"Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle has defended his push to keep bicycles off some parts of CBD as a "pro-cyclist" move.
And Premier Daniel Andrews has said Cr Doyle's push was a debate Melbourne should have, and declared the city needed to "talk frankly" about streets that "simply aren't safe" for cyclists."
Lord mayor Robert Doyle in push to get cycles off roads in Melbourne's CBD
And Premier Daniel Andrews has said Cr Doyle's push was a debate Melbourne should have, and declared the city needed to "talk frankly" about streets that "simply aren't safe" for cyclists.
But a bicycle group has rounded on the lord mayor's plan, saying it showed he did not understand how peopled moved around the city, and exposed his preference for cars as a mode of transport.
The lord mayor last week spoke at a State Library lecture, where he suggested cyclists should be stopped from using Flinders, King and Lonsdale streets.
However, Cr Doyle backed away from a media report on Thursday that touted a proposed "ban" on cyclists.
Cr Doyle denied the concept amounted to the push for a ban.
"I did not use the word "ban" and I did not use the word "fine"," he said.
"I have noticed, anecdotally, the use of Lonsdale Street by cyclists and it is simply dangerous. It is a very, very high volume bus route and cyclists and buses just don't mix," Cr Doyle said.
Speaking to Fairfax Media on Thursday, Cr Doyle said Princes Bridge, Swanston Street, St Kilda Road, and La Trobe and Albert streets were already considered preferred routes for cyclists.
He said the extensive infrastructure on these roads allowed bicycles to be separated from other vehicles, making it safer to use.
"My concern is there are some roads like King Street which is so busy and where the lanes do not allow for a bicycle lane," he said. "Lonsdale Street is the same. And when you look at Flinders Street … it is so narrow in parts and that too is so congested. It is too dangerous."
Cr Doyle said ultimately it was up to VicRoads to make the decision.
And he said he was "bemused" by any suggestion the proposal was "anti-bike".
"It is a pro-bike suggestion because it is simply trying to keep cyclists safe and therefore getting more of them on our roads."
Premier Daniel Andrews said the idea was an important debate the community needed to have.
He said the lord mayor "has started a community debate ... where we can talk frankly about some streets in our city that simply aren't safe" for cyclists.
"This is not about being anti-cyclists. In fact, I can't think of anything more pro-cyclists than doing everything you can to keep cyclists safe."
Mr Andrews said the proposal may well be implemented on roads other than those suggested by the lord mayor, or it could be applied for only some parts of the day.
But Melbourne Bicycle User Group spokesman Nik Dow said Melbourne City Council had put forward Flinders Street as a future bike route in its own SmartRoads plan, which sought to prioritise the mode of transport to be used on a particular road.
"The whole thing shows how little the lord mayor understands how people move around the city," Mr Dow said. "Whenever there is a conflict between putting in place bike routes and people who drive their cars to work, the council always favours the cars."
And Bicycle Network general manager Chris Carpenter said any talk of banning bikes was a "dead-end street".
Mr Carpenter also said the council had previously agreed Flinders St should be a priority bicycle route. "So this shift in view by the lord mayor is quite odd."
He said banning bike riders on specific streets would be an unprecedented move and would set Melbourne and Victoria back in years in terms of liveability. "Few riders like riding on King and Lonsdale streets anyway. But until there is a complete bike network into the CBD, some riders are left without a choice," he said.
Melbourne City councillor Cathy Oke, who is also the chair of the transport portfolio, said she was in favour of encouraging some roads in favour of others for cyclists.
She did not support fining cyclists, saying it would discourage cycling. "We already are encouraging cyclists to use some streets over others," Cr Oke said.
But another councillor, Labor's Richard Foster, said a plan to push bikes off three city roads would be "retrograde" and "reckless".
"It's bizarre to suggest Melbourne should act in a way that is different to every other major city in the country, and indeed, other major cities around the world," Cr Foster said.
But the proposal received the RACV's nod of approval. Its general manager of public policy Brian Negus said it made sense to look at which roads were safe for "various groups of road users".
"Buses and trucks are banned from certain [streets]. It would make sense to look at the safety of particular routes for cyclists." Mr Negus said alternative roads such as Swanston and La Trobe streets, which both had bike lanes, were much safer for bike users.
VicRoads' Helen Lindner said the roads authority welcomed the mayor's views.
But she said VicRoads would continue to work on its cycling corridors plans that helped guide investment in cycling infrastructure. "[This] should encourage cyclists to use the safest routes without the need to impose bans on certain streets," she said.
"We know that cyclists have preferred routes throughout the city and before we consider any changes we would want to consult with the community and advocacy groups to understand how they use these roads and the safety issues that are most important to them," said Ms Lindner, the assistant director of network and policy standards.