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20 September 2010

Hi *|FNAME|*,

Two new reports on Albert Street...

When the innovative Albert Street bike lanes were installed in the middle of this year they were subjected to a barrage of premature criticism.

The Albert Street lanes are part of the development of a major city access route for bikes traveling east-west to and from the city.

Judging by two recent reports, most of the criticism was unfounded. The first report looks at similar lane designs overseas; the second is a VicRoads safety audit of the Albert Street project.

Because of the initial controversy, Bicycle Victoria commissioned Alta Planning + Design to report on the current state of practice on kerbside running bike lanes in Europe and North America.

Their report — A Guide to the Use of Kerbside Running Bike Lanes — is now available online.

Alta describe kerbside running bike lanes as ‘a safe, cost-effective, practical, and proven on-road cycling solution’. Alta found ‘the increased rider comfort provided by separated bike lanes has been recognised for many years in European cities’.

The report considers the application of this type of design in Copenhagen, London, Portland Oregon, Minneapolis, Toronto and New York.

Critics had labelled the Albert Street lanes as ‘dangerous’. The Alta report shows how these lanes advantageously change the risk profile on a road. For example the high risk of a rider colliding with a driver’s door is replaced with the lesser risk of colliding with a passenger door that opens over a marked area. (Only around 10% of motor vehicles have passengers).

Initial figures from New York’s kerbside running bike lane on Grand Street show a 27% reduction in injuries to all street users. The treatment has resulted in a 29% increase in bike riders along this route.

The report recommends how the ‘new’ risks can be mitigated. Pedestrians crossing the bike lane can be alerted by painting the lane green — an initiative that the Council implemented in Albert Street shortly after the lanes were introduced.

The report also addressed one of the criticisms that the lanes were a waste of money, showing that while the lanes cost more than a traditional drivers side bike lane they are half the cost of the Swanston Street treatment and a third the cost of a fully separated bike path.

With this report in hand state and local governments can confidently implement these treatments, attracting significantly more people into bike riding by replacing many of the drivers’ side lanes around Australia with kerbside lanes.

Today the City of Melbourne released a second report, prepared by Road Safety International for VicRoads, ‘Post- opening stage road safety audit Albert Street bicycle lanes, East Melbourne’.

The report concluded that the Albert Street lanes presented some new features that “may surprise some road users. It can be expected therefore that this new information may take some time to be understood and accepted by road users”.

One proposal to address this concern was that could be more consistency and continuity with the lanes, an idea that Bicycle Victoria believes has merit, especially if the west-bound lane was extended on the south side of Albert Street to begin at Powlett rather than Clarendon.

Another concern raised was there was a ‘medium risk’ of collision with passenger car doors. However the report apparently failed to appreciate two vital facts: not only do 90% of parking vehicles have no passengers, but also that there are no parked cars in Albert Street during peak travel times. This actually means that there will be much reduced risk of ‘dooring’ compared to a normal drivers’ side bike lane.

Overall these reports clear the way for the extension of kerbside running lanes to other streets in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia.

The Albert Street bike lanes have been a surprise to some people, but the experience elsewhere in the world is that road users and locals adapt and after a period the lanes just become an accepted part of the everyday road user experience.

Happy riding!

Harry Barber
Bicycle Victoria

More about Altra Planning + Design
Alta is a United States based planning company that has ‘designed forward-thinking, successful bicycle plans and projects throughout the world’. They work with ‘national, state, city and regional clients from California to New York.’

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