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More bike lanes for city CBDs as COVID-19 changes our habits

By Tim Robson, 19 May 2020 Car News

Melbourne, Sydney swaps car parking for bike lanes in a post covid-19 world

Temporary bike lanes to make space for pedestrians form part of new mobility plan

Melbourne and Sydney will follow the lead of major European centres by allocating road lanes to bicycle traffic.

Some 12km of additional cycle paths will be created in Melbourne’s CBD, which will, in turn, allow for wider footpaths in key urban areas as the state – and the rest of Australia – moves towards a loosening of COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Sydney will follow suit with 10km of new bike lanes.

The lanes will not be built from scratch; rather, they will be created by blocking on-street parking and turning them into bike paths.

It’s a similar route to the one being taken in cities like Paris, Milan, Berlin and Brussels, which have all rolled out measures to improve access for bike use in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and noted cycle commuting advocate Sally Capp (below) – who has already committed to developing some 44km of extra cycling lanes over the next four years – said the city has an obligation to make more space for pedestrians.

"Increasing pavements around the city will involve our need to take back some of our on-street parking to accommodate wider footpaths and bike lanes,” she said.

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Capp is also calling for businesses to consider staggering start and finish times for employees to reduce congestion in peak periods as the economy ramps back up.

The move comes as Melbournites swap cars for pushies in droves, with car usage down by 89 per cent last month and bike usage up by more than 200 per cent in April when compared with November last year.

Pedestrian traffic is also up, as people swap work shoes for sneakers to exercise during the State of Emergency restrictions that will only lift in Victoria on May 11.

Shared-use zones are also being proposed for Melbourne's network of ‘Little’ lanes, while a 30km/h speed limit has also been proposed.

While the advent of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has changed people’s daily habits – public transport and ride-share use is also hugely down, while the aviation industry has all but stopped – Melbourne has been actively pursuing a pro-cycling makeover of its transport network, in line with its Transport Strategy 2030 white paper. 

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Meanwhile, Sydney has announced a similar restructuring of its cycleways, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore announcing that the city would add just over 10km of new cycleways on Pitt Street north in the central business district, along Moore Park Road towards Bondi, on Pyrmont Bridge Road in Glebe, Henderson Road in Eveleigh, and Sydney Park Road and Dunning Avenue in Rosebery.

"We’re also developing plans to accommodate cycleways on Oxford Street, King Street in Newtown, and King Street, College Street and Castlereagh Street in the CBD," said Moore in a statement.

Sydney cycle links 2020

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said the state government would contribute $4 million to build the cycleways, which may remain in place after the COVID-19 restrictions around social distancing are lifted.

As is the case with Melbourne, existing roads will be converted into cycle lanes using a combination of new barriers, line markings and lane dividers, which will impact on both vehicular traffic and parking.

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