William Street — too much space for cars?

Heading south along William Street in morning peak hour, fighting for space on the street, are pedestrians (predominantly coming out of Flagstaff station), trams, cyclists and motorists.

How many of each?

Tram route 55 gets a tram about every 4 minutes in peak hour. The May 2012 PTV load survey said that each tram carries an average of 78.6 people between 8am and 9am southbound (actually measured slightly north from this point), making about 1179 people per hour.

William Street, morning peak

Pedestrians: Marcus Wong recently found some great City of Melbourne CBD pedestrian statistics. At its peak between 8am and 9am, about 5000 pedestrians head south from Flagstaff station.

Motorists: Vicroads network performance monitoring figures may or may not be of relevance to this specific street, but show that the arterial road average across Melbourne in AM peak is a bit under 800 people per hour. William Street southbound is only one lane, so let’s use that figure.

Cyclists? Dunno. I see quite a few heading up and down in peak, but the Bicycle Network “Super Tuesday” count doesn’t seem to publicly publish anything useful from the enormous amount of data they collect. Shame. In the absence of other figures, let me take a wild guess at 200 in the busiest hour.

The bike lanes aren’t properly configured. They fizzle-out in places, and around Little Bourke Street (southbound), cyclists often either have to squeeze between cars, or wait for them to shift.

William Street, morning peak

If you assume the footpaths are roughly the same width as each tram/traffic/parking lane, and the bike lanes are half that width, what do you get?

Mode % people % road space
Pedestrians 70% 22%
Cyclists 3% 11%
Tram 16% 22%
Motor vehicles 11% 44%

The most over-allocated, least efficient mode here is obviously motor vehicles — in part because they are allocated two lanes but one (at least in AM peak) is wasted on parking.

Meanwhile the footpaths get so crowded that many people simply walk on the road. In this terribly fuzzy mobile phone footage, you can see a bloke in a wheelchair give up on the footpath and take-off across the road for the other side:

(Note: it is perfectly legal to cross the road anywhere that is more than 20 metres from a pedestrian crossing.)

What could they do?

They could widen the footpath at the expense of car parking, particularly on the super-busy western side of the street. In the busiest section between Bourke Street and Flagstaff station that’s probably losing about 20 car spots. You’d lose a traffic lane in PM peak, but so what? Traffic is at a standstill now — it would still be at a standstill. If delays got longer, fewer people would drive.

They could install full time bike lanes all the way down. It’s crazy that cyclists get stuck behind cars.

Better enforcement of motorists blocking intersections; you see this every peak hour. (Could be a money-spinner for a cash-strapped government, in fact.)

And more fare gates at Flagstaff could ease congestion there, particularly in morning peak.

Ultimately, the station and trains are the most efficient mode available for getting large numbers of people into and out of the CBD. It already does this very well, but making the area more efficient and safer for pedestrians is vital.

Update: The video keeps disappearing out of this post — possible WordPress bug? The direct link is here.

Update 12:30pm: Someone anonymously sent me a link to what looks like it should be a Bicycle Network page with detailed stats, but it doesn’t work. The region or state specified is invalid

Update Thursday: I didn’t even notice this before — the Clearway (and thus the bike lane) inbound/southbound on William Street only operates during PM peak. What sort of craziness is this?!
Clearway in William Street southbound/inbound only applies in PM peak?!

See also: Motorcycle/scooter parking on footpaths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

Idiot of the day

About an hour ago at Highett station: the train to Frankston had just left, and a city-bound train was approaching.

This idiot cyclist rode across in front of the city-bound train. The train driver tooted his horn loud and long. The cyclist entered the station, and appeared to want to catch the train — I’d be surprised if the driver didn’t verbally berate the cyclist over the PA.

Cyclist risks death riding out in front of train (1/2)

Cyclist risks death riding out in front of train (2/2)

The bike share scheme

Melbourne’s bike share scheme is meant to start today, and the bike stations have been going in. I found this one at Federation Square, evidently almost ready to go, the only thing missing is the bikes:

Melbourne Bike Share station, Fed Square

Melbourne Bike Share

Curiously, just across the road outside St Paul’s Cathedral is another one.

Melbourne Bike Share station, St Paul's

I wonder what the bogans who often hang around there will think of it. I hope the bikes are tough.

The other initial locations are mostly around Swanston Street, with a couple up near Melbourne Uni, and one at Southbank. Apparently it will eventually spread to some fifty locations.

I’m maintaining my previous cynical view of it. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I just don’t see who would use it.

If you’re a tourist, you won’t have a helmet. You can use one of the existing tourist-oriented bike hire vendors. (This scheme seems to be designed not to put them out of business.)

If you’re a Melbourne local who arrived in the city by PT, your trip around the CBD by tram or bus or train is included in the price of your ticket, and is probably more convenient by PT than bike. Why would you pay more, and carry a helmet to do it by bike?

If you arrived in the city by car, I really doubt you’ll be carrying a helmet and hiring a bike.

If you work close to the city in a spot not well-covered by PT (perhaps somewhere like Fishermen’s Bend), even if you did carry a helmet, unless your destination also has a bike share station, you’d pay a fortune to have the bike at work all day. You’re more likely to bring your own bike on the train.

There is one possible group I can see: CBD residents, but only if they are of the mind to ride a hired bike (not one they own themselves; perhaps if they have limited space in their flat), bring their own helmet, and if they are making a trip that was genuinely easier by bike than other means. And it would have to be a trip to the vicinity of another bike share station — all highly unlikely with the initial stations, given they’re almost all parallel to Swanston Street, which has a tram every minute or so.

The helmet thingthe government claims to have a solution: ”very cheap” helmets would be available to people who joined the bike scheme. He did not specify how much the helmets would cost. Helmets would also be available at city shops near the bike stations. But it’s not yet clear what this means: how much is “very cheap” and if that means shared helmets or buying a cheap one if you’ve forgotten to bring your own.

I may be proven wrong, but get the feeling the bike share scheme may turn out to be a big waste of (taxpayers’) money.

It’s part of the plan.