At 8pm police told The Age neither the driver nor the passenger had been caught.
There have been no reports of injuries, although there were numerous reports of people jumping out of the car’s path and some near misses.
Police discovered the abandoned Mitsubishi Lancer in Ashworth Street, Albert Park, about 6.40pm stripped of its number plates.
At this stage police do not believe the driver had been intending to harm pedestrians. Instead, they say, he was taking evasive action to avoid police intercept.
“At the time of the vehicle crashing into the bollard, police drew their firearms,” police said in a statement.
The incident comes a week after the fourth anniversary of the deaths of six people who were hit and killed by James Gargasoulas as he sped through the CBD on January 20, 2017, injuring dozens more.
A security guard who did not want to be named said the car performed a U-turn in the mall before hitting the bollard. He said there were two men wearing dark clothes in the speeding car.
“It was scary, especially when it did the U-turn,” he said.
“For a moment I thought it was a terrorist attack.”
Police said the driver refused to stop for officers and was driving erratically.
“There have been no reports of any injuries connected to the incident,” they said.
A musician performing outside the GPO said he heard screeching tyres as the car tore up Bourke Street before hitting the bollard.
“I saw screeching tyres and then ‘slam’,” said the man, who only wanted to be referred to as Noah.
He said a man who appeared to be in his 20s jumped out of the car after it hit the bollard and ran down Elizabeth Street.
“It was nuts.”
Another witness said the the car then started driving quickly towards Swanston Street again.
A further witness, Shane Lowe, was on Bourke Street crossing Swanston Street when he saw the car drive past in an erratic manner.
“Part of the left front had been damaged – like a recent crash,” Mr Lowe said.
“It was at the lights with a cop car behind it. It was facing north on Swanston at the Bourke junction then suddenly turned left and sped down Bourke Street. The police pursued.
“People sort of ran closer to and [moved] inside the shops.”
Big Issue seller Con Anastasio said he saw the vehicle speeding down Bourke Street with four police cars behind it.
“Not many people were crossing the road, which was lucky,” he said.
A second Big Issue seller, named Louis, said he was standing outside Myer and saw a green car racing down the mall.
“It spun around trying to escape the pursuing police. There was lights, noise, everything.”
He said he thought the driver was someone “on the loose and trying to get away from the police”.
“I don’t think it was some psycho out to kill everybody in the street.”
Louis said there were several police cars in pursuit but officers didn’t get out of their vehicles and chase the man who escaped.
“It was like, flash, he was off. There was a lot of energy, you could feel it.”
Dina Jacob, 29, of Carlton said she saw the car heading very fast down the mall with police in pursuit, but they fell behind after the car did a U-turn. The vehicle then turned left and headed towards Melbourne Central.
She said a lot of police arrived at the scene and that people were running away from the vehicle.
“It was scary, frightening, she said. “Obviously I was scared. Now I’m OK.”
She said the incident had reminded her of the 2017 Bourke Street massacre.
A coronial inquest last month into James Gargasoulas’ rampage delivered a withering assessment of Victoria Police’s handling of the incident.
During that incident many pedestrians dived out of Gargasoulas’ path as he raced down Bourke and Swanston streets.
Bollards were installed in Bourke Street Mall as a protective measure against similar incidents after the deaths.
Anyone with information that could assist police with their enquiries is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.
Senior Reporter at The Age
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.
David Estcourt is a court and general news reporter at The Age.