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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bicycles on Barrack Street

The City of Perth has released a proposal ( protected 2-way cycle lanes on Barrack Street - as an interim measure pending full 2-way traffic operation.

The STC applauds the intention of the City of Perth to install protected bicycle lanes on Barrack Street as an interim measure in advance of permanent lanes when the permanent reconfiguration of Barrack Street is completed in 2015. There are, however, some matters of detail that we suggest need to be reviewed with a view to improvement of the safety and convenience of cyclists, pedestrians and bus passengers.

It is undesirable to have multiple changes of cyclist priority over such a short distance. In the proposal, these changes occur:
a) at the Wellington Street intersection, where the cyclist must become a pedestrian;
b) after crossing Wellington Street, where the cyclist has absolute priority in the protected cycle lanes;
c) on reaching the CAT bus stop, where the cyclist loses priority to pedestrians for a short distance;
d) on leaving the shared footpath zone at the CAT bus stop, where the cyclist reverts to having absolute priority;
e) on arriving a St Georges Terrace, where the cyclist must, again, become a pedestrian; and
f) south of St Georges Terrace where initially the cyclist will join general traffic or, after mid-2014, will enter a one-way cycle lane.

The requirement for cyclists to dismount and cross with pedestrians, at Wellington Street and St Georges Terrace, makes life unnecessarily difficult for cyclists travelling south as they will have to wait for two pedestrian phases (with parallel walks) to get from or to the continuation of their journey. This will inevitably result in some southbound cyclists using the western footpath on Barrack Street north of Wellington Street and south of St Georges Terrace. Others may attempt the diagonal movement despite there no longer being a protected 'all-pedestrian' phase at these intersections. 

If cyclists were to follow the suggested rules, the footpath corners of these two intersections would get very congested with a mix of pedestrians and dismounted cyclists in a confined space. There would also be conflict during the actual crossing, as both these intersections carry heavy pedestrian volumes.

Perhaps a better solution at the southern end, especially given that bike lanes are yet to be installed south of St Georges Terrace, would be to extend the two-way bike lane directly across St Georges Terrace down to the Esplanade and incorporate a pedestrian/cyclist phase north of the Esplanade for southbound riders to get across to the eastern side of the carriageway.

The main point is that it is confusing and potentially dangerous for cyclists to face so many changes over a relatively short section of what is intended to be a high-standard cyclefacility, namely a City Cycle route in the City of Perth Cycle Plan 2029. This is counter to the intention of encouraging alternative transport as a key to achieving the City of Perth's Vision 2029 (see Message from Lord Mayor at the front of Cycle Plan 2029).

The treatment at the CAT stop is asking for trouble as it changes the priority of the cyclist and people waiting for the bus will tend to congregate as close as possible to the boarding point, thus blocking the cycle lanes - if it's a shared footpath zone, they have every right to do so as there is no requirement to keep moving on a footpath. Even if they do wait to the west of the shared zone, the bike lanes will be blocked when a bus arrives for boarding. 

When cycle tracks are installed between the pavement and the carriageway there is a built-in conflict between cyclists and bus passengers. Efforts must be made to ensure that bus passengers do not descend directly onto the cycle track. When this is not possible, cyclists must give way to bus passengers.

This would suggest that the appropriate treatment would be to:
a) continue the bike lanes in a straight line but with a raised level at the CAT bus stop;
b) keep the bus passenger waiting area on the footpath where it currently is; 
c) require waiting passengers not to stray onto the cycle lanes unless actually boarding a bus; and
d) require cyclists to give way to bus passengers boarding or alighting at the stop.

It is worth noting that this is precisely the situation for all road users with trams/light rail in Melbourne and many other places where there is no in-roadway waiting area for passengers. 

Because no fares are paid on CAT buses and loading/unloading uses both doors, CAT buses do not dwell long at a stop and delays to cyclists or general traffic would be minimal - especially bearing in mind that one rarely, ever, gets through sequential lights on green without waiting. It would also remove the problem of buses having to get back into the traffic stream (the blue CAT stop on James Street has the bus waiting in the traffic lane and it seems to work okay).

If necessary, bus-transponder-activated signage could be installed so that there is a clear message to cyclists to stop.

Posted by Ian Ker, Deputy Convenor, STCWA

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