A blog about cycling...especially the long distance stuff

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

West Melbourne's Traffic problems

I live out in the West of Melbourne, and first of all, I must say, I love it out here. But there is a storm brewing here for commuters as the place rapidly grows. It's a problem that's been here for a while now, but gets worse with every new land sale. And, with major new developments appearing constantly things are not going to get any better any-time soon. 

There is a campaign which started soon to Get Wyndham Moving and this inspired me to have my say. 

When I first moved to the area, I was warned about it. Whenever you tell someone you live in Point Cook...the first thing they say is "oh how long does it take to get to work then? This is despite the fact that in terms of distance, it's actually closer to the city than many parts of Melbourne even remotely east.

Anyway, in order to commute to the city centre from here, these are your main options:

Option 1. Drive the whole way. Roll the dice, and hope for the best. You first major hurdle is getting out of Point Cook. With only 2 major roads leading on to the freeway, it can take an hour to crawl along the congested roads just to get to the on ramp, and then you have such delights as the Princes Highway and the West Gate Bridge to look forward too, if you get that far. You could try negotiating odd working hours with your employer but you are going to have to leave home before 6.30 am for that to be reliable enough.

Estimated Journey time:  60 - 90 mins at peak times
Cost: Fuel, parking, stress

Option 2. Drive to Laverton or Williams Landing, and then get the train. On the surface this looks fine, but the access roads to both stations share the same route as the access roads to the freeway (what madness of urban planning led to that?! Especially in the case of the brand new Williams Landing) . So it can still take an hour just to get to the station when things are really bad. Seeing as though its a little too late to build a separate, new access road to Williams Landing, the only thing I can think of is road widening and designating 1 lane of traffic for buses only. It would then be a very quick journey to the station and therefore more appealing than the traffic jam in your car.One more point here:  Parking at Laverton is not possible after about 7am unless you park in the derelict field nearby, at your own risk! Williams Landing seems to be OK still for parking.

Estimated Journey time: 60 - 90 mins. 'Normally' about 75.
Cost: $12.12 return for the train + fuel (From Williams Landing) or $7.16 Return + fuel From Laverton, which is a zone closer.

Option 3. Get the bus to Williams Landing or Laverton, and then the train to the city. Same traffic problem as above. No parking hassle at least! No buses after 9pm, so don't work late or go out after work.

Estimated Journey time: About 90 minutes via Williams landing if the traffic is busy, but moving.
Cost: $12.12 return or $7.16 Return + fuel From Laverton, which is a zone closer.

Option 4. Cycle to the train station and get the train to the city. Not a bad option, but you first have to survive the seriously scary access road also shared by all the traffic above. There are possible alternative routes that will be far less direct depending on where you are in the Point Cook (From Sanctuary Lakes for example, you can ride alongside the creek bike path to the East). There is no dedicated cycle route that goes the whole way. Also at Laverton there are no spots left in the cycle cage after about 7:45am in summer.

Estimated Journey time: This is by far the fastest option. You can ride past the stationary traffic and be at work within an hour.
Cost: $12.12 return or $7.16 Return + fuel From Laverton….both with the possibility of getting hit by a car en-route

Option 5. Cycle to the Westgate punt, and then into the city. My personal favourite of course - but it requires a reasonable degree of fitness. It takes about an hour and a quarter including the punt depending on your pace and the wind. The route is wonderfully mostly traffic free, along the coastal estuary shared bike/pedestrian path. The only hazards are dogs off leash and the wind.

Journey time: About 80 mins depending on the wind and your fitness.
Cost: $10 will get you 6 trips on the punt. So $3.33 a day return...though you'll need a shower at work and a decent breakfast for fuel.

The Altona bike/pedestrian shared path is beautiful

I was hoping, perhaps with blind optimism, that Get Wyndham Moving pushes for better commuting options that don’t involve a car. Personally I'm a bit of a ‘freak’ that doesn't mind a 60 km+ round trip on the bicycle, riding the whole way into the city. For me, I arrive at work exercised, refreshed, on time and free of stress. I'm a huge advocate of the health and environmental benefits of taking this option, and there is a small but growing group of fellow West Melbourne residents who also do this and utilise the brilliant Punt service to shorten the journey. Of course, I have to be realistic and accept that this level of peddling commitment is not for everyone. But surely more people would at least consider cycling to the train station if there was a safe, but still reasonably direct route available to them ?  And enough safe storage space at the train station for their bike? Any solution to the traffic problems that involve driving, seem only likely have short term benefits at best, because road infrastructure can never keep pace with the population.

As for cycling to the local train stations...here's an example of the peril involved:

The issues with this road are:

-         Cycle lanes are only present at intermittent intervals  along Point Cook road. In some places, they disappear quite suddenly, forcing the rider out into the traffic where there is already very limited space. Having no cycle lane at all may actually be safer in that at least the rider is then on a direct, and predictable line. The worst areas for this are: South of the Sneydes Rd intersection , and north of the Sanctuary Lakes roundabout before the Dunnings Rd intersection

-         The roundabout at the freeway entrance near Laverton is still seriously dangerous despite a recent upgrade. The Sanctuary lakes roundabout also pretty intimidating and a regular accident site for cars. What is the safest route here...into the left hand turning lane, but then go straight?!

-         South of Syndes road there is a bus stop with a section of unsealed road pushing out into the lane. Cars travel along here at 70 km/h are expecting the cyclist to stay in a straight line which they can’t do. The road here is also not wide enough.

-         Cycle access to Williams Landing does not seem to have been considered? Though there are bike cages there that get used a little bit, I wonder how you are supposed to get across the freeway over-bridge safely and directly without riding on the pavement which is illegal in Victoria unless you are under 12 years old.

Finally, I was a little disappointed in opening up "what we need" section of the website that there wasn't one single mention of cycling or related infrastructure. Is the green bike logo on their cover just for decoration? Hopefully something more specific comes from this as the campaign gets started. The 'race' sounds interesting at least. 

I'll be sending this in to Get Wyndham Moving to see what they say...

EDIT: The big news only the day after  posted this, is the public transport announcement that Zone 2 will be scraped. It will be interesting to see what the effect of this is, but will surely push more people towards the newer and further out train station here. The problem of course still exists I of how to  actually get to the train station! And will a fare increase for zone 1 end up funding this? The budget details are "yet to be revealed".


  1. Pretty sure that the Palmers Rd overpass has allowance for cyclists to ride on the pavement you should follow the green cycling routes on the road all of which lead on to the paved area.

  2. Thanks Chris. I've seen this older link but need to try it. https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/general/change-the-world/42057/ That area is totally jammed with cars every morning