Sydney Rd bikelanes
Sydney Rd protected bike lane proposal
Robert Durkacz 31 May 2020
Tim Read reminds us in a piece on his website headed Sydney Road survey results released, that the state government undertook to look into remodeling Sydney Rd but seems to want now to quietly drop the idea. This thing has been going a long time. To get everything into one place, we followed up Tim Read's various emails or blogs and did supplementary googling. We have layed out the main facts that we know of in step by step order. The main players are, for the state government, Vic Roads, Dept of Transport and Jaala Pulford the minister. For locals, Moreland council, splitting along Labor vs Greens lines, was in there and lately Tim Read as mentioned is keeping it alive. These players and anyone else with an interest is hereby asked and may have been asked already to fill in any gaps and missing details.
We keep coming back to Tim Read's piece that we pointed to above. It covers a lot of history from the Green pro-bike lane point of view.
The question that we see emerging are:
- Has the state government been messing us around when it offers to consider remodeling Sydney Rd for the benefit of locals, and the safety and convenience of cyclists, and then forgets about it?
- If it is mostly a Greens initiative to benefit cyclists at the cost of reducing the capacity of a main road (it is not called Sydney Rd for nothing) did it ever have chance of happening? Do the Greens believe in it, or is it a "stunt" (1) ?
- Is it ultimately no more than something that the Greens, all being cyclists, would like to have for free at the expense of others, or could a respectable economic case be made for it?
- The argument is mostly about whether car-parking along Sydney Rd can be done away with, but since car-parking gives way to a clear way lane at peak times, is not traffic capacity the bigger problem?
Vic Roads, the same thing as the Dept of Transport I believe, says it has been looking at remodeling Sydney Rd since early 2017, in consultation with various stakeholders including Moreland council. On the Vic Roads web page pay attention to Option 3, the most far-reaching of the proposals that they were willing to contemplate, which removes all parking and reduces traffic, both cars and trams, to one lane at all times. This web page was last touched in May 2019 and promised updates later that year. Instead of that it became frozen in time.
Some words, among others, from this web page show Vic Roads /the minister a lot keener then than now going by Tim Read's piece.
In early 2017, VicRoads brought together a group of community representatives to co-design ideas for the future of Sydney Road, including:
- Department of Transport (DoT)
- City of Moreland
- Coburg Traders Association
- Revitalise Sydney Road
- Yarra Trams
- Sydney Road Brunswick Association
- Bicycle Network Victoria
The co-design group worked collaboratively to develop ideas with the potential to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and public transport users.
On June 26, 2019 the Age published a piece taking the Vic Roads offer at face value, publicising the five options that were on the table: The Age, Which of these five designs for Sydney Rd do you think will work?
Moreland council meeting
Moreland council met to make its choice of option on 14 Aug 2019. It opted for option 3, but subject to a trial of that option which it asked DoT for. The minutes (2) say:
6-month trial to be conducted of the Option 3 treatment on Sydney Road between Brunswick Road and Glenlyon Roads.
However the council vote was close and split evenly with all Labor aligned councillors against all Greens. The motion passed only because the mayor, a Green at that time, gets to vote twice to break a tie. The minutes don't tell us what reason the five councillors had for objecting. The minutes do show that a seemingly reasonable amendment from councillor Tapinos who was against was rejected by all who voted for. Cr Tapinos proposed compensating for loss of parking spaces by making paid parking free for the duration of the trial. What was wrong with that, please, Greens? The councillors are very welcome to fill in these details.
According to the meeting agenda (3), in voting to propose a trial of option 3, the councillors were following the recommendation of council officers. This fact weighs against the theory expressed subsequently that the whole thing is a "stunt".
Not much has happened since. Evidently the DoT refused the trial. Presumably this is a ministerial decision. Clearly local Labor people did not support the proposal, agitated against it and could have influenced the state government.
Tim's piece gives some details. He describes the minister backing away from the consultation plan.
Some information has been pried out of the state government. Survey results (see Tim's piece or this Age report of 17 May: The Age, Sydney Rd users support removal of car parks for cycling lane ) from DoT when they were onside were obtained through Freedom of Information (4) . The Greens, through Samantha Ratnam, obtained a budgetary cost (5) for the trial from the Victorian Parliamentary Budget Office ( PBO's Published policy costings -look for the relevant link on that page, or use this direct link.)
The PBO costing is dated 22 May 2020. The "context" notes are interesting, reading as:
Sydney Road is an arterial road managed by the Department of Transport (DoT). In August 2019, Moreland City Council requested DoT conduct a trial of physically separated bicycle lanes on Sydney Road between Brunswick Road and Glenlyon Road. In September 2019, DoT responded to Moreland City Council that:
It would not consider a trial of physically separated bicycle lanes at this stage Changes to the Sydney Road corridor would require the completion of a funded business case.
Brunswick News will try to obtain the reply from DoT to Moreland Council, since it may give reasons. Thus far (as of 15 June 2020) we have not seen the letter itself but were told that the reason given was that a trial as such would not give reliable results while the present level crossing removal work was in progress.
1. Lizzie Blandthorn, MP, considers this possibility. See Tim Read's piece mentioned above
2. Council minutes can be got from the council's website, https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-us/your-council/council-and-committee-meetings/council-meetings/council-meeting-minutes/ . Look for 14 August 2019 links. For a direct link use this: https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/globalassets/key-docs/meeting/minute-council-upc/council-minutes-14-august-2019---confirmed.doc
3. Council meeting agendas are available on the same web page as minutes.
4. Thanks evidently to Revitalise Sydney Road
5. For what that is worth. Obviously the cost of marking out bike lanes is not the real issue.