Update 24 April: This story has been amended to reflect the outcome of a council meeting on April 18.
The separated bike lanes along Elizabeth Street in Richmond have received the stamp of community approval and the temporary structures will be upgraded to a permanent facility. But not just yet.
The council on 18 April adopted the recommendation that the temporary lanes be retained for the time being because the decaying road surface is due for replacement soon.
Additionally, the public housing estate that has a large footprint on Elizabeth Street is scheduled for a major upgrade, which will result in disruptions along the frontage in the near term.
By aligning the timing of the bike lane upgrade project with these other works, Yarra City Council can take advantage of additional funding resources and construction efficiencies.
The Elizabeth St council paper 2023-4 states that the temporary lanes used in the trial can be maintained at minimal cost until the permanent lanes are installed in the wake of the other works.
The trial, initially scheduled for one year, has now been running for three.
An extensive public engagement process was conducted by the City of Yarra that established that there was strong community support for the separated lanes.
The number of women, as a proportion of total riders using the lane, has doubled. During the weekday commute peak periods, it rose from an average of 14% in March 2020 to 28% in March 2023.
Meanwhile, usage of the bike lanes by children has also increased, traffic speeds are slower and the number of crashes is down.
The data underpinning these observations was collected as part of active transport demographics surveys Bicycle Network is conducting for the City of Yarra.
Elizabeth Street through Richmond is part of an official strategic cycling corridor that connects to Albert Road and the CBD.
It is the major connection for bike riders to and from the north and to the city from the east. Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack had previously urged Yarra City Council to follow the report’s recommendation.
“The trial has been extensive and has enabled a thorough evaluation of the concept, which has found strong community support. “It seems wise to retain the temporary structure for the time being and take advantage of upcoming opportunities for funding and integration with other projects.
"This will also allow time for consideration to be given to improvements to the route further to the east, where large number of new residents are moving into denser developments near the Yarra River," says McCormack.
"We need to think about the both the current and future users of this vitally important bike route."
The City of Yarra will now explore funding opportunities to replace the existing temporary infrastructure on Elizabeth Street with longer term kerbed bike lanes, tree plantings, landscaping and other street features.
Bicycle Network's active transport demographics surveys gather data on gender, age and rider type to offer a more complete picture of who is riding on our roads and bike lanes.
This enables councils to better understand the demographic of riders and determine what infrastructure changes can help make bike riding more accessible for all people.