Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cyclist’s tragic death a wakeup call to improve Sydney Road & Upfield Transport Corridor Safety

On Sunday I held a highly enjoyable mobile office at the Sydney Road Brunswick Music Festival, where I met with many residents to talk about a wide variety of national and local issues. However lingering close to the thoughts of many at the festival was the tragic death of the young 25 year old Italian national, Alberto Paulon, on Friday 26th February, who was cycling with his partner, Cristina Canedda, and allegedly doored then hit by a truck on Sydney Road in the vicinity of Barkly Square.

This is a devastating incident for the young man’s partner, their families and our local community. Everyone should feel safe as they commute, whether it be by bike, foot, tram, train, bus or car to and from their homes, shops or work. Unfortunately for this young man a tragic set of circumstances have meant this commute cost him his life.

Sydney Road is one of Melbourne’s worst stretches of road for bike crashes. Almost half of reported casualty crashes on the road in the past 5 years involved a cyclist. There were 179 incidents in that time and 85 involved a bike rider, 25 of whom were taken to hospital. Around 360 cyclists a day use Sydney Road in the two hour morning peak.

According to Census data and as reported by the Bicycle Network, the highest level of participation in travel to work by bicycle in 2011 was recorded in Yarra (3,651) and Moreland (3,454). Moreland experienced a great percentage increase in people bicycling to work, an 80% increase between the 2006 census and 2011 census. In Moreland more than one person now rides for every ten people who commute to work by car. Cycling is increasingly being recognised as a viable mode of transport.

Sydney Road is becoming increasingly congested as a result of rapid population growth and the proliferation of high density developments.

State Member for Brunswick, The Hon Jane Garrett, has stated that the area in question has the highest density of cyclists of any local government area. As a result of this tragedy, The Hon Jane Garrett has called an emergency meeting of VicRoads, Police, cycling groups, Moreland Council and Yarra Trams to discuss how Sydney Road can be made safer. This follows on from the announcement she made a week before, which included a $1.6 million investment by the Victorian Government to reduce accidents involving cyclists along Sydney Road, banning right hand turns along parts of Sydney Road between Barkly and Albion Streets and also upgrades to lighting, signs, and improving bike facilities along Sydney Road.

This tragedy should be a wakeup call for all of us as local community leaders, commuters, motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, residents, and local businesses; to work constructively to improve safety along Sydney Road.

One of the options that I understand will be discussed by the emergency meeting convened by Jane Garrett is in relation to the Upfield Shared Path, which runs parallel to Sydney Road and the Upfield Train Line. The meeting is set to look at ways to encourage people to use the path. According to the Moreland City Council Bike Strategy of 2011-2021, the Upfield Shared Path attracts thousands of bicycle movements each day.

During morning peak, the crossing at Brunswick Road becomes congested and it can take more than one cycle of pedestrian lights to clear waiting cyclists from the Upfield Path-Brunswick Road intersection. The Upfield Shared Path is also the main route for pedestrians heading to and from city bound trains, and many railway stations exit directly on to the Upfield Shared Path. This creates difficulties when cyclists ride past railway stations at high speed or distracted pedestrians walk onto the path without looking for bikes. I note the bicycle strategy by Council states that congestion along the path is expected to continue to grow as more people choose to ride. Council states it will work with the state government and adjoining landowners to secure additional land for the path widening works to create additional capacity and address current sight line constraints. I also note and welcome the other measures contained in the strategy which include creating alternative north-south route options along the Moonee Ponds Creek, Brunswick West, upgrades to cycling facilities along Sydney Road, and ‘Shimmy routes’ through East Brunswick.

I am writing to the relevant authorities in relation to this matter to offer my assistance and support for any measures that will prevent such an incident occurring again. I am willing and able to work with all stakeholders, including the Moreland Bicycle Users Group, who do great work in advocating for greater investment in local cycling. In the meantime our thoughts are with the family of this young man who are going through this difficult period and loss.

Kelvin Thomson MP

1 comment:

  1. Melbourne's streets were never designed or planned for our massive population growth, and all the congestion that's dangerously accumulating. It's an increasing danger not only to cyclists but to drivers and pedestrians. How can we retro-fit our city to accommodate the doubling of our population that our government keeps "projecting" by mid century? It's assumed that it's inevitable, and not embedded into our "growth" economics. Population growth accommodates the Big end of Town, but they are not responsible for the outcomes, and not only the dangers of living in Melboure due to over-congested traffic, but also the soaring crime rates. Our inner suburbs will experience a backward regression if people are locked out due to lack of parking, and wasting time in heavy traffic jams.