Car parks will make way for footpaths and 12 kilometres of pop-up cycling lanes will be built to allow people to socially distance in Melbourne’s city centre as COVID-19 restrictions start to ease.
The move by Melbourne City Council follows the lead of cities such as Berlin and Milan, which are redrawing road markings to create more room for cyclists and pedestrians during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lord mayor Sally Capp said car parks would be removed at busy pedestrian areas to enable the extension of footpaths, while 12 kilometres of new temporary bike lanes will be created, with a plan to make the upgrades permanent if they turn out to be successful.
“Given it will take time for a vaccine to come into play, we have a responsibility to provide more space for pedestrians,” she said. “Increasing pavements around the city will involve our need to take back some of our on-street parking to accommodate wider footpaths and bike lanes.”
With cycling numbers reaching record levels during lockdown as road traffic fell by 88 per cent, it is hoped the new moves will encourage people to permanently switch their mode of transport.
A Bicycle Network count of 8,800 riders on April 25 showed the number had increased by 270 per cent compared with November last year.
There was a 221 per cent increase on the Capital City Trail, from 219 to 703 cyclists.
On the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail, there was a 303 per cent increase, from 102 to 411 riders.
Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said many public transport commuters will want to ride to work instead and “we have to have bike lanes ready to roll.
“On-street car parks can be turned into cycleways overnight with a few bollards and reflective tape. It’s quick, cheap and being done all over the world.”
This article was first published in The Age.