Wednesday, January 30, 2013

La Trobe Street $5.6m Bike Lanes to worsen city congestion

The City of Melbourne is about to spend a further $5.6 Milllion dollars constructing 15Km of bike paths along La Trobe Street ($2.4M) and other city streets, reducing the number of traffic lanes from two to one, causing ongoing traffic congestion and ciaos.

The La Trobe Street bike path will incorporate a road separation between the bike path and parked cars.

La Trobe Street profile: There will be only one lane of traffic, one lane for parking and one lane for bicycles and trams in each direction. Reducing traffic flow from two lanes to one.

A review of the City Council's design documents shows the extent of misleading and deceptive information provided to the public. The design document fails to provide full details or map of the design solution adopted. It is clearly deceptive and designed to mislead residents, business and stakeholders alike. Whilst the Council Engineering Services group claim they have engaged in broad community consultation the truth is the consultation process was seriously flawed with many decisions made behind closed doors.

Limited consultation was undertaken with major stakeholder groups. Motorcyclists and scooter riders in particular were not consulted and unrepresented. 

Consultation involved face-to-face engagement through café information sessions, meetings with key stakeholder groups and door-to-door visits to businesses and property owners along La Trobe Street, as well as an online survey.

The La Trobe Street redevelopment plans will add further to the existing traffic congestion caused by lane reductions. La Tobe street is a major cross-city transport connection route.  Many of the city's bike lanes, like the ones in Queensberry Street and Albert Road, are under utilized. Not only do they add to traffic congestion they seriously compromise road safety for motorists and pedestrians alike.  There are better alternative options, Streets such as Franklin Street which are not major traffic arterial roads should have been considered prior to reducing traffic lanes in La Trobe Street    The Melbourne City bike lanes and traffic policy needs major review and some lanes should be opened up and shared by other road users or removed.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sir Sig. Australia Day 2013

Congratulations to Sigmund Jorgensen in his Australia Day award and recognition for service to the visual arts and to the community. 

His award is well deserved. A friend., mentor and associate.

Sigmund has been a major inspiration , not just in my life but too many others.

His contribution to the Arts and the Eltham community is significant. Founder of the Monstavat Melbourne Jazz Festival, Cliche Restaurant and former Nillumbik Mayor.  All those who have had the opportunity to meet him have been enriched by their association. A creative thinker and artisan.  SBS radio boadcast earlier today an extensive interview with Sigmund covering his many achievements. 

Monstalvat is more than just a building, it is the people behind Monstalvat that make Monstalvat what it really is.  A mountain of salvation dedicated to Art, Architecture, Music and Culture. Sigmund is very much part of that legacy that has enriched our lives.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Maslenitsa (Slavic pancake festival)

Maslenitsa - Slavic Pancake  Week in the lead-up to the orthodox lent. A great culture event one to pen down in your diary

The Russian Ethnic Representative Council and Melbourne's Serbian and Slavic Communities invite you to celebrate Maslenitsa.  

This year you will see unprecedented scale of festivals activities.  

On a holiday you expect performances of dance, vocal, and circus groups, children's theater, art exhibition, souvenir fair. You will be able to take part in a master class on creating Russian folk toys, enjoy Russian and Serbian cuisine, take part in the traditional Carnival games. And also a lot of fun activities prepared for the guests of our holiday.

Maslenitsa (Slavic pancake festival) will be held at Federation Square on March 2nd from 10:00 to 20:00, the official opening will be held at 12 noon. 

See you at the celebration of Carnival 2nd March at Federation Square.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Australian Open: Tennis Titans begin their Battle

Two years ago I had the pleasure of watching Alexandr Dolgopolov, a young 22 year-old Ukrainian Tennis Player, play in the Australian Open qualifying matches. It was an exciting match (I always enjoy watching the qualifying matches its something really special). Dolgopolov match stood-out at the time. He showed strength and determination.  

Today Dogopolov, 24, is seeded in the top 20 of players. No longer does he need to play qualifying matches. Last year he progressed to the Australian Open semi finals . This year he is listed as one to watch as his game goes from strength to strength. He has already began to build up a sizable team of managers, coaches support staff and hanger-ons as he moves up in ranking.  We managed to catch up with him and his team during today's qualifying match between Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP) and Denys Molchanov (UKR).

We look forward to watching Alexandr during the 2013 Australian Open tournament and wish him and all the other players all the best. Viva Ukrainia.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Melbourne's Hidden Verandah Policy

Melbourne City Council Veranda Policy - 
click to view pdf scans
In 1995 the City of Melbourne commissioned Meridith Gould Architects to write a report on Lygon Street's Verandahs.

The report was later adopted by the City of Melbourne as policy but soon forgotten.  Copies of the report can not be found on the Council web site and is not mentioned in Melbourne Strategic Planning scheme. (Scanned copy available here)

The report was written following efforts by Rob Adams's urban design team to build above footpath balconies in Lygon Street - a move that would have seen Carlton's heritage destroyed.   Two above footpath verandah's were approved before the policy could be implemented.

The space above the footpath is public property and if owners or traders wanted to out door alfresco dining they need to build them within their building envelope and not expand over the footpath.

Meridith Gould in her research uncovered some interesting historical facts about Lygon Street verandahs and provided some good design options that could be considered. Her report is well worth reading and should be the model for ongoing heritage preservation and restoration of Melbourne's Victorian Street-scapes. Thankfully Rob Adams's urban design team did not get their way and the damage inflicted on Lygon Street was halted in time before the rot set in.

Following the publication and launch of the Gould report the City of Melbourne at the bequest of Kevin Gosper made available low interest loans to encourage Lygon Street owners and traders to repair or reinstate Victorian heritage verandahs. A policy that had wide community support but has since been forgotten or overlooked by the City Council and Town Planners. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Busking: Council's Immigration Liability

The City of Melbourne could be in breach of Australia's Immigration Laws. A review of the Council's Busking Permit application form shows the Council does not verify an applicant's entitlement which leaves it open to liability should it permit a person who is not entitled to work in Australia.

Many Buskers are students or overseas visitors on a working holiday. Make no mistake, Buskers and Street Traders add to the vibrancy and vitality of the City and should be encouraged, nevertheless the Council does have responsibility to ensure that those who are granted permission to busk, an activity that generates income, fulfills the terms of Australia's Immigration Act.

"It is a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly allow a person to work illegally or to refer an illegal worker for work."

Staff Responsible:  Kathy Alexander (CE0); Geoff Robinson (Manager Engineering Services); Elizabeth Russell (Busking and Program Co-ordinator/Engineering Services)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Restricting Residential Access

Walsh Street, South Yarra

Another classic example of Engineering Services Stuff-ups.  

In this case the Council has installed a 2 Hr Residents excepted parking sign without and thought or common sense. 

Not only is the sign mounted on a 4 Metre high pole but it is positioned smack in the middle of the rear access service gate a situation which could be a major safety issue in an emergency and the fire brigade or residents need access.

Thanks to the residents who reported this one.  Send reports to

Horsing Around: Lies and deceit behind Council's War on Horse and Carriages

More than a month has passed since the Melbourne City Council considered in secret a report on the Horse and Carriage Street Trading at its November 27 Council Forum - A meeting without reports or written minutes.

Two week later the Council in the middle of the night changed the signs that previously allowed the Horse a Carriages to park in Swanston Street opposite the Town Hall between 7Pm to 11PM.

The Council, having failed to consult with the Street Traders, this week sent letters to permit holders informing them that parking opposite town Hall was no longer available.

The Council has claimed that the space, which is now only available to "authorized vehicles only" was needed for a loading zone.  This in spite of the fact that the Street is empty at that time with the exception of a Pancake kiosk that trades until 9PM (and offers Council Staff discounts during the day) and the Escort Agency located in Swanston Street opposite Town Hall that operates though-out the night. (Not sure if any discounts are on offer)

Robert Doyle before Christmas went on air and claimed that the Council's War on Horses issue was settled. - far from it.

The City of Melbourne is facing an Equal Opportunity discrimination complaint in VCAT having refused to grant a permit to one Horse and Carriage operator who can not read or write. The Council refused him a permit because his application was not complete.

Alfresco Dinning: with Rubbish Bin and Sign thrown into the mix - No extra charge

 Domain Road South Yarra.

There is a Cafe that has to share its outdoor dinning experience with a rubbish bin and a street sign.  

Another example of City of Melbourne's Street planning madness and stupidity.

A problem so easily fixed but traders and dinners left to suffer the Council's inaction.

Originally the site for the Local News Agent and Post Office the premises have been transformed into a coffee shop. The Council managed to change the parking sign which was previously reserved for Australia Post vehicles now it delineates the Western edge  a 30m is a loading zone.  (Enough space for 7 cars)

Next door to the outdoor tables is a smelling and filthy rubbish bin.  Enough to put you off dinning outside.

The new trader has been trying to get the Council to move the Sign and the bin but to no avail.

Months have past and still no action. It's a no brainer, one would think, it is not that difficult to see what the problem is and send someone out to fix it.  (It should have been addressed when they first removed the previous sign)

Meanwhile the adjacent Botanical Hotel, which obviously has some pull and sway with the City Council, has no such problems with signage as they enjoy a vehicle, sign free and no rubbish bin zone outside there premises. A 30 Metre Loading Zone is an overkill for such a small shopping strip.

Efforts to contact Haig Poulson, Engineering Services, have been unsuccessful in spite three phone calls.

Melbourne's Blind Intersection: Park St and St Kilda Road

If you drive along Park Street and turn right into St Kilda Road and successfully negotiated any tram movements, midway into the intersection, you are left blind not knowing the state of the traffic signals regulating the intersection.

There are no traffic signals that can be seen as you cross the intersection.  This causes drivers to hesitate and not knowing if they can proceed. the Council needs to install an additional set of lights on the South East corner.

This problem has been in existence for years (made worst with the development of the Domain Tram Interchange) and Engineering Services still have not addressed this blind spot which is a major safety risk.

Efforts to contact Engineering Services unsuccessful . Calls not returned

No signals if turning right
Light facing wrong direction

View Larger Map

Traffic Ciaos: Engineering Services under review

Melbourne City's Traffic is in ciaos,   Congestion is worst not better and it has nothing to do with increase in taffic movements. The main cause of traffic congestion in the City is caused by Bike lanes. Lanes that have been poorly designed.

Where there was once two lanes for traffic movement there is now only one lane with a white line and green pavement taking over limited road space.  Many of these bike lanes are under utilized and have diminished pedestrian and traffic safety. Pedestrians walk into the bike lanes thinking they are in a safe zone or parked cars take less care when opening doors.

Many of the bike lanes have been placed in streets that should not be used as a bike route.

Motyorcycle/scooter riders are worst off.  The City of Melbourne have failed to consult with Mototr Cycle riders and their needs are not considered. Many bike lanes around the city could be readily shared by Scooters and Bikes alike.

Traffic congestion is not the only problem facing City Engineering Services - A department that is poorly managed.  Many problems associated with Engineering Services remain unaddressed, month and years pass  and the Council does nothing.

To help address these issues we intend to run a serious of exposes on the City of Melbourne Engineering Service Department. Tag: Engineering services.  Readers are encouraged to submit examples of Engineering Services stuff ups and bad designs

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Death of a Titan:Melbourne's Botanic Gardens

Melbourne Botanic Garden's Titan Arum has wilted and in its last days. Pollen from the flower which bloomed on December 25, 2012 has been collected and may be used to pollinate a second Titan Arum that is located in Melbourne's Botanic Gardens back shed.  The Second plant, which is expected to flower next month, will not be on display.

The Melbourne Titan Arum is a great achievement and worthy of praise for the botanists that helped cultivate the flowers. With over 5000 public visits  the flower has generated much interest and news reports both locally and internationally.

What is of concern is the state of the Botanic Garden's glass houses, which are in need of redevelopment and replacement,  

The RBG, sadly, have no plans to upgrade the glass house facilities.  A review of the RBG Master plan fails to mention any proposals for the Glass house area redevelopment. If you view the master plan it is not really a Master plan at all. More like a 5 year report card then a plan for the Gardens future development.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is reliant on Government and Philanthropic funding, basically they are underfunded and their priority at this stage is to become less reliant upon potable water for irrigation. The implementation of the 'Working Wetlands' project is part of that goal.

Whilst we support the direction the gardens are taking we are never the less concerned that the Master plan has not addressed the basic need for a redevelopment and construction of a new glass house facility. the Master Plan should at least give an indication as to the scope and possible redevelopment of the existing hot house facilities. It is only then that members of the public and benefactors can get behind the need for a better tropical exotic plants facility. A new redesigned hothouse facility would place Melbourne in the forefront of excellence.  It would also allow the plants to be properly housed and cultivated providing better public viewing and appreciation.  A well designed facility, along the lines of the Princess of Wales glass house in Kew UK, could become a major attraction in the color winter months.

There has long been talk about establishing a Winter Garden for Melbourne,  The Queen Ann Gardens and the site adjacent to Federation Square have been flagged as possible alternative sites for a Winter Garden, but nothing has come of it.  The idea serves as a talking point at election time and is never followed up.

January 7, 2013

See Botanic Gardens Titanic Achievement: for more on the Titan Arium