Riding a bike is a fun experience for all types of people. Unfortunately, if we are too busy scanning our surroundings in a bid to protect ourselves from danger, we lose the opportunity to enjoy it!
If we want to see more people out riding bikes, we need to build safe places for them to ride. We need to ensure that people not only are safe but feel safe. Without this basic need met, riding a bike is less of a fun activity and more of a challenge.
So how do our existing bike lanes weigh up? Do we have adequate on-road facilities available for people to confidently jump behind the handlebars?
In 2021 Bicycle Network embarked on a journey to grade Victoria’s on-road bike lanes. The result of this work was the Bike Lane Report Card, a tool for assessing the quality of an on-road bike lane based on quality and safety.
What did we find?
After grading over 350 on-road bike lanes across Victoria and parts of Tasmania, we found that 70 per cent of the lanes rated as either an ‘E’ or ‘Fail’. Not a great start.
Here are some of the other interesting things we found…
Inner Melbourne good, outer Melbourne bad
The majority of A and B grade bike lanes are focused in the city and inner suburbs of Melbourne. Outer suburbs, by contrast, have poor quality bike lanes, typically painted lanes with no protection and positioned next to parked cars.
On the flip side, the majority of poorly graded lanes were situated in outer Melbourne local government areas. Perhaps it is no surprise that recent studies have found most residents in outer suburbs are ‘interested but concerned’ about riding a bike.
Victoria’s rural areas are also not up to scratch
Regional towns are typically car-dependent populations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bike lanes we assessed across Victorian regional towns and cities were not up to scratch.
In most cases, we found that on-road bike lanes in regional areas comprised of painted lines with no protection or driver warning devices (e.g. rumble strips).
Major corridors into the city are poor quality
Many major roads offer a important thoroughfare into the city, and serve as connections to off-road paths such as the Moonee Ponds Creek, Capital City and Main Yarra trails.
Unfortunately, many bike lanes on major roads were graded as a ‘Fail’. These included Mt Alexander Road in the northwest, Sydney Road in the north, Chapel Street and Brighton Road/St Kilda Road in the southeast, and Bridge Road in the east.
The lane from here...
There are many key components that go into a good on-road bike lane. And, of course, the issues extend further than the site at which we assessed the bike lanes. Issues of equal, if not greater, importance include the quality of bike facilities intersections, or the connectivity between bike lanes.
So what can we do to ramp things up? The most important thing is funding. There should be a concerted effort from all forms of government to provide safe bike lanes that people of all skill levels will feel confident to use. Equally important is engaging with bike user groups, advocacy groups and the general community to ensure that their needs are met.
If you would like to see an on-road bike lane on our map, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.