In October-November 2022 VicRoads will be painting some bicycle lanes green in Pascoe Vale, adding some cycling sharrows, intersection bicyle boxes in minor intersection upgrades and some alteration downwards to speed limits along the Coburg to Glenroy cycling route.
This project is part of a $22.7 million commitment to connect missing links in Victoria’s walking and cycling network this year. This sounds like a lot of money, but it is just 11.5% of the annual active transport budget of NSW ($980 million for 5 years).
The project connects Boundary Road to O’Hea Street via a short section of Cumberland Road, Kent Road and Derby Street, and is part of the Glenroy to Coburg Cycling Link.
Vicroads says it will provide a better connected, safer route for bike riders through Pascoe Vale. But research shows most people interested in cycling still question the safety improvement of green painted lanes rather than protected cycling lanes and shared use paths.
Painting the existing bike lanes green along Derby street does not reduce the existing risk and danger of car dooring at all.
This route with green painted bike lanes was put forward by Department of Transport as opposed to a long term expression by Moreland Bicycle User Group and Moreland Council to put in protected bicycle lanes along Cumberland Road, a state controlled road. A political promise was broken.
Upgrades will include:
- Green pavement bicycle lanes
- Upgrades to six intersections
- Raised safety platforms
- Marked bike stencils along the route (Sharrows are painted bicycle stencils on the road surface)
- Speed cushions to encourage slower vehicle speeds on Kent Road between Derby and Cumberland Roads.
- There will also be speed limit reductions to 40km/hr and 50 km/hr along the route for Derby St, Kent Road and Cumberland Road
Here is the detail of the improvements:
- At the intersection of Boundary Road and Cumberland Road we’ll install green bicycle boxes to provide clear space for bike riders, which will increase visibility of people on bikes, and raise driver awareness.
- On Cumberland Road, we’ll install a new 1.2 metre-wide designated bike lane with green pavement paint at conflict points between Boundary Road and Kent Road. We’ll make the speed safer with a 50km/h speed limit along this section of road.
- On Kent Road we’ll install speed cushions, bike stencils (often referred to as sharrows) and introduce a safer speed limit of 40km/h.
- On Derby Street, we’ll install a green pavement bike lane between O’Hea Street and Kent Road and create a calmer street with a new 40km/h speed limit.
- At the intersection of Gaffney Street and Derby Street, we’ll provide bicycle boxes and an extended bike lane with green pavement paint.
- At the intersection of Derby Street and O’Hea Street, we’ll create a connection to Council’s proposed shared use path treatment along O’Hea Street, as well as install bike stencils, raised safety platforms, speed cushions, and upgraded line marking.
- At the following roundabouts we’ll provide bike stencils, raised safety platforms and speed cushions to increase driver awareness about people on bikes and reduce travel speeds:
- Intersection of Cumberland Road and Kent Road
- Intersection of Kent Road and Derby Street
- Intersection of Derby Street and Essex Street.
So what is the problem?
The problem is painted bicycle lanes do not increase perceptions of safety in the very large cohort of ‘Interested but concerned’ group of people who need to be reassured on the safety of cycling before heading out on a bike.
Derby street along this route will be changed to a 40km per hour zone. It is already classified as this outside Pascole Vale North Primary school during school hours. But vehicles often speed along up to 60km per hour along the southern end of Derby street on this route. I doubt speed signs will be sufficient to change this behaviour for many car drivers.
Research says that Protected bicycle lanes are 10 times more effective than painted bicycle lanes. (Nolan et al 2021)
For those people who already cycle on road, these changes will be appreciated. But part of the objective should be to encourage many more people to cycle. And green painted lanes will have only a minor impact here on perceptions of safety.
The recent study by Pearson et al (March 2022), The potential for bike riding across entire cities: Quantifying spatial variation in interest in bike riding, provides justification for separated cycling infrastructure to encourage people interested in cycling to start doing so. This is particularly important for women interested in starting to cycle, and for the cycling independance of children
The researchers conclude that “Our results show the potential for substantial increases in cycling participation, but only when high-quality cycling infrastructure is provided.”
The research noted that:
Over half of participants owned a bike, however only one in five rode a bike at least once per week. Most participants were classified as Interested but Concerned, demonstrating a high latent demand for bike riding if protected bicycling infrastructure were provided.
The research also highlights that painted bike lanes just don’t do the job of satisfying safety and moving substantially more people to cycling. Painted bike lanes are used as a cheap transport bureacrat option which doesn’t actually increase safety and still leaves substantial numbers of people interested but concerned:
While painted bike lanes are a lower cost alternative to providing bicycling infrastructure, these do not constitute physically separated bicycling infrastructure. Research conducted in Melbourne that measured passing distances between motor vehicles and bikes identified more close, and potentially unsafe, passes when a person riding a bike was travelling in a painted bike lane compared to on-road (Beck et al., 2019). Similarly, a previous study identified that 22% of all on-road bike riding crashes occurred while riding in a painted bike lane, highlighting their insufficiency in protecting vulnerable road-users (Beck et al., 2016). In addition to the risk of substantial injury that painted bike lanes pose for people on bikes, they are not supportive of new bike riders, or low-stress traffic environments, with concerns about safety on the road and interactions with motorists being a major barrier to participation in bike riding (Daley and Rissel, 2011; Heesch et al., 2012; Twaddle et al., 2010; Akar and Clifton, 2009; Dill, 2009). As indicated by the findings of this study, removing interactions with motor vehicles through a physically separated bicycle lane could substantially increase participation in bike riding in Melbourne, while maintaining the safety of vulnerable road-users.Pearson et al (March 2022), The potential for bike riding across entire cities: Quantifying spatial variation in interest in bike riding
McNeil et al (2015) looking at the Influence of Bike Lane Buffer Types on Perceived Comfort and Safety of Bicyclists and Potential Bicyclists, found that:
“Findings suggest that striped or painted buffers offer some level of increased comfort, whereas buffers with some sort of physical protection, even protection as minimal as a plastic flexpost, yield significant increases in perceived comfort for potential cyclists with safety concerns (the interested but concerned). Of residents living near recently built protected bike lanes, 71% of all residents and 88% of the interested but concerned indicated that they would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated by a barrier.”McNeil, N., Monsere, C. M., & Dill, J. (2015). Influence of Bike Lane Buffer Types on Perceived Comfort and Safety of Bicyclists and Potential Bicyclists.
So the Pascoe Vale painted bike lanes are cheap green infrastructure to make it appear the Government is improving cycling infrastructure, when the research evidence points to these treatments being of only limited and marginal value to moving more people from the very large ‘interested but concerned’ cohort to the ‘enthused and confident’ cohort of being regular and active cyclists.
Andrews Government backtracks on a political promise
Protected bike lanes on Cumberland Road has long been advocated by both Moreland Bicycle Users Group and Moreland Council. On May 1st 2018 the State Government and Transport Minister Luke Donnellan actually promised this work and it was budgeted for in the 2018 state budget. There was a nice pollie picture featuring Lizzie Blandthorn MP with Roads and Roads Safety Minister Jaala Pulford for this work going ahead in 2019. Move forward two years and Lizzie announces the work will not happen, instead a different route will be offered, with no protected cycle lanes just some green paint to existing bike lanes on Derby Street. Read more at June 2020 post: Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn Backtracks on Cumberland Road dedicated bike lanes.
What a Green wash and a broken election promise.
- VicRoads – Safer cycling route for Pascoe Vale https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/planning-and-projects/melbourne-road-projects/safer-cycling-route-for-pascoe-vale
- Nolan et al (2021) Are bicycle lanes effective? The relationship between passing distance and road characteristics, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 159, 2021, 106184, ISSN 0001-4575, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2021.106184.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457521002153 )
- Pearson et al (March 2022), The potential for bike riding across entire cities: Quantifying spatial variation in interest in bike riding, Journal of Transport & Health, Volume 24, March 2022, 101290, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140521003200
- McNeil, N., Monsere, C. M., & Dill, J. (2015). Influence of Bike Lane Buffer Types on Perceived Comfort and Safety of Bicyclists and Potential Bicyclists. Transportation Research Record, 2520(1), 132–142. https://doi.org/10.3141/2520-15