The City of Melbourne is fast-tracking plans to build 40 kilometres of new bike lanes to help people move around the city as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

During lockdown, Melburnians drove around 88 per cent less, while the number of cyclists on roads and trails soared.

The new lanes will make it easier to access the CBD through Carlton, East Melbourne, North Melbourne, Brunswick and West Melbourne by bike.

“Riding and walking have increased in popularity during the pandemic. As people return to the city, they will want to travel in ways that allow them to maintain physical distance,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said in a statement.

“I look forward to seeing lots of Melburnians enjoying our city on bikes – as I do – especially those who’ve taken up riding as a way to stay fit and healthy during the pandemic.”

The project is split into two stages, with the first 20 kilometres of lanes to be built this year and next.

First up, Rathdowne Street in Carlton (between Victoria Street and Faraday Street) and Exhibition Street in the CBD (between Flinders Street and Bourke Street) will receive 3.5 kilometres of new protected lanes.

Other priority routes include William Street (Dudley Street to Flinders Street); Abbotsford Street (Flemington Road to Queensberry Street); and Swanston Street, around the University of Melbourne from Grattan Street to Cemetery Road.

The council is working with the state government to limit disruption to traffic.

“We’ve seen other leading cities around the world such as Paris, London and Milan successfully integrate cycling as a key mode of transport to reduce congestion and accommodate growth,” the chair of council’s transport portfolio, Councillor Nicolas Frances Gilley, said in a statement.

“The infrastructure we install will be functional for years to come and can be progressively replaced with fixed lanes over time as required.”

You can read more about the project here.