A tale of two cyclists

Moving Well | Words: Verica Jokic | Photos: Shannon Morris | Posted on 21 January 2017

Is Melbourne’s bike infrastructure keeping up with the cycle commuting revolution? 

Sarah Diamond

Sarah Diamond is a cyclist who only occasionally wears lycra. But every weekday she rides from her home in Melbourne’s inner north to her workplace in the city.

She’s part of the cycling revolution that has taken hold in Melbourne.

During the morning peak Sarah (pictured) joins 12,000 other Melburnians who cycle into the city – that’s one bike for every six cars. By 2020, the City of Melbourne wants that number to almost double to 20,000 and turn Melbourne into a cycling city.

If you want to reduce dependence on cars then we need to provide alternatives.

Councillor Cathy Oke says none of the world’s major cities are designing their cities for cars any more.

“Like all great cities in the world we are growing and more people are choosing to live in the city and … if you want to reduce dependence on cars then we need to provide alternatives,” she says.

But the bike-riding infrastructure hasn’t kept up with cycling’s popularity and that has caused problems. In parts of the city some bike lanes are over capacity.

Matt Arms

Matt Arms (pictured) cycles from Black Rock to his work in Collingwood in rain, hail or sunshine. He’s been doing it for more than 10 years and says the number of cyclists on the roads has rocketed.

“In and around the city in peak periods the bike lanes are bursting and at some intersections it’s crazy. There’s not enough space for bikes and there can be as many as 20 cyclists queuing to get through intersections,” Matt says.

While there’s more awareness of cyclists by motorists, car dooring is still a big problem, and so is aggressive on-road behaviour from some cyclists.

Faith Hunter, a regular bike rider, says cyclists fall into two groups: those who ride long distances in lycra, use the ride as part of their daily exercise and ride fast; and those who live close to the city, commute in their work clothes and ride more conservatively.

“A lack of infrastructure encourages fast and aggressive riders and they share the bike lanes with people who are far more conservative and especially for women they can be intimidating … people don’t feel safe getting through the city because the connections seem better suited to the confident riders,” Faith says.

Matt agrees. He says lycra-clad weekend warriors and young male cyclists can be disrespectful.

Sarah says one way to deal with that problem is to provide more separated bike lanes.

“If they linked up the bike routes and provided more separated lanes women would feel more comfortable,” she says.

With disruption during construction of Melbourne Metro... Melbourne will be much more reliant on bikes.

A plan for the city

The City of Melbourne’s bike strategy includes widening bike paths, creating another east-west link in the city to ease congestion in La Trobe Street, encouraging cyclists to avoid speeding downhill, providing more bike parking, and pushing for more separated bike lanes on major roads such as St Kilda Road, Royal Parade and Flemington Road.

Responsibility for major roads lies with VicRoads, which supports making cycling a genuine alternative to driving.

John Matta, VicRoads’ Acting Director Network Programs, says that under the $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians initiative there would be more separated bike paths and bike lanes on key bike routes. “Cyclists will also be encouraged to use local, low-speed streets and safe cycling routes rather than major arterial roads,” he says.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards says the City of Melbourne’s plan for a second bike-friendly east-west connection through the CBD is a good one.

“With disruption during the construction of Melbourne Metro ... Melbourne will be much more reliant on bikes for getting people to their jobs,” Craig says.

He says governments and councils have consistently underestimated the growth in bike transport and need to build for future demand or risk playing catch-up.

Sarah Diamond says employers too have a role to play. If more workplaces provided good end-of-trip facilities including showers and lockers, more people would ride to work.


RACV is calling for more off-road cycling paths and more on-road cycling lanes to help make cycling safer.

Brian Negus, RACV’s general manager public policy, says: “Where extra on-road space is required, on-street parking should be removed.”