Experts say Melbourne should give up some of its precious parking space to pedestrians. 

The temporary footpath extensions made by several councils in response to COVID-19 should be made permanent, the study suggests, revealing traffic to pedestrian ratios are out of whack in many shopping strips.

The study of 57 inner-city Melbourne shopping strip locations found pedestrians and outdoor diners are being short changed, given just 33 per cent of street space despite accounting for 56 per cent of the traffic.

Researchers measured each site in terms of the amount of street width provided to each mode of transport, including shared space.

“We found there’s an undersupply of space for pedestrians, compared to what’s given to parked cars, motorists and other road users,” says Dr Chris De Gruyter from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research. 

“As governments look to increase outdoor dining and activity spaces, they’re rethinking the layouts of shopping strips.

“Now we have proof these should not be temporary measures – we need to share the space effectively and adapt as trends change.”

The study also found exclusive tram lanes were only slightly oversupplied (average of 22 per cent of total space versus 18 per cent of total people), as were shared general traffic/tram/bus lanes (35 per cent of total space versus 30 per cent of total people).

However, other street elements were greatly oversupplied on average, particularly bicycle lanes (12 per cent of total space versus 2 per cent of total people), car parking (21 per cent of total space versus 13 per cent of total people) and shared general traffic/bus lanes (42 per cent of total space versus 29 per cent of total people).

Despite the oversupply of space for bicycle lanes, Dr De Gruyter said usage would certainly increase if they were more than just a painted white line and converted to Copenhagen style lanes, which are separated from car lanes.

With cities increasingly looking to embrace sustainable transport, like walking, cycling and public transport, knowing how much space to give to each mode is crucial.

“It is also relevant in the context of COVID, where more space is being sought to support physical distancing and outdoor gatherings,” Dr De Gruyter said.

The study is accessible here.