Lower speeds, faster commutes: Melbourne’s cycling ‘green wave’ now permanent

by Matt de Neef


After a successful 18-month trial, East Melbourne’s Albert St ‘green wave’ is here to stay. The series of synchronised traffic light signals between Landsdowne St and Hoddle St allows cyclists to ride a ‘wave’ of green lights, assuming they stick within a certain speed range (roughly 20-25kph, depending on the section of road).

As reported on CyclingTips in February, the green wave was implemented in early 2018 to make riding on Albert St both safer and faster for cyclists.

The first project of its kind in Australia, the Albert Street green wave operates inbound (west) during the morning peak and outbound (east) during the evening peak. The City of Melbourne reports that average travel times for inbound cyclists during the AM peak have decreased from 4 minutes 11 seconds to 3 minutes 18 seconds during the trial period. Travel times outbound have been unaffected, despite a reduction in the speed the average cyclist rides the steep eastbound descent between Clarendon St and Simpson St.

“We’ve completed speed tests in the area and the green wave has seen a 13% reduction in average cyclist speeds on the steepest downhill section but resulted in no increase in travel time during the evening commute,” said City of Melbourne councillor Nicolas Frances-Gilley. “Cyclists who travel at high speeds, particularly on the downhill sections of Albert Street during the evening peak period will have to stop and wait at red traffic signals. By slowing down and riding at a comfortable speed, you don’t get stopped at the lights and you save time.

“Green waves don’t work on all roads and intersections but we are thrilled to have one on Albert Street to give cyclists a smooth journey and reduce the incentive to travel at high speeds on steep downhill sections, which improves safety for all road users.”

VicRoads and the City of Melbourne are considering the use of green roadside LEDs to help riders determine whether they’re in a green wave or not. This strategy has been used to great effect in cities such as Copenhagen, Denmark (see below).

For a detailed breakdown of the Albert St green wave, be sure to check out our article from February 2019. In it we spoke to members of the design team about the inspiration behind the project and how it was implemented.

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