At last! City of Melbourne tonight will debate changes to motorcycle parking in the CBD.
What’s the law?
Motorcyclists can park virtually anywhere off-road – unless specifically signed otherwise.
There are guidelines which aren’t communicated well, and are widely ignored.
The relevant rule provides exclusions to the usual parking limitations if the driver’s vehicle is a motor cycle and the driver stops in a place where the motor cycle does not inconvenience, obstruct, hinder or prevent the free passage of any pedestrian or other vehicle.
The point about free passage can theoretically prevent disruptive parking, but in practice is virtually unenforceable.
This is all unique to Victoria, and has been like this since the 1980s. No other state allows motorcyclists to park on footpaths.
What’s the result of motorcyclists on footpaths?
It’s messy, particularly in Melbourne’s CBD, which is getting more and more busy.
City of Melbourne data indicates about 1200 motorcyclists ride and park in the CBD.
With virtually no guidelines or enforcement these are often parked in such a way that reduces footpath capacity in the places it’s needed most, affecting hundreds of thousands of people – including public transport users.
It causes crowding, it prompts people to walk along the roadway (yes, motor vehicles on the footpath, pedestrians on the road – talk about backwards – and causes serious issues for those with mobility aids and prams.
(The total daily population of the City of Melbourne is around 1 million on a weekday. Note that’s the total council area, not just the CBD/Hoddle Grid.)
Isn’t this all caused by delivery riders?
They’ve arguably made it worse. But this has been a problem brewing for many years.
Aren’t bicycles just as bad?
Not really. They’re less bulky, and usually need to be secured to a fixed object, which limits where they can be parked.
If they’re not secured, just left somewhere (as the oBikes often were, and some delivery bikes are) then they can be physically moved.
What about street furniture?
Rubbish bins, signage, trees, advertising, al fresco dining can all be an issue for footpath capacity.
But in contrast to motorcycle parking, all of these are regulated and controlled by council.
Are motorcycles better than cars?
Yes and no.
If they’re parked on the street or in car parks, then yes they’re obviously more space efficient than cars.
But if they’re parked on footpaths and encroach on pedestrian space, then they’re worse than cars, because they’re taking away space that cars don’t normally take.
It’s worth noting that Monash University research found that most motorcyclists said if they couldn’t park for free, most of them would use public transport instead – rather than driving.
According to our survey, only 14% of motorbike riders would have otherwise driven into the CBD – 182 cars. Number 1 reason to ride motorbike was free parking. Read more here. https://t.co/BdAuH1frtx pic.twitter.com/Fu5LO6go8i— Alexa Delbosc (@AlexaDelbosc) March 8, 2019
Another problem with some motorcycles is the extraordinary amount of noise some of them make.
It’s totally inappropriate for a dense, built-up area. The noise is such that often you can’t have a conversation when one is driving past. And forget about making a phone call.
It must take an extra special sense of entitlement to roar through city streets like that.
There seems to be no current plan to deal with this.
So what’s the council doing?
The proposal is for City of Melbourne to convert 36 car spaces in the Hoddle Grid into 151 motorcycle spaces, which will be provided free of charge.
They will also ban motorcycles on footpaths in a number of blocks around Southern Cross, Flinders Street, Flagstaff and Melbourne Central stations.
I’m not sure why Parliament wasn’t included, but this is a great start – it covers many of the worst streets for pedestrian congestion.
More details on the council web site – see section 6.4
What’s the reaction from riders been?
Many seem to have accepted that providing unlimited free footpath space to motorcyclists isn’t actually a priority.
“Melbourne City Council has done its homework and counted how many bikes will be affected… At the moment it seems a straight swap of footpath places for on-road places. As long as riders aren’t disadvantaged, as they don’t seem to be, we are quite ok with it.”Professor Richard Huggins, immediate past chair of the Victorian Motorcycle Council in The Age
This seems like a pretty fair appraisal, as it appears the number of street spaces will be roughly right for the number of motorcycles currently parked on footpaths in the affected blocks.
And it’s not like motorcycle riders can’t find another street to park in and walk a few metres to their destination.
“In spite of a serious lack of rider education on and enforcement of riding-on-footpath and pedestrian obstruction rules, the system has worked very well for 40 years”Motorcycle Riders’ Association spokesman Damien Codognotto in the Herald Sun
The lack of rider education is a very fair point.
It actually makes me wonder if motorcycle groups made any effort to help educate riders. They must have known the current unregulated mess wasn’t sustainable.
But as for working very well for 40 years – no. Not at all. If it had, there wouldn’t be any need for change.
Giving footpaths back to pedestrians is a good thing
Walking needs to be encouraged. The health benefits are numerous, and it’s the most space efficient travel mode – bar none. But often, pedestrian issues are ignored. The one place walkers should absolutely be prioritised is on footpaths.
Some motorcyclists are grumpy about these changes, because they’ve become used to parking wherever they want, for free.
We all want stuff for free. We can’t all have it. There’s no automatic right to be able to park outside your building. Space in the city centre is scarce, and motorcycle riders are not more important than everyone else.
More spaces for motorcyclists on the street, so footpaths can be freed up for increasing numbers of pedestrians is definitely a good thing.
Update 9pm: The City of Melbourne motion passed unanimously.