The Mayor of Moreland, Cr Natalie Abboud was interviewed by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne talk back radio yesterday, highlighting the need for bike bridges for busy Bell Street and Moreland Road to be part of the level crossing removal project and upgrade to the Upfield Bike Path.
“How do you ease the tension between cyclists, pedestrians and cars” said Cr Abboud “Is there not an opportunity for raising some of the cross overs over busy Bell street and busy Moreland Road?”
“The bikes that race the train down to commute into the city can still get a pretty quick run and its still a viable way to commute down into town from anywhere up in the north as a lot of people do.”
Cyclists often utilise the boom gates down for train movements to be able to cycle through multiple level crossings on the Upfield line at a time, following a train. This is known colloquially as the ‘Upfield Wave’. When boom gates are removed cyclists will lose this functionality and flow which makes commuting along the Upfield line somewhat bearable.
Talk back host Jon Faine rephrased the question, “if I can reduce it into its simplest, your argument is ‘there is an opportunity here if we just spend a little bit extra we get a lot more bang for our buck’?”
Cr Abboud responded, “Yes, its a once in a lifetime project. I think the community could have really fed into this: to say sure maybe 2k of elevated veloway is not something the government can really afford, but raising some of the bridges or organising some of the pedestrian lights so if you hit the button you can get across quickly.”
Cr Abboud called the project “a bit carcentric” but that “removing the level crossings is very important and we are grateful for…”
Faine then asked would Moreland Council be prepared to part fund an elevated veloway.
Clearly the possibility of the Government negotiating with a Council to contribute funds for a better community outcome with level crossing removal had not been thought through on a Council level as the Mayor was clearly a little non-plussed with the questioning.
Abboud’s response was that Council hasn’t been consulted on the issue, “so I couldn’t even answer that. But I know… as the Mayor I can’t speak on behalf of the Council, but I would be up for it.”
Clearly the LXRP and state Government have also not been on the ball with identifying an important opportunity for an important upgrade to cycling infrastructure and negotiating with Council on this. This project should be about delivering the best outcomes for the community and working out viable compromises that can be budgeted for, perhaps even from different budgets.
Cr Abboud added, that “I wouldn’t say that 2k of veloway is a priority, I just think getting people up and down the pathway with good pedestrian scenarios and elevated bridges over the busy roads is some kind of a compromise to get a better successful Upfield Bike path.”
Talk back host Jon Faine called that “a pretty good start”
Sustainable Transport campaigner John Englart has done a detailed assessment of the Upfield bike path upgrade as proposed with the level crossing removal, acknowledging some of the positive designs, but also being scathing over the lack of vision and resolution of key congestion points and conflict zones at Bell Street and Moreland Road and around the Station precincts.
Like the Mayor, Englart sees a full veloway as the best solution, but a workable compromise would be the provision of cycling bridges over the key cycling and pedestrian congestion points and conflict zones.
Indeed, the Level Crossing Removal Authority own Urban design Framework indicates that such overpasses should be part of the project:
M4.4 Pedestrian and cycling overpasses are provided at strategic points relative to pedestrian movement patterns and the existing and proposed street and cycle networks; where applicable.
It is actually Department of Transport policy that new and upgraded cycling infrastructure be included as part of all level crossing removal projects (and this is referenced in the LXRP design Framework). There is a clear need to upgrade the crossings of Bell street and Moreland road with cycle bridges for safety and ensuring cycling traffic flow on an important and busy arterial cycling route.
So perhaps LXRP should go away and do some engineering design work and costings for two options: a full veloway; and the compromise solution of cycle bridges over the main roads and past the station areas.
From that negotiations could be entered into with the local community and Council.
Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan should be overseeing this project to ensure proper governance, including that the project abides by Department of Transport policy and LXRP design Framework, that adequate solutions for the arterial cycling route of the Upfield Bike Path are fully incorporated.
You can read the Transcript of interview: Jon Faine and Cr Natalie Abboud, Mayor of Moreland, as well as the full interview with Kevin Devlin, CEO of LXRP, along with other callers:
Audio Broadcast on 774 ABC Melbourne, Tuesday 27 August, 2019