Pressure intensifies to make one of Melbourne’s most dangerous roads safer for cyclists – and better for drivers.
The RACV, along with pressure group Revitalise Sydney, has called on the state government to radically transform Sydney Road. It wants it to be safer for cyclists and more convenient for cars.
Sydney Road has become notorious for its zones of sluggish traffic. A recent report released by Vic Roads found Sydney Road had Melbourne's slowest off-peak travel speeds last year, with an average of nine kilometres an hour in certain sections. A spokesperson for Revitalise Sydney, Jonathan Nolan, told Broadsheet Sydney Road has "become a traffic sewer, where it takes 26 minutes for a tram to travel four kilometres".
On top of the concerns about slow speeds, Sydney Road has repeatedly been the site of dangerous incidents between cars and cyclists. Vic Roads reports that during a five-year period ending in June 2015 there were 178 road incidents between Brunswick Road and Albion Street; 92 of those involved cyclists, and 25 included car “doorings”. And that’s not to mention the 1349 cars removed from the street's peak-hour clearways last year – as many as five cars a day.
Clashes between cars and cyclists peaked in February 2015 when cyclist Alberto Paulon was fatally knocked by a car door into the path of a passing truck on Sydney Road. Since this incident, which brought the Melbourne cycling community together in a mass ride of support, talks have been held between the Victorian Government, Moreland Council, cycling groups and Victoria Police in an attempt to develop better ways to make the road safer for bike riders.
Revitalise Sydney believes permanently removing on-street car parking, widening footpaths and demarcating separated bike lanes is one way to fix both traffic and safety concerns.
Mr Nolan, the group’s spokesperson, is urging the State Government to act fast. He’s singled out state Labor member for Brunswick Jane Garrett saying: "It's time now for Ms Garrett to stop making excuses and start building for the future."
Revitalise Sydney's calls for change were echoed by the influential RACV in its March edition of RoyalAuto magazine.
"Something must be done [about Sydney Road] to reduce the conflict between pedestrians, riders and vehicles,” RACV stated.
Not everyone agrees with the call to remove parking along the strip, though. Retailers and vendors are concerned such a move will impact negatively on business. Traders’ associations in Coburg and Brunswick have come out against the proposal in recent weeks, calling on residents to "resist the push for a 24/7 clearway".
Sydney Road Brunswick Association manager Claire Perry told Broadsheet the proposal is not a good idea for the neighbourhood and will have drastic effects on local shop owners. "These changes will affect the nature of the strip and the social part of the community that we have here," says Perry.
And while the traders' associations have made their stance clear, Perry wants to assure residents the Sydney Road Brunswick Association is "keeping an open mind and trying to workshop through what Sydney Road might look like in 10 years".
While any agreement on a way forward for Sydney Road is still up in the air, what’s certain is the state of the road is still causing conflict. The Brunswick strip was in the media again this week with dramatic footage of a cyclist verbally abusing a driver in a road-rage incident.