Bicycle paths arouse dissatisfaction among the business community as the municipality tackles the growing pains

Still, some retail, hospitality and other businesses — key stakeholders in the CBD — are finding it difficult to acclimate to the revamped roads.

Nic Poltronieri, owner of Hearns Hobbies on Flinders Street, said he was a cyclist who supported the idea of ​​bike lanes but struggled to see how they would benefit his niche shop.

Using parking spaces for outdoor dining was another pandemic-inspired initiative.Credit:Getty

“Many businesses in the city are destinations, people visit because the experience is only available there. That’s why most of my customers come by car,” he says.

Paul Guerra, CEO of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also weighed in this week, saying road changes introduced during the pandemic had caused congestion.

“Not everyone cycles in it. Not everyone catches a train. Not everyone goes to the theater by bike. Not everyone goes to a nice restaurant by bike,’ he says. “So I think we need to reconsider.”

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The sentiment illustrates the challenge facing the City of Melbourne and its 2030 transport strategy.

The municipality hopes to manage traffic congestion, improve amenities and provide incentives to those who commute in an environmentally and health-friendly way, such as by bicycle, and also want to embrace new trends, for example by reallocating space on the road dining outside.

Feedback seems generally positive. A report on the construction of bicycle paths, completed in October by the consultancy Deloitte for the municipality, received 524 supportive and 219 negative responses.

Planning bureau Urbis analyzed last year the impact of converting parking lots into outdoor restaurants and bicycle sheds in the cities of Melbourne, Yarra and Stonnington.

It found that the users of one car space contributed an average of $950 per day to the local high street. With six bikes parked in the same area, an average of $1,700 was pumped into local stores, while outdoor dining contributed $1,660.

Alison Lee, a co-author of the study, said there is growing evidence from Melbourne and internationally that could allay traders’ concerns.

“Interestingly, retailers found that extra numbers would flow into their stores if a thriving, vibrant atmosphere was created,” she said.

Following global cities such as Paris, London, Milan and Bogota to encourage more cyclists and pedestrians, over time this would likely cause the character of stores to change, Ms Lee said.

“It’s insane that Melbourne’s CBD is trying to compete with suburban shopping centers in terms of parking convenience,” she said.

Logistics is also a consideration. Delivery man Stefan Roth described the CBD as an “obstacle course” that had become more difficult to navigate over the past two years.

“Charging zones were already expensive and they are even less now,” he says.

“I see vans make the calculation that they’d rather stop on a bike path than park blocks away and drive half a dozen back and forth to complete the delivery. If the municipality is going to continue like this, we need a completely new approach to deliveries,” he said

Member of Parliament Rod Barton, a former taxi driver and founder of the Transport Matters Party, said new bike lanes were not a major concern for taxi and rental car drivers, but were a frustration.

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“During rush hour you look over the lanes and there are no bicycles at all,” he said. “I would suggest that drivers’ preference is that they were not there, but it has not become a formal complaint.”

Capp said bike paths were disproportionately popular. While the office visit remains at 30 percent of the pre-COVID level, the number of bicycle paths is at 60 percent.

“We know that traffic congestion is an issue facing many major cities around the world, especially since the pandemic, as more and more people choose to drive. But we also know that enabling different modes of transport is very important for the long term,” she says.

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