The controversial Fitzsimons Lane intersection re-opened yesterday. Bicycle Network was on the spot to analyse whether it’s better for people riding bikes and to provide guidance for riders heading out to Mt Pleasant or Kinglake this weekend.
Changing from a roundabout to traffic lights should have been a great opportunity to improve this notorious intersection, used by many road riders to access the popular riding regions in Melbourne's outer north-eastern suburbs.
However, while the traffic lights have made the intersection safer, there has been missed opportunities to make it more bike friendly.
The new intersection is certainly better for recreation riders. In the past, people who were at Lower Eltham Park and wanted to cross Main Road to go the shops or people who lived in the suburbs and wanted to go for a pedal starting at Lower Letham Park had to run the gauntlet across Main Road. The new crossing removes this barrier (see below, left).
However, the link from the off road bike path on the Lower Eltham side to the crossing is still under construction so at the moment it’s difficult to get to the crossing (see below, right).
For road riders, there are two obvious improvements to the intersection that should be made.
First, for riders coming from Lower Plenty and heading toward Eltham, there’s a potential conflict with left turning vehicles. The left turn is also too sharp, which could be fixed with a bike only left turn. There’s plenty of spare land on this side that could be used.
Second, the right turn from Eltham heading toward Lower Plenty, while better than the old roundabout, is still a significant challenge. A bike priority light giving riders a head start and a bike box at the front of the stopped traffic would help.
Our bike riding model for these videos, Peaks Challenge wave leader and Bicycle Network's very own Cam Clamp, has provided the following notes on the new intersection set-up for road riders.
Outbound, left turn onto Main Road
Heading from Heidelberg toward Eltham / Mt Pleasant / Kinglake
The turn from this direction hasn’t changed a lot, it now just has a slip lane and a traffic light to contend with, instead of the third lane of a roundabout.
Previously you could almost always slip past traffic and stay left without stopping. Now you have to wait for the green light.
The turn tightens at the intersection so forces cars to cut the corner.
Tip: Claim the lane as soon as you move into the slip lane before making the left turn to stop any vehicles cutting the corner while you are there.
Overall, this movement is probably on par or worse than the old setup in terms of safety, and slightly less convenient.
Inbound, right turn onto Main Road
Heading from Eltham towards Lower Plenty / Heidelberg
This maneuver has always been the trickiest.
On the approach: Previously you had to move across two lanes to get into the right turning lane, which was difficult with unpredictable traffic moving through the roundabout. Now it's much the same – you have to move across three lanes to get to the right turning lane, but the traffic is more predictable with the traffic lights in place.
Tip: On the approach, claim the left most lane at first, then move into the turning lanes as soon as there is a good break in the traffic. If you don’t get a comfortable break in the traffic, stay in the left lane all the way until the lights, then shuffle over on a red light into the turning lanes.
Overall, the approach is about as bad as it previously was, though slightly safer with the predictability of the car movements.
On the exit: The amount of space seems to be less, and it seems more of an incline. Even with only a single rider, there isn’t room for a car to pass until you are well through the intersection.
Tip: Claim the lane and pedal hard to get though it quickly.
Overall this section is about on par, the only improvement on the exit is that left turning traffic from Fitzsimons Lane that would have in the past been merging with you gets a red light when you move through.
Outbound, Fitzsimons Lane straight onto Main Road
Heading from Templesowe to Mt Pleasant / Kinglake
This maneuver is much the same as it was previously. Heading downhill on the approach so it's easy to flow with the traffic.
No tips required, it's basically the same except you will have to follow the traffic light sequence, which probably makes it safer due to predictable movements.
Outbound, Main Road straight onto Fitzsimons Lane
Heading from Eltham towards Templestowe
Again, this movement is much the same as in the past. All you have to do is stay in the left lane, follow the light sequence instead of waiting for a break in traffic, then merge as the left lane runs out.
Overall this is probably a slight improvement in safety to the previous setup, because of the traffic lights.
Bicycle Network encourages all riders crossing through the intersection to be extra careful as everyone adjusts to the changes.