Pop-up bike lanes could avert post-lockdown traffic nightmare

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 22 May 2020

RACV urges local councils to adopt quick, low-cost measures to avoid traffic chaos.

Metropolitan councils across Melbourne should follow the City of Melbourne’s lead to create pop-up bike lanes and wider footpaths as the city emerges from lockdown, says RACV. 

RACV’s call comes on the back of the City of Melbourne’s announcement that it will allocate $41 million to implement new congestion-busting initiatives, including 12 kilometres of pop-up cycling lanes and temporarily widening footpaths to allow for social distancing.  

Person riding in bike lane

RACV’s senior planner mobility futures, Stuart Outhred, says other municipalities should adopt a similar approach of quick-build, low-cost measures to encourage people to choose cycling and walking as an alternative to driving and public transport, as COVID-19 restrictions ease. 

Without such measures he says congestion on Melbourne’s roads could rebound to worse than pre-pandemic conditions as people return to work but are either unwilling or unable to access public transport due to social-distancing restrictions.   

“We are concerned that the road network will be overwhelmed with people driving for more trips, causing delays that cost business and frustrate commuters. To mitigate this, there is likely to be a need for people to avoid travelling at peak times, to work from home where possible, and ride or walk, especially for short journeys.” 

He says although many people have taken up cycling and walking during the COVID-19 crisis, lack of infrastructure and safety fears may discourage them from adopting these active transport options as part of their everyday commute.  

RACV research shows more people would like to ride bikes but are scared of riding in traffic and want physically separated bike lanes

Stuart says that, as a long-time advocate for active transport, RACV welcomes the City of Melbourne's  plans to temporarily reallocate road space to cater for increased pedestrian and cycling activity. He says the plans are a great local example of an encouraging global trend and should spark other local municipalities to consider similar initiatives.

This is a low-risk, low-cost approach to allow people to walk or ride bikes by reallocating road space.

“The approach of creating safe spaces for walking, jogging and cycling implemented in other cities like Vancouver, Milan, Berlin and Auckland could also be replicated across greater Melbourne, not just the CBD.

“We’d encourage other councils to rethink how they are using road space in their municipalities.”

It’s all about choice, he says, and giving people safe options to ride bikes or walk means that they don’t need to jump in cars and add to congestion.

The pop-up cycling paths are a quick build, using paint rather than concrete to define spaces, which provides flexibility to change or remove any infrastructure that’s not working, Stuart says.

“This is a low-risk, low-cost approach to allow people to walk or ride bikes by reallocating road space,” he says.

Victoria’s Bicycle Network reports that the City of Sydney is also creating more than 10 kilometres of pop-up bike lanes to cope with commuters when COVID-19 restrictions ease.

The network’s chief executive officer Craig Richards says that the return-to-work commute in Melbourne will be challenging.

“The fear that boarding a train carriage will be like boarding a mini cruise ship could mean many of us find a new way to get to work.” He says that if every public transport user moves into their single-occupant vehicle, the traffic will be “worse than ever”.