Motorcycles banned from parking on CBD footpaths

By Megan Caines and Yen Tran from Polaris Lawyers

In an effort to resolve significant overcrowding of busy footpaths, the City of Melbourne has resolved to ban motorcycles from parking on footpaths at 8 CBD locations. Victoria remains the only state in Australia that allows motorcycles to be parked on the footpath. However, the City of Melbourne does impose several rules and restrictions on how riders can or cannot park their motorcycles – those in breach may receive a parking infringement notice. 

As part of their Transport Strategy 2030, City of Melbourne commissioned a report which found that 14% of CBD footpaths overflowed with pedestrians during peak hours which forced pedestrians to either walk on the curb, in bike lanes and even on the road. Pedestrians who are forced to veer off the overcrowded footpaths are at serious risk of being injured by oncoming cyclists and motorists. Obstruction of the footpaths also creates particular problems for parents with prams and those who rely on mobility aides.

Councillor Nicolas Frances Gilley said “we’re creating more safe space for people and providing an alternative place for motorcycle riders to park”. He also said that the footpaths where motorcycle parking is banned will be clearly signposted and new on-street motorcycle parking nearby. As part of the planned ban, City of Melbourne will convert 36 car parking bays into 151 motorcycle parking spaces to facilitate the parking ban on motorcyclists.

Concerns with the ban?

Previously, motorcyclists felt passionate about their right to be able to park on footpaths as they claim there is generally not enough parking spaces available for motorcyclists. They argued that parking on the footpaths provided more parking space for motorists. In 2016, riders even protested against a similar proposed ban in St Kilda. However, in response to the above proposed ban, the motorcyclist community are more positive this time around. Popular motorcycle website Bikesales highlights that motorcyclists will be compensated with the creation of “151 free motorcycle parking spaces on the street(s)”. 

When consulted by City of Melbourne, RACV confirmed their support of the proposed ban as it has minimal impact on car drivers as well as being a win for pedestrians with less clutter on footpaths. RACV are not concerned with motorists getting upset about less parking spots as there are currently 23,500 on-street carpark spaces and close to 200,000 off street spaces within Melbourne.

On 18 February 2020, the council voted in favour of the proposed ban.

The ban will apply to the following eight CDB locations:

  • Collins St between King and Spencer St
  • Bourke St between William and Spencer St
  • William St between Bourke and Lonsdale St
  • Little Bourke St between Queen and Swanston St
  • Little Collins St between Swanston and Queen St
  • Flinders St between Swanston and Queen St
  • Elizabeth St between Collins and Flinders St
  • Swanston St between Flinders and Collins St

For a visual representation of these streets, please see the article in The Age.

Between January 2019 to February 2020, the TAC recorded 21 pedestrians being injured as a result of a transport accident and requiring hospitalisation in the city of Melbourne.  For the same period, the TAC recorded that at least 1 pedestrian was fatally injured as a result of a transport accident in Melbourne.  

Given that Victoria is the only state to still permit motorcycle parking on footpaths, it will be interesting to see whether the City of Melbourne’s ban does in fact reduce the risks and occurrence of accidents and serious injuries to pedestrians. If a reduction can be measured, it would then beg the question of whether local councils in Victoria should consider implementing a blanket ban prohibiting motorcycles from parking on all footpaths. There’s no doubt that this type of blanket ban will trigger protests from the motorcycling community as they would argue that they should be allowed to park on footpaths as long as they’re not obstructing the footpath for other users. However, if the ban shows a reduction in the number of accidents and serious injuries to pedestrians, the benefits of a complete ban would clearly outweigh the motorcycling community's interests.    

For the time being, the City of Melbourne’s ban of motorcycles parking on CBD footpaths is a positive and necessary change as it acknowledges that pedestrians and other road users were significantly inconvenienced and were at risk of serious injury when forced to veer off the overcrowded and obstructed footpaths.  Ensuring the safety of pedestrians and other road users at this level will help prevent further occurrences of accidents and serious injuries.