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.


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", 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?



  2. Site is not mentioned in Melbourne City draft transport plan! Have your say by Jun 24 2011. See chapter 6.


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