Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cyclists' view 'blocked' - The Age

Road transport comes first, it seems...

Reid Sexton
August 10, 2008

A NEW section of bike path on Footscray Road is the most dangerous in Melbourne because oncoming traffic cannot be seen by riders until they are just metres from an intersection, a bicycle group claims.

The contentious section is part of the Footscray Road Bike Path, used by about 260 people an hour during peak times. It was reopened two weeks ago after being raised as part of the construction of an adjacent bridge.

Bicycle Victoria says a new safety wall blocks cyclists' sight, forcing them to cross the intersection of Footscray and Appleton Dock roads without knowing how close the traffic is on the 60 km/h bridge.

The pathway is the main route used by cyclists from the inner-west to reach the city and its rate of use is growing faster than any other bike path in the state, with a 40% jump in users in the past year.

Jason den Hollander, from Bicycle Victoria, said it was only a matter of time before a rider was hit trying to negotiate the blind-spot intersection — often used by trucks turning into the docks. "Cyclists cannot see the cars until they are a few seconds away," he said.

Groups of up to 30 cyclists were crossing the intersection when they thought there was a break in traffic. "If … a car is coming, it's going to be catastrophic," he said.

Bicycle Victoria wants signals installed immediately to ensure cyclists can cross safely.

The Department of Transport refuses because only 190 trucks and cars cross the intersection each hour during the peak time; 600 are needed to qualify for a signal.

"This is just ridiculous," Mr den Hollander said, adding that a button-operated signalling system could be installed for about $200,000.

Industrial relations adviser Chris Harris, who uses the path to get from his Footscray home to his office in East Melbourne, said his commute meant he had to take a gamble on there being no oncoming cars when he crossed the intersection.

"It's hard to believe they would design a bit of new bike infrastructure this poorly," he said.

A Transport Department spokesman said the possibility of installing signals was being investigated.

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