When The Age visited Exhibition Street on Friday morning, a truck had stopped in the middle of the designated bike lane to service a construction site. But, on Queens Bridge Street, there were no cyclists in sight shortly after 9am.
Lawyer Louisa Borchers started riding to work in the city from Brunswick East after COVID lockdowns.
“If you have a look at the amount of bike riders that are riding in an hour before and after work, there’s a huge number now following the lockdown, and the bike lane has made it actually safe.
“It feels genuinely pretty safe being on the separated bike lane, which is probably the main reason that I do [cycle].”
Louisa Borchers feels safe riding in the separated bike lane.Credit:Jason South
Lincoln Walkom, who rides to work from Ascot Vale daily via the protected lanes on Exhibition Street, said he was disappointed to learn of the council’s decision.
“If you’ve got some designated roads for bikes it makes it a lot safer for everyone,” he said.“How many people in the city are really driving in to the shops anyway? Most people will catch public transport.”
Daniel To has been running Panini Bar on Exhibition Street for 12 years.
“When I talk to the general public they say that they don’t come into the city because it’s hard to find a park,” he said.
“I think it’s really poorly designed.”
He said it was hard for workers to come and do maintenance tasks at his cafe because they struggled to find a park. Delivery drivers also complained about the lack of loading zones.
Mike McNess, secretary of the Transport Workers Union Victoria, said the bike lanes were installed without consulting the transport industry, and the removal of safe loading zones had caused severe disruption for delivery workers.
“The suspension of these lanes is a step in the right direction,” he said.
“We need to double the number of safe loading zones in the city before people get seriously hurt, or even killed. Each building block between each street must have a safe loading zone.”
City of Melbourne Greens councillor Rohan Leppert said cycling was the most effective congestion-busting policy available to the council.
“No growing city in the world is trying to bring more cars into their centres, because no government can magic up more road space in dense urban centres,” he said.
“What we can do is make the available space work as efficiently as possible and yes, that means more high-capacity bicycle lanes (which also cater for the boom in e-scooters), plenty of loading zones and fewer on-street car parks.”
Leppert said he hoped the pause was temporary and not “a Trojan horse for a shock jock’s parochial vision for the city”. “What an awful place to live that would be,” he said.
Capp said if the city did pause the rollout it was still on track to meet its targets for its protected bike lane program under its 2030 transport strategy.
Robin Deutschmann, an architect who cycles 10 kilometres into the city from Coburg, said he regularly found himself in hairy situations while riding in the city. “Exhibition Street used to be probably one of the most dangerous streets. It’s still not perfect, but this separated bike lane makes a big difference,” he said.
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