Sydney And Melbourne: Bring On The Sci-Fi Skyways

At dinner in tonight, my friends got talking about the proposal to turn 3.6km of doomed monorail track into an elevated walk/cycle way. When floated in April, the idea drew comparisons to New York’s high rail line retrofit. It’s unlikely to get past the drawing board, but you have to admit it’d look kind of futuristic (albeit impractically narrow, as Crikey points out). That’s why I’m excited to hear that Melbourne has its own very different plans for an elevated cycle freeway.

Last week, the Herald Sun reported on the $21 million dollar B1 Veloway (pictured top right), a 2km cycle way between Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station, with extensions out to Richmond and Docklands. The high-tech Veloway would be made from lightweight composite plastic, have wind deflectors and use solar-powered lighting. The Victorian Transport Minister, Terry Mulder, went so far as to call the Veloway idea “exciting”.

Back in Sydney, the completely separate ‘High-Lane’ proposal received support from 81 per cent of Sydney Morning Herald readers, after almost 12,000 votes. But while Lord Mayor Clover told the paper she loved the New York initiative, she feels the monorail’s pillars are too ugly and narrow to do such a plan justice. For its part, the firm behind the idea estimates the retrofit would cost $5 million compared with a $10-15 million dollar disassembly effort.

Two different cities and two very different ideas that had my table full of geeks busting out their phones to Google more details. Australian urban design needs more bold ideas. And debate is never a bad thing.


    That Manhattan high line was inspired by the one in Paris. The New York one isn't that useful or too interesting in practise, although the idea an elevated park in Manhattan is an exciting idea... It's just a relatively short stretch, not very wide, covered in arid plants, almost no shade, gravel, concrete, with views of mostly dull lowrise buildings and some residential buildings. It provides no easy access to anywhere, or shortcuts or anything like that.
    I's slightly quieter up there and you have slightly better views than at ground level. It's a work in progress and will probably be better once they bring in the other retired sections (make them safe etc), which actually look way more lovely and interesting in their natural overgrown lovely grassy natural state.

    I'd imagine any developments in Sydney or Melbourne would run into the same issues- over designing pedestrian walkways with designer parks produces sheer uninteresting crap. Kill the architect landscapers and get some REAL graders in.

    I'm all for it

    I'm torn between it converted to an elevated cycle-way or elevated walk/cycle way. Not sure it's wide enough for both. I guess there's no way to keep pedestrians off the track, so just have signs at every entrance saying "This is a cycle path. Enter at own risk" or somesuch.

    In any case, if it's true that retrofitting it would cost 1/3 the price of disassembling it that's almost reason enough. Add to this the ability to walk/bike along the route without having to worry about road traffic and being just that bit elevated above the street noise ... sounds rather nice to me.

      For the Melbourne one, I'm assuming that they'd keep it in the same style at the Capital City Trail that it'd be an extension of. In general, it'd be a bike path, but it'd also suit runners, and pedestrians paying attention. I don't think there'd be any need to discourage foot traffic.

    Are people stupid? Why not keep the monorail? Instead of people having to walk on it, a vehicle shuttles people. Isnt it being removed because of the intrusive pillars? Why not just keep the multi million dollar vehicle running?

      I agree, SAVE THE MONORAIL!!

      The monorail to nowhere that costs too much money per ticket for commuters to be interested and isn't on the same ticketing system as the rest of Sydney transport?

      It's an amusement ride for tourists. Maybe if they followed the original proposal and it actually went to circular quay it would be useful, as it stands it isn't.

    With over 10 percent of Melbournians commuting via bicycle into town and this figure growing each year, infrastructure such as the B1 Veloway will only attract more people to cycling. Architecturally, it looks aesthetic - a great addition to an already beautiful looking city. Melbourne is lucky, they have the topography conducive to cycling and the support of enterprise and government to get these projects off the ground. We often hit brick walls here in Sydney - particularly with adventurous projects such as our own elevated cycling infrastructure - HarbourLink. The Melbourne Veloway is an architectural statement that will further reduce traffic congestion, motivate individuals to cycle, and overall reduce the city's carbon footprint - and that's pretty good long-term value for an initial cost of around $20 million.

    $21 million would buy a hell of a lot more ground level infrastructure and wouldn't funnel people into a useless single link that doesn't get them to their office door.

    Look at what countries with a high modal share for bicycles have done. Bloody expensive elevated tracks aren't a successful idea.

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