This post was first published on 21 May 2020.
After almost a 12-month wait, and a clear attempt to bury them, the findings of the VicRoads survey on Sydney Rd have finally surfaced, thanks to a freedom of information request.
The survey findings bring to light, something that I learned during the 2018 state election. People in Brunswick want protected bike lanes, wider footpaths, accessible tram stops and more trees.
If you just want the survey findings, scroll down. To learn about how we got to this stage, read on.
Early last year, along with my staff, I met with Jaala Pulford, the Minister for Roads, and proposed a protected bike lane on Sydney Road, beginning with a temporary lane as a trial. At the time she was receptive and even seemed to think the idea was positive.
Not long after, VicRoads launched an online survey, canvassing five options. The results were to be released by October, then by the end of 2019. They weren’t, and the Minister went on to imply it wasn’t even really a survey, more on this later.
In August 2019, Moreland Council voted to support a trial protected bike lane in a southern section of Sydney Road.
Joining the support for protected bike lanes was the RACV, not previously known as a cycling lobby group, but we’ll take their support.
Around the same time, a VicRoads safety report was obtained under FOI, it showed protected bike lanes were the safest option for all road users, including motorists.
Perhaps feeling the heat, not long after, Lizzie Blandthorn, MP for Pascoe Vale, posted this on Facebook.
Her post is perhaps the best opportunity to see what the Labor cabinet really thinks about revitalising Sydney Road. Hint, they don’t want to go there. The comments are a great way to see what their constituents think about it. Hint, they’re not happy.
Early this year we asked in parliament about the findings of the VicRoads survey, in the Minister’s response, she attempted to reframe what the survey was about. Instead of people picking a preferred outcome for their local area, it was framed as general feedback on the individual designs, and would not be used to finalise a design. The Minister also stated that no decision, or planning, would be made until the completion of the level crossing removal project, sometime in 2021.
It’s disappointing that the Labor cabinet are ignoring local residents and continue to kick this issue down the road, and won’t challenge the assumption that parking is the key driver of local retail economic activity. A large body of research (both local and international) demonstrates that protected bike lanes increase economic activity. Something Sydney Road needs right now.
Key Findings from the VicRoads Survey
- 7040 respondents
- Option 3, the protected bike lane, had the most support (52%) of the five propositions tested among respondents, regardless of their mode of transport or purpose for visiting Sydney Rd.
- Option 3 is the preferred option across all community groups, including visitors, commuters, local residents, those who park on Sydney Rd and people who work locally. The only exception being local business owners, who placed it last.
- Option 4 (retains some parking, brief sections of protected lanes, but many sections remain in dooring zone) received the least amount of ‘very poor’ ratings.
- Responses to the question ‘where do you park?’ show 1 in 10 park their car exclusively on Sydney Rd, with the rest (9 out of 10) taking advantage of all the parking options available.
- Amongst business owners, all options result in a net negative rating, with option 2, (dedicated tram lane in peak, retains clearways and parking in offpeak, no protected bike lanes), drawing the least negativity
- Of respondents who visit Sydney Rd, 54% are local residents, and 42% visit often.
- Due to a large number of responses from people who ride bikes, the survey outcome was weighted to adjust for the higher number of drivers (81%), and tram passengers (31%), compared to bike riders (16%), who typically use the road.
Thank you Nic Dow, from Revitalise Sydney Rd, for obtaining these results. You can read the full report here.
Despite the weighting, protected bike lanes attracted majority support. We could argue all day about whether it should be weighted, and if so, should we take account of those who want to ride but don’t, and so on. But ultimately Sydney Road needs to be designed for the times. And right now, more people are riding than ever before, and they need safety.
While the survey results are promising, I firmly believe the only way we are going to get protected bike lanes on Sydney Road is with a community-powered campaign, you can join here.