Council opts for Plan B on Inkerman

No separated bike lanes but some safety improvements | $6.9M works to start in 2027

A concerted community campaign has prompted Council to backdown on plans to add separated bike lanes on Inkerman Street (between St Kilda Road and Hotham Street).
Instead, a modified Plan B with painted bike lanes was approved after over 1700 community submissions were received.
Other features of the approved Plan B include:
> three new mid-block, accessible pedestrian priority crossing locations with flashing lights
> signalised ‘early start’ for pedestrians and bike riders at traffic lights and flashing ‘Give Way to Pedestrians’ signage
> bike lane marking on approach to, and through, signalised intersections with green treatments and intersection marking
> installation of green treatments and line-marking at unsignalised intersections to provide awareness for bikes crossing
> dedicated right turn signal phase at Chapel Street
> Fourteen parking spaces will be removed.
Works will not start until 2027 and will cost $6.893M.
Issue divided community and Council
In a statement after the decision, Mayor Heather Cunsolo said, ‘After considering all feedback, we are proceeding with the option which removes fewer parking spaces while still providing a much-needed safety boost for bike riders and pedestrians.
‘No process or design is perfect. While Option A offered extra safety provisions which could potentially have encouraged more riders, Option B will still make intersections safer and deter dooring by reallocating road space as a buffer between cars.’
Big turnout at Council
About 60 people registered to make verbal submissions at the Council meeting, with most observers required to listen to the proceedings from the adjacent foyer due to space limits.
Despite obvious passion in the room, praise must go to the Mayor and the participants for a largely civilised and respectful debate.
Mayor Cunsolo was successful in limiting the audience to clapping (rather than booing) and listening quietly to all rather than interjecting.
Safety and promoting bike riding
Supporters of Option A stressed that they don’t feel safe riding on Inkerman and that separated bike lanes would encourage more riding for health, environmental and congestion busting benefits. It was frequently asserted that paint on roads is not safe infrastructure. They emphasised that roads were public space that needed to be shared.
Loss of parking and reduced access fuelled opposition
Opponents of separated lanes and the associated loss of 114 parking spaces were well organised under the banner of Save Inkerman Street. Proudly wearing circular yellow stickers, a procession of speakers told of the negative impacts they feared from the parking changes and the need to cross separated lanes to enter houses and businesses. It was described as a parking apocalypse, a road to nowhere and a burden for the disabled, elderly and their carers.
Businesses feeling vulnerable
A number of businesses, ranging from pubs, hydrotherapy, medical and kosher meats, feared a loss of customers from reduced parking. Their tone was existential with many concerns for longtime and special needs customers.
Undercurrent of discontent with process
In one way or another, most speakers were unhappy with the process and the divisions it created in the community and the ultimately flawed outcome. As one speaker put it, Option B doesn’t do anything for anybody. Another questioned why can’t we have both a driveable and a rideable solution.
But ultimately, the Council plans focused on transit (people moving through) and less on destination (homes and businesses). Several speakers advocated a different decision-making style such as citizen assemblies that sought consensus decision making on contentious issues.
How the councillors voted
It’s fair to say that all councillors genuinely felt the ‘heat’ on this issue. As Mayor Cunsolo explained in her remarks, people urged her to do the right thing but from many different points of view. ‘It’s brought the community together and torn it apart,’ she said.
It’s also fair to say that most, if not all, councillors expressed serious and fundamental concerns about the Council’s engagement on the issue – in many ways it turned a positive (a $9.3M plan for safer streets) into a negative (with a $7M project leaving most people dissatisfied) – a bitter pill to swallow in your final year of term in office.
Councillors who supported Plan B and why
(This is only a sample of what was said, please visit the council website for the video record of the Council session to hear it first-hand)
Cr Sikaroff: “After meeting residents at a community meeting at the Inkerman Hotel, [Option A] clearly didn’t pass the pub test”
Cr Clark: Said she opposed the plans from the beginning. ‘People have a right and an expectation to park their car [near where they live].’
Cr Crawford: Said the vote was unlikely to please anybody. ‘In a growing city we need to shift how we move around. We are all part of the problem, a problem that’s not going away.’
Cr Bond: Was online and didn’t speak
Cr Baxter: Also online, he supported better bike infrastructure but said the engagement was flawed.
Cr Cunsolo: Said the decision respected the divided points of view.
Councillors who voted against or abstained
Cr Martin: Abstained from voting. He said he’d been injured in several cycling accidents but also had experience of disability needs.
Cr Nyaguy: ‘We need to find ways to have better conversations [about difficult issues], but paint on the road is not good enough’ he said.
Cr Pearl: ‘We are about to spend $7M, it’s not good enough to be lukewarm about it.’ He said the fate of this bike path was sealed when Glen Eira abandoned it’s leg of the path two years ago. ‘In effect we are paying $7M to paint a road.’
Facts about $ and timing for 2027 start
The projected budget for Option B is $6.893M. The CEO confirmed that $2.4M was for resurfacing work that would need to be done in any case. So the safety changes, including the painting are $4.493M.
The next step is detailed design, with construction is expected to start in 2027.