As Urban Design, Planning and Transport consultants, we are accustomed to being involved in community consultation processes where people voice their concerns and ideas to ultimately improve the projects we’re involved in.
However, during our called conceptual Cremorne Pop-Up Bike Lane and One Way Traffic Loop, this process unfolded differently. On this occasion, we were in the exciting position of being part of the professional team presenting a concept while, simultaneously, being part of the working community of Cremorne and harbouring an interest in urban outcomes for the area.
So how did we navigate the unique position of being both consultants and community members? A brief timeline of our project process will explain the process of our project team.
The Idea is Conceptualised
Some months ago, the VicRoads Pop-Up Bike Lane Program caught the interest of the Ratio team, sparking discussions amongst our multidisciplinary office. Topics such as the importance of early community consultation, better bike lane solutions, opportunities for implementation elsewhere and best practices around the world were shared during staff meetings and spontaneous staircase conversations.
The VicRoads Pop-Up Bike Lane program aims to implement temporary bike lanes across inner Melbourne suburbs for 12 to 18 months. After this period, councils and VicRoads will evaluate the outcomes which will result in either the removal or permanent installation of these trial bike lane solutions.
At Ratio, we believe in the importance of capitalising on the opportunities bike lanes afford to cities and their community, especially considering the need for a more sustainable future-proof transport network in Australia. Bike lanes can be important catalysts for prompting a change in the urban environment, not only by providing better and safer spaces for bike riders (or an increasing number of micromobility transport users), but also by giving our industry a chance to re-evaluate our streetscapes, people’s needs and safety within the public realm, and vegetative and street beautification opportunities.
Having moved our head office to Cremorne four years ago (with many of our staff living proximate to the area) we are well informed of the urban challenges facing the area. Increasing pedestrian volumes, car usage, and new developments emerging in Cremorne are concerning, especially considering limited public open spaces, narrow footpaths and restricted road connections to the broader road network. Experiencing these challenges firsthand, we knew the time has come to start serious conversations about Cremorne’s future.
Designing a Solution
We wanted to be part of the Cremorne solution, so we organised a pro bono working group to contribute our expertise to the conversation.
In October, we presented our ideas across our digital platforms, illustrating options on how to approach a protected bike lane in Cremorne Street using our Cremorne Pop-up Bike Lane, a one-way vehicle circuit to achieve a better urban environment for the area.
Our idea was clear; to test options, engage with the community, grasp their vision, and put into practice our knowledge around placemaking.
The feedback from the broader community was gratifying. Not all feedback was supportive as some community members were resistant to the proposed changes, however, our main objective had been to start a conversation about Cremorne’s urban environment future. This was achieved when we began hearing back from transport engineers, urban design academics, shop owners and Cremorne residents who proposed their ideas ‒ a positive validation of the degree of interest those living and working locally feel for their neighbourhood.
In October, we hosted a community meeting on our premises, organised by the Cremorne Community Inc., a group of vocal residents and workers, alongside city councillors and local government personnel. The group heard our ideas for urban design and transport principles guiding the area and entered into a discussion about their concerns and aspirations for the area.
The feedback we received throughout the process, and the ideas people spontaneously shared with us, made us feel even more excited to continue searching for future opportunities to collaborate with the community and contributed to a sincere and fruitful conversation that will ultimately shape our urban environment.
The Cremorne Draft Urban Design Framework was published for community feedback in November 2022. The document presents a series of objectives and initiatives to improve the area’s public realm and built form.
We look forward to further cooperating with the community and authorities to achieve the best possible outcome for our neighbourhood and welcome a dialogue with all interested parties about future outcomes for our area.