By Adam Carey, Transport Reporter for The Age, February 20, 2013
What's more important - car parking or bike lanes? After a fierce debate, Collingwood Council decided: bike lanes. They will install the separated "Copenhagen-style" lanes (pictured) along Wellington Street. Their overall goal is to double the number of residents riding to work, to 15 per cent in two years' time.
An artist's impression of the bike lanes coming to Wellington Street in Collingwood.
Collingwood will have separated Copenhagen-style bike lanes along Wellington Street after Yarra City Council voted in favour of building them at a meeting on Tuesday night.
The proposal succeeded by the narrowest possible margin. Four councillors voted for the lanes and four against, with Yarra mayor Cr Jackie Fristacky casting the deciding vote in favour of the plan.
The vote also split along party lines, with two Greens councillors voting for and three Labor councillors against, in part due to concerns about loss of parking spaces.
Wellington Street, Collingwood. Photo: Wayne Taylor
In total, 117 parking spaces will make way for the separated lanes, mostly on the western side of Wellington Street, after a study found more local businesses used the street's eastern side for parking.
The lanes will run along part of Wellington Street from Johnston Street to Victoria Parade, forming part of an almost continuous separated route into the city that includes the Albert Street bike lanes in East Melbourne.
Cr Fristacky said building the lanes was a progressive move aimed at reducing congestion, in line with the City of Melbourne's recent decision to build Copenhagen lanes along Latrobe Street.
"It's a forward-looking decision anticipating the ongoing major increase in cycling as a form of transport in Melbourne," Cr Fristacky said.
"Yarra has the highest proportion of people who cycle to work in Australia. More than two in every five residents walk, cycle or catch public transport to work," she said.
Cr Fristacky said the lanes would make cycling safer, which would in turn encourage more riders.
"Our aim, as set out in our bicycle strategy, is for Yarra to [more than] double the rate of residents cycling to work from 6.4 per cent to 15 per cent by 2015. This is not only a healthy option but helps to reduce traffic congestion on our local roads."
But Geoff Barbour, a former mayor and sitting councillor who voted against the proposal, said council had shunned an opportunity to build a better bike lane along the entire length of Wellington Street, in favour of a short "gold-plated" lane.
"The disappointing thing is we could have looked at a greater length of treatment which would have benefited a greater number of cyclists, rather than simply looking at a smallish, gold-plated path, with very low-grade or no protection in other parts of the street," Cr Barbour said.
A semi-separated lane with rumble strips and green paint markings would have a better option, he said.
Cr Barbour said local businesses were also worried that a loss of parking could drive customers away.
"Businesses have been quite clear that they are concerned, they say that there is quite a lot of smallish scale, wholesale business in that area, with people pulling up for fairly rapid turnover to pick up deliveries."
A dismayed Labor councillor Roberto Colanzi tweeted this morning: "Greens last night with help from Socialist abandoned Yarra residents & ratepayers for exclusive interests & demands of non-residents etc."
But Cr Fristacky said there was ample, "under-utilised" parking in nearby side streets, as a council-commissioned report by Essential Economics had found.
"Businesses traditionally over-emphasise the reliance of their customers on parking, international research shows that," Cr Fristacky said. "They tend to think 50-60 per cent of their customers come by car, but in fact it's more like 35 per cent. In Yarra it's often a lot less, given the number of cyclists."