Sydney’s Refugee Crisis

Refugee children, trapped on a small island, trying to get to a better place, are challenged by a convoy of heavily armoured, multi-ton metallic objects moving within a mere 1 meter past their developing bodies at 50 km/h. What could go wrong?

Every day during the school year, hundreds of children visit the Seymour Centre at the corner of Cleveland Street and City Road on the University of Sydney campus, being educated and entertained with a variety of tales both historic and fictional.

Across from City Road is Victoria Park, with lots of room for children to run around and play, with some excellent playgrounds, and an excellent location to meet schoolbuses for transport back to school.

To get from A to B, one must cross the street. This is an act every urban child must learn. While we may wish away cars, we cannot wish away streets.

But here, one must cross not one, but two streets, for the convenience of automobiles, which enjoy some extra time here to admire Chippendale about a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon.

At least 20 people, most of them children, queued up like bowling pins, on a refugee island at City Road and Cleveland Street, Sydney. Other groups are held back at the Seymour Centre, or have been already ferried across City Road to Victoria Park. This is typical, but not good, urban design.
At least 20 people, most of them children, queued up on a refugee island at City Road and Cleveland Street, Sydney. Other groups are held back at the Seymour Centre, or have been already ferried across City Road to Victoria Park. This is typical, but not good, urban design.

First, the refugees must wait for a green walk signal to cross the two left turn lanes from Cleveland to City Road, to land on the Refugee island. Then they must wait as refugees on the refuge island, since the traffic signals to cross the left turn lanes are coordinated with crossing Cleveland, not crossing City Road. Then when the light changes (assuming someone remembered to push the actuator), they cross City Road.

Hundreds of children do this, but hundreds of children cannot fit on Refugee Island, so if they are accompanied by responsible adults, they must be ferried in small groups, first to the island, and then across City Road.

On the triangular island, they are arrayed like bowling pins, vulnerable to cars and trucks and buses and motorcycles to the left of them, to the right of them, in front of them.

Imagine the tabloid newspaper headline:

“Horror Crash at Horror Intersection: Roads Minister Warned of Problems and Did Not Act.”

Now lest you think crashes do not occur here, one occurred right across the street a couple of weeks ago (October 16, 2018 to be precise). The lack of tragedy to date on Refugee Island, is, as they say, pushing one’s luck. She won’t be right, mate.

Cleveland Street at City Road crash (across the street from the discussed island, adjacent to another refugee island, for free lefts from City Road to Cleveland Street). Fortunately there was guardrail, I guess. Speed limit, 50 km/h. The police officer was not pleased by the photographers documenting the failure of traffic engineering.
Cleveland Street at City Road crash (across the street from the discussed island, adjacent to another refugee island, for free lefts from City Road to Cleveland Street). Fortunately there was guardrail, I guess. Speed limit, 50 km/h. The police officer was not pleased by the photographers documenting the failure of traffic engineering.

So let’s consider the problem:

  1. The signal controlled “Free Left” is unnecessary to begin with.
  2. The left has two lanes, yet King Street in Newtown, where most of these cars turning wind up is only two lanes in each direction, with one of those devoted to parking.
  3. Tiny island which cannot accommodate the pedestrian flows safely.
  4. Two traffic lights required to cross one street
  5. City Road is too wide
  6. Cars are moving too quickly at some times of day.

Perhaps there are others.

I have not researched the history of this link, I assume it was reconfigured when the trams disappeared. The question is not how it got to where it is (there are numerous sites like this), it’s how to get it fixed.

What we do not need are more traffic signals, more fences, more guardrails. Think more creatively. Instead we need fewer cars, lower speeds, fewer lanes, narrower lanes, more space for pedestrians, no free lefts.

The location from Google Maps is shown below. Below that, a streetview.

ClevelandStCityRoadMap.png
Aerial view: Victoria Park in the northwest corner, Seymour Centre to the south.
Streetview.png
Refugee Island in less stressful conditions. Seymour Centre to the left, Victoria Park straight ahead.