Open letter on lack of Cycling Infrastructure at Campbellfield

Open letter Dated 28 February 2018 on lack of Cycling Infrastructure at Campbellfield
To the Hon Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads and Road Safety, the Hon Jacinta Allan, Minister for Transport.

Dear Ministers,

Yesterday I broke the law by riding my bicycle on the footpath from Campbellfield Plaza to Somerset Road, Campbellfield. But I had no other choice, given my assessment of road safety and VicRoads not providing any safe cycling alternative.

I had gone to Campbellfield Plaza to do shopping and then decided to visit Merri Park at Campbellfield (the northern section of the Merri Creek Trail). But there are no backstreets to cycle to reach Merri Park.

The only legal direct route was to cycle on Sydney Road/ Hume Highway. However, Sydney Road at Campbellfield is 6-8 traffic lanes, with heavy traffic volumes and a speed limit of 70km/hour.

I am a confident and reasonably fearless cyclist that cycles on many roads, with and without cycle lanes, but my assessment is that Sydney Road at Campbellfield is simply too dangerous to cycle in the given conditions.

VicRoads has not provided any nearby alternative safe route to Sydney Road for cyclists travelling north-south at this location.

Of course there is an alternative route that could be developed and built. As the advisor to Roads and Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan pointed out in a letter to me dated 18/8/2017 (see end note) “The Upfield shared path and it’s northward extension have been designated as a Strategic Cycling Corridor”.

However, in the following paragarph I was told about funding from the Safer Cyclists and Pedestrian Fund being used to improve the safety of routes located on Strategic Cycling Corridors. The assessment was the “Upfield shared path is a lower priority relative to other corridors that have higher bicycle crash histories.”

However bicycle crash histories are far from sufficient for assessing the need for cycling infrastructure in a strategic cycling corridor. These statistics fail to take into account the lack of ANY adequate bicycle infrastructure, the inappropriateness of the current roads such as Sydney Road/Hume Highway at Campbellfield for cycling, and the high level of car dependency in suburbs such as Campbellfield within Hume Municipality.

We are not going to get a reasonable increase in cycling in middle level suburbs until adequate cycling infrastructure is provided such as an alternative to using Sydney Road at Campbellfield.

Looking at bicycle crash histories for Sydney Road and comparing them to other Strategic Cycling Corridors is a grossly inadequate comparison once you take into account all the other factors that reduce cycling use in this area.

Lets get this straight. No one cycles on Sydney Road at Campbellfield because it’s too bloody dangerous, so there would be few if any cycle accident statistics, so VicRoads don’t think there is a problem at this location, hence their assessment of no need to fund an alternative safe route. That is simplistic and stupid logic.

The letter from the office of Roads and Safety Minister Luke Donellan advised that VicRoads only have plans to complete the Upfield Shared Use Path as far as the M80 Western Ring Road as a low priority project, implying that there are no plans whatsoever to build the shared use path through Campbellfield to Upfield in the Strategic Cycling Corridor.

I find this lack of planning foresight for a strategic cycling corridor a damning response to my enquiry.

This response is particularly ironic given the State Government’s December 2017 release of the “2018-2028 Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-2028 Increasing Cycling for Transport” which has the two principal goals of 1. investing in a safer, low-stress, better-connected network and 2. Make cycling a more inclusive experience.

Section 1.7 of the Victorian Cycling Strategy on “Incorporate new cycling infrastructure in major transport projects” states:
“Major transport projects offer a valuable opportunity to improve strategic cycling corridors. This is because planning and building high-quality cycling infrastructure as part of a new project is less-disruptive and lower-cost than retrofitting it into an existing development.

“All major transport projects currently being planned and built such as the Level Crossing Removal Project and the West Gate Tunnel Project include substantial new and upgraded cycling infrastructure, including infrastructure to fill gaps in the strategic cycling corridor network.”

This has clearly not happened with regard to the Camp Road Level Crossing Removal, despite a motion from Hume Council (Ausgust 2017 meeting), as well as requests from Sustainable Fawkner and myself, urging the Transport Minister to include the construction of the bike path as part of the work.

A further complication regarding extending the Upfield path past the M80 ringroad has now arisen due to the Camp Road Level Crossing Removal. I would like to raise with you that the construction of the Camp Road Level Crossing has not been done to a standard to easily facilitate the build of the Upfield path extension.

Minister for Transport Jacinta Allan delegated a response to my letter of 18th August 2017, which was provided by Kevin Devlin CEO of the Level Crossing Removal Authority, dated 6/12/2017 (Ref: CMIN178941), in which I was given an explicit undertaking by Kevin Devlin, that the Level Crossing work was done to “easily accommodate future improvements to the rail line and surrounding infrastructure such as the bike path.”

However, a site inspection by myself on 6th February 2018 revealed no provision has been made for the Upfield shared use path to go under Camp Road, the only other option is for it to go alongside the railway on the service track, then a pedestrian crossing across the 4 lanes and two cycles lanes on Camp Road. Putting in pedestrian crossing lights would seem to remove part of the advantage of the Level Crossing Removal in periodically holding up traffic. It would be a nightmare to cross without pedestrian crossing lights.

I would be pleased to find out how planners propose that a shared use path can be installed in an easy, efficient and cost effective manner at the point of Camp Road given the Level Crossing Removal work that has taken place and that undertaings were given that a bike path could be easily accommodated at some point in the future.

I’d also like a response on why this shared use path wasn’t constructed as part of the level crossing removal project as per section 1.7 of the Victorian Cycling Strategy.

I would also like to draw your attention to another problem caused by the Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road. The Level Crossing Removal Authority have used the space allocated for pedestrian/cyclist shared use on the rail bridge across the M80 ring road for electrical cabling ducts and cemented them into place.

I would like to know how a shared use path on this bridge can be installed easily and cost efficiently given the work undertaken by the Level Crossing Removal Authority in utilising this portion of the bridge seemingly ruining any prospect of it being used for a shared use path?
Can you advise how planners propose that a shared use path can be installed on this rail bridge in an easy, efficient and cost effective manner?

As you would know, Melbourne’s population is growing, what once were outer suburbs are now the middle level suburbs. Cycling infrastructure, as well as mass transit, needs to be expanded into the middle and outer suburbs as detailed in the Victorian Bicycle Strategy to enable residents of these suburbs to choose to use recreational or commuter cycling which has positive emissions reduction, reduces traffic congestion and provides population health benefits at a societal level.

Extending the Upfield path is an important route providing a vitally needed and safe alternative to using Sydney road/Hume Highway. I look forward to your early responses to my questions including how VicRoads will provide a safe cycling route from the Campbellfield shops for residents who live in the north of Campbellfield, or cyclists such as myself who come from south of the M80 Ring Road.

Yours Sincerely

John Englart

Reference Notes:
• Sustainable Fawkner article, 27 September 2016, Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road Campbellfield should incorporate Upfield path extension
Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road Campbellfield should incorporate Upfield path extension

• Sustainable Fawkner article 18 August 2017, Hume Council wants Upfield Bikepath Extension as part of Camp Road level crossing removal
Hume Council wants Upfield Bikepath Extension as part of Camp Road level crossing removal

• Letter from the office of Roads and Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan dated 18/8/2017 (CMIN177120 File No: PC033146)
Letter from Kevin Devlin, CEO of the Level Crossing Removal Authority, dated 6/12/2017 (Ref: CMIN178941)
• 2018-2028 Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-2028 Increasing Cycling for Transport https://transport.vic.gov.au/content/docs/Victorian%20Cycling%20Strategy%202018-28.PDF

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