Toying with ideas to improve Sydney Road

The City of Moreland at August's council's meeting has rejected a proposal to add what has been dubbed "anti-dooring" bike lanes on Sydney Road which would have seen painted bicycle lanes placed either side of the tram lanes. The council has reportedly voted to lobby the State government and VicRoads to investigate building separated bike lanes on the road instead.

Perfect timing.

While much of the media focus has been on bikes on Sydney Road - after the recent death of a cyclist after he was 'doored' and then flung out into the middle of the road and into the path of heavy vehicle - I'd argue Sydney Road actually needs a complete root and branch review of all of its uses.

The priority and focus, as with designing any street, should always be on the pedestrian. Sydney Road between Park Street in Brunswick and Bell Street in Coburg could best be characterised as having:

  • narrow footpaths clogged with hodge-podge smatterings of street furniture, parking information polls and inconsistent surfaces
  • ugly and inconsistent awnings hanging at various levels above the footpath
  • next to zero greenery directly planted in the street
  • far too many cars which in turn slows trams down; trams, the very vehicles that will easily carry more passengers (inside and outside of peak) compared to the litany of single-occupant vehicles holding them up.

According to a bicycle network / SKM report, in 2010 VicRoads installed 80cm wide bike lanes on Sydney Road which resulted in kerbside traffic lanes being reduced to a width of 3 metres. Tram traffic lanes measure 3.3m wide.

The kerbside traffic lanes currently have clearways governing them in both peaks: the southbound kerbside lanes of Sydney road have clearways in the morning peak and the northbound kerbside lanes have clearways in the afternoon peak.

Outside of weekday peak times, the kerbside lanes revert to spaces that allow cars to park on both sides of the street. This on-street parking, of course, is in addition to the enormous amount of off-street car parking as shown by some of the examples in the map below.

The areas which see the greatest economic activity - primarily through retail trade - located at the northern and southern extremities include vast open-air car parks and the precincts in between have a sprinkling of small car parks on both sides of the road.

A new Sydney Road?

Created using

The above was created using and is intended to be a cross-section looking south toward the city on Sydney Road. The features, or changes from the current allocation of space, are:

  • Footpaths widened (utilising the 80 cm of space currently used to the quasi bike lanes VicRoads installed in 2010) and trees planted.
  • The existing eastern (left side) kerbside lane is converted to a 3m width permanent two-way bike lane, 150cm of space for each direction.
    • I chose the eastern side of Sydney Road simply because at the Park Street end it would naturally meet the existing shared bike path which runs all the way down to Melbourne University alongside Royal Parade.
  • A short buffer is installed to separate the converted bike lane and the city bound tram/traffic lane.
  • The tram lanes are still mixed tram/car traffic lanes and the western (right side) kerbside lane remains a parking and peak clearway much like how it currently operates.

This kind of set up would further discourage through traffic on Sydney Road in the morning peak (although, heavens knows why anyone would opt to use Sydney Road as a through route to the city in the first place…) yet still provides extra peak traffic capacity in the afternoon to use the route, functioning as an overflow route for the traffic which turns left from Royal Parade into Park St / Brunswick Rd heading to Citylink.

There's much greater emphasis on space for pedestrians and a proper bike lane set up through the heart of the municipality that would cater for both local cyclists and commuters alike. Commuter cyclists would be encouraged away from the Upfield bike path, which is currently shared with pedestrians.

Likewise the dedicated bike lanes would supercharge both the perception and reality of bike and pedestrian safety on Sydney Road thanks to complete separation of transport uses and coupled with extra bike parking facilities (thanks to the widened footpath) there's a greater incentive for people to travel to the entire strip.

After all, making a stand by turning a car sewer into a more pleasant urban environment will bring more people into the precinct thus creating more economic activity and flowing through to the retailer's bottom lines. Swanston Street, anyone?

While we're at it…

If the loss of morning peak traffic carrying capacity is just too much to bear for some (the people who would regularly troll comment threads with "cyclists should be licensed/pay registration"), perhaps implement the reverse on Lygon/Holmes/Nicholson Street; after all, this strip is and will continue to see just as much development density increases over time as Sydney Road.

Created using

In this cross-section - the same as the Sydney Road one, we're looking south towards the city - exactly the same allocation of space to different transport modes applies except the converted bike lane is on the western (right) side of Lygon/Holmes/Nicholson Streets thus providing citybound clearways in the morning peak.

It then would fall with City of Melbourne to continue the bike infrastructure through their municipality. Having the two way bike lane on the western side of Royal Parade and the eastern side of Lygon Street would allow for the use of the wide path which skirts around Melbourne General Cemetery and Princes Park (extending the path out to the trees and if necessary reducing the amount of space available to pedestrians) thus funnelling bike traffic on to Swanston Street, which already has Copenhagen lanes.

Edit: Schooled

This is how you do a presentation! This is the document that was submitted to Moreland Council, the one Jonathan (first in the comments) is talking about from

Jonathan also tells me that they polled retailers on Sydney Road and only 30% were opposed to the removal of on-street parking in order to widen footpaths and increase space for dining and displays.

The following is from the July meeting of Moreland council. Also check out Revitalising Sydney Road's facebook page.

Over to you

Tell us your ideas for Sydney Road (or the wider area) by posting in the comment section below.



Jonathan Nolan's picture

For the plan that was created by people who ride bikes in Moreland and was backed by council visit Our plan allows a much wider footpath that gives pedestrians more room. Removing all parking helps with tram speeds as well.

Counter flow lanes are an interesting idea. They work well when right turn lanes are banned but create issues at intersections where you need a left turning traffic lane to avoid slowing down trams.

Local traders would certainly prefer that the lane is on the west side of the street since they hate pm clear ways more than am and there would be no loss of parking from 4-6 under that plan.

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Aussie Steve's picture

In the long term, we need to think about eliminating through traffic along many of our major high streets throughout inner city Melbourne to allow the faster movement of trams and provide proper bicycle lanes and wider footpaths for pedestrians. Gone are the days of using our high streets as through streets. These main shopping strips are for pedestrians and they should be #1 on the priority list, followed by sustainable transport trams/buses/cyclists (not necessary in that order). The curb side extended platform stops as proposed by is the best solution and will discourage through traffic; provide safer bicycle lanes and wider footpaths for greater street activity. Now all we need is a level of government to implement it and be proactive about its benefits and providing high quality, good design outcomes - such as Lonsdale Street, Dandenong.

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Ken Bride's picture

Bikes should not be on Sydney Road at all, it is just too dangerous. There is the perfectly safe Upfield Bike Track next to the railway line less than 100 metres from Sydney Road.
This bike track is the continuation of the track through Royal Park and millions of dollars have been spent on it over many years.

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crakening's picture

As much as I don't like lots of road traffic on busy pedestrian streets like Sydney Road, I think the northern suburbs does have a problem with lack of road capacity (cause by poor public transport access to the areas past Bell St), and this has meant that roads like Lygon St, Nicholson St, St Georges Rd and to some extent High St and Sydney Rd are relegated to traffic sewers. For their distance, the northern suburbs are comparatively very poorly serviced by PT and thus very car orientated. Improvements further out can enable greater sustainable transport access to areas like Sydney Rd, and can be coupled with urban design improvements to the streetscape. If your only transport access is the 558 bus (which finishes midday Saturday and doesn't run on Sunday), as it is for at least 6-7,000 people, use of these roads for through traffic is unavoidable.

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Jon McLeod's picture

Predictable. As soon as anyone posts a thoughtful, balanced analysis of street planning that considers ALL road users - not just private cars - some monocular, selfish troll immediately chimes in with the "Bikes should not be on the road because it's too dangerous".

And here you are.

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krzy stoff's picture

Ken is likely to suggest licensing and registration for cyclists, too — Personally I will only support that if the government first introduces licensing and registration for pedestrians. It seems Ken hasn't seen the Upfield bike path traffic on a weekday.
Alistair's idea seems the most solid, and clearly changes need to be made, the whole area is floundering and though Sydney road has never been a thriving business hub, it has huge potential to be the Burke road of the North — if only Moreland council can get the cars | people priorities right.

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johnproctor's picture

really impressive presentation form the Sydney Road community group. well done guys.

for what its worth I was talking to someone the other day who genuinely suggested that bikes should be banned from Sydney Road and use the upfield path. trams should be removed as well with more trains on the Upfield line, and parking banned to allow more cars to move through.

Sydney Highway anyone?

just shows the variance of opinion on these matters and how many different people you need to convince of things.

I just wish the High Street Northcote works had been a more roaring success for all involved then a few more council's would get the message and buy into such treatments.

If I was in charge I'd look at Smith Street and Chapel Street - two 'tram roads' without clearways and look at how parking space by parking space more area could be provided for pedestrians, bikes and tram stops at the expense of cars. A perfect place to start would probably be the frontage of Woolworths on Smith Street which has 1 10m loading bay as the only legal parking space across a 50m frontage with a tram stop, pedestrian crossing and high demand for bike parking for those accessing the supermarket. Perfect opportunity for a big kerb outstand, bike corral, and a couple of seats and shelter at the tram stop.

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