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Consultation rejects Frome St bikeway demolition

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Online public consultation has overwhelmingly rejected Adelaide City Council plans to demolish and replace the Frome Street bikeway.

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Last year, the Adelaide City Council resolved to redesign Frome Street to accommodate two peak-hour driving lanes – a plan which would require the current separated bikeway to be dismantled in favour of a thinner bikeway. The revamped bikeway would be part of a new city cycling network, built using a $12 million co-funding agreement with the State Government.

But the vast majority of the submissions to the council’s consultation website oppose the removal of the current separated bikeway infrastructure.

Of the 49 submissions on the council’s YourSay website, 46 oppose the replacement of the existing bikeway (but most support extending the bikeway north). No submission expressed support for removing the current infrastructure.

Speculation has been circulating in Town Hall in recent days that other consultation methods – including face-to-face surveys with local businesses and residents and feedback at public events – has mirrored those results.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese, who argues the current separated bikeway should be replaced, has conceded that most of the anecdotal feedback he has received has been in opposition to removing the existing bikeway.

But he said he had yet to see the full results of the consultation, and added that most people did not care whether there were two peak-hour driving lanes or one driving lane on Frome Street.

“My view currently rests with the [council’s decision],” Haese told InDaily this morning.

“My original premise, which I will stick to [is that Frome Street bikeway] is not the high watermark of urban design.

“It was a trial – we’ll now do it properly.”

Haese did not respond directly when asked whether returning Frome Street to two peak-hour driving lanes was a condition of the co-funding agreement.

But he said he had told Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan before the council vote on the co-funding agreement that it was likely to vote in favour of dismantling the current infrastructure.

“The minister was not enamoured with what had been done [to Frome Street],” Haese told InDaily.

“It was certainly discussed – that that’s the way council looked like it was going to vote.

“That’s something I shared with the minister.”

Mullighan told InDaily he supported a design along Frome Street that could be replicated throughout the city – but he said the design process was being managed by the council.

“I will wait for advice on the council’s preferred option before forming a view about the most appropriate design,” he said.

“I agree with the council’s aim of trying to establish a reference design in this process that can then be replicated throughout the city.

“This is an important project that will encourage cycling in the city and potentially reduce vehicle traffic and congestion, while keeping cyclists safer than unprotected bicycle lanes.”

Haese said cyclists should be “popping the champagne corks” in celebration of the funding deal – “the single largest investment into cycling infrastructure this city has ever seen”.

He said he wanted to end the divisive debate over Frome Street by installing high-quality cycling infrastructure along its length, and added that “this incessant fascination with one or two lanes of traffic is, I think, becoming a little bit tedious”.

Area councillor Anne Moran, who moved the motion accepting the State Government funding deal and specifying that two peak-hour driving lanes be returned to Frome Street, told InDaily she had not wanted to go out to consultation.

“I’m not particularly interested in the consultation,” she said adding that “I wouldn’t have gone to consultation” because she believed the process would be swamped by the bike lobby.

She said her experience speaking to ratepayers during the election and thereafter was that they wanted Frome Street “fixed”.

“In my experience, most people are happy with the [plans].

“I’m a great proponent of consultation when it’s necessary.

“[But] the bikeway that’s there is dangerous.”

She said the Frome Street debate had been a “huge distraction” for the council.

Deputy Lord Mayor Megan Hender said she did not support removing and replacing the current bikeway, and that the council should build new cycling infrastructure north along the road before contemplating removing any current infrastructure.

An anonymous leaflet has allegedly been sent to some city residents, suggesting the demolition of existing Frome Street bikeway infrastructure would cost $2 million  – a figure repeated by some who made submissions to YourSay.

But the $2 million figure is far higher than the $350,000 estimate delivered to the council by experts in 2015.

The bikeway cost $1.6 million to build. The 2015 expert evaluation – which found the bikeway reduced traffic and attracted cyclists – cost $89,000 to commission. The council is part-way through minor safety improvements to the existing bikeway, valued at $90,000.

Late last year, the council unveiled replicas of several options for completing the north-south cycleway through Frome Street and Frome Road, and for a new east-west bike route through the city.

It paid $50,000 out of its bike infrastructure budget to build three of the seven design options, including the “Danish-style” raised bike path favoured by cyclists and some members of council.

The chair of the Bicycle Institute of South Australia, Fay Patterson, told InDaily late last year that the favoured design for the new north-south bikeway would be “a fail for everyone”.

She said the problem was the narrowness of the lane and the height of the kerb.

Anything over 50mm represented a risk of “pedal strike”, she said at the time, meaning the effective width of the lane was only 1.6 metres.

“Our key concern is that it has high kerbs on both sides – that reduces the width that cyclists can use. What that means is that all of the fast cyclists – the commuters who want to get to work quickly (and overtake slower cyclists) – won’t use it,” she said.

“The council will spend all of this money and it won’t get used.”

The council is due to receive a report on the full results of the consultation – including face-to-face surveys with local businesses and residents – later this month.

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