Choked Chapel Street has long had the reputation as Melbourne’s most harrowing bike street, but tears of grief could soon turn to cries of joy.
The City of Stonnington’s draft bike strategy, now out for comment, puts fixing the vital street for riders as its No 1 priority and they just might pull it off.
Chapel is understood to be one of the key corridors identified in the State Government’s forthcoming plan for a network of strategic routes across metropolitan Melbourne.
This means less chance of the council and government stepping on each others toes when the job needs to get done.
The Stonnington municipality should be a bounteous natural catchment for riders, but the council, with its reputation as a kindergarten for Liberal Party politicians, could never get out of its own way and provide the necessary safe local network that riders needed to escape the city limits.
But with burgeoning pollution, already dense settlement and overloaded roads and public transport, there are no other choices left.
The draft strategy says Stonnington’s population is expected to grow by 25,000 people over the next two decades.
"Increasingly, people are frustrated by Melbourne’s congested roads. Yet in Stonnington, over 40 per cent of trips under two kilometres are made by car,” the strategy states.
"However, in some parts of Stonnington (such as near Chapel Street), almost half of households (46%) do not own a car.
"Policy at all levels supports getting more people cycling, but progress has been very slow, with only 1 in 30 Stonnington residents choosing to cycle to work. This is in part due to the fact that one person per month on average is hospitalised while riding a bike within the municipality.”
In order to get some traction with the new strategy the City appears to have pulled its horns, hoping a small wish list will help with delivery of the key priorities.
"Lessons from implementation of previous strategies is that a list of actions which is too aspirational, or commits to do too many things, leaves the difficult major issues unresolved.
"That is, ‘doing everything’ is not a strategy. The evidence-base supporting this strategy suggests that if we focus on tackling three major issues, we will have greater impact.”
The strategy specifically targets:
Safer cycling along the Chapel Street corridor Paths which everyone can feel comfortable using Delivery of the Strategic Cycling Corridors through state investment.
The draft document says that people will likely always want to cycle along and to Chapel Street.
"Previous strategies have sought to provide alternative cycling routes to Chapel Street. Despite these efforts, it remains a popular route for cyclists as one of the most direct north-south connections and as a destination in its own right.
To tackle Chapel Street, a gradualist approach is suggested: "The first action is to progressively deliver a series of measures which start to build a safe space for cyclists and improve access along Chapel Street. The measures would be delivered in partnership with local businesses (e.g. pavement build-outs) to reduce dooring risk, improve local business and trading space, create bike lanes, provide more bicycle parking and reinforce ‘the village feel’.
"It is recognised that shifting the way people travel is a big change and a gradual process and so changes to the corridor could be carefully phased to allow time for monitoring, adjustments and input from those that live, work and do business along the corridor.”
For more on the Chapel Street prospects, and other initiatives, download the full document here.