Melbourne council suggests pedestrianizing city streets in new strategy

City of Melbourne councillors will consider a long-term plan at a meeting on 7 May that would free up a large amount of space now used for roads and car parking, in a bid to make the CBD more walkable and friendly to public transport.

The Melbourne Transport Strategy 2030, which can be accessed here, notes that the daytime population of the city is expected to grow to approximately 1.4 million by 2036 – a nearly 600,000 person increase over 2011 figures.

The plan reads, “To remain globally competitive and maintain our reputation as a great city to do business, live and work, our growing population needs streets and public spaces which are welcoming, safe, comfortable and move people efficiently. Our footpaths must be generous, uncluttered places for walking, knowledge exchange and enjoying the city.”

One of the avenues to achieving these shifts is a redesign of the city’s Hoddle Grid street system. In particular, the city’s “Little” streets – which are smaller streets that run in parallel to the more arterial roads that make up the street grid – would be progressively transformed into “pedestrian priority shared zones.” These zones would “link our laneways and support a thriving retail economy and cafe culture.”

Other moves to make Melbourne’s streets more friendly to pedestrians include the removal of kerbs to create more accessible, permeable shared streets; wider footpaths and “working towards a maximum of one traffic lane each way on all streets in the Hoddle Grid, except King Street.”

The strategy cites Barcelona’s car-free “superblocks” as a case study and inspiration for its suggested changes. Barcelona possesses a uniform street grid on a much larger scale than Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid; its Eixample district were reorganized into “superblocks,” which mostly removed traffic to the periphery of groups of nine city blocks. While vehicles serving local traffic are permitted into the superilles, they are limited to speeds of 10 kilometres per hour.

The council believes that as much as the equivalent of “20 Bourke Street malls” of space could be used to create more green space and room for cyclists and pedestrians.

In a statement, Melbourne mayor Sally Capp said, “By making changes so people can move around the city quickly, safely and comfortably, people will be more likely to visit our fantastic retailers, cafes, restaurants and cultural institutions.

“Walkability is also crucial to central city work and the knowledge economy. People working in the central city need to be able to move easily around the city to meet, interact, innovate and do business. Walking is a vital way for these workers to connect.

“We’ve already seen the share of car trips to work in the city decrease by 25 per cent since 2001 and today most people travel to work by train, not car. The delivery of projects such as Melbourne Metro will see car dependency continue to decline as more convenient transport alternatives become available.”

She also emphasized that the plan would not ban cars from the city entirely, and that the reduction in traffic would be achieved instead by rerouting journeys that begin and end outside of the CBD.

“We know that 43 percent of cars in the Hoddle Grid are passing through the city, adding to congestion,” she said. “We want to see this through traffic reduced and the draft strategy includes actions to provide people with alternatives. This is work we would do in conjunction with the Victorian government.”

The plan will be considered by the Future Melbourne (Transport) Committee on 7 May.

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