princes Street. The Canning/Princes junction is a crap cycle lane. You are faced with a pelican crossing for bikes and peds - across three eastbound lanes, with a narrow central reserve just wide enough to take a bike, and then three more lanes. This can clearly be seen on the
map below.
View Larger Map
The problem is that the timing of the crossing in rush hour is completely biased toward the E-W highway traffic. Tens, sometimes up to a hundred, n-s bound cyclists sit there like morons waiting for the lights to change, breathing in fumes. It feels like a two minute wait. In the evening, the flow is reversed. You could almost dismount and down a beer at the Dan O'Connell pub, in the time it takes for the lights to change. In addition, prmary school students and parents crossing north clash with cyclists going south, prior to 9am. Let me stress again that this is affecting thousands of people every day, and being stranded on the tiny central island is pretty unsafe if that happens to you. The only action taken by Vic Roads has been to synchronise the traffic lights with Elgin Street to the south, but not to increase the timings of north-south priority.  
View Larger Map


Solutions: My correspondence with Vic Transport about this one in Jan. '10 suggests there is no chance of the obvious solution being constructed - an underpass- anytime soon. I think it is viable - others do not. But this is clearly what is needed, as any bike planner from Denmark or the Netherlands would make clear. Some minor works are planned. The video above actually shows them being debated at the Bike Advisory Committee, Yarra. The Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-2015 mentions $20k allocated to "upgrade" the crossing, do linemarkings, etc. on the north side, but no action by Melbourne City Council or VicRoads, despite Councillor agitation from Yarra since 2000. This is not enough. If we don't get an underpass, then we at least need the timing of the crossing to be more favourable to n-s traffic and more space on the S side to beat the clash of peds/bikes in the morning. Making the e-w traffic wait a bit more, which means changing priories on all the close-by traffic lights, will send a message to motorists and avoid jaywalking (or jay-cycling) which is almost unavoidable at this immensely frustrating location. Again, if cycle priorities are the norm in Netherlands and Denmark, why not here?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Mysterious Metal Pyramids of High St Northcote

On about 6 August 2013, High Street Westgarth, Northcote, saw some strange metal pyramids and shards erected in the median strip. On 19th August, Darebin Council Councillors voted to remove them again. They cost about $30,000 after a tendering process started in March 2013 won by a local branch of an 'urban design' firm, but were not actually approved by local residents or the Trader's Association (I checked). They have been widely ridiculed in the press and on social media. Aside from their aesthetic value (not my concern here) there was a widespread feeling they could be dangerous in a freak accident situation, situated at the bottom of a hill in an strip crowded with bars and restaurants. This is all something of an embarrassement, but does demonstrate the old adage that consultation with local people it is pretty much essential for all transport infrastructure. If we could only convince VicRoads of that!
(Bottom photo source: the Age)