The pain of getting to the train

St Leonard’s is one of the busiest train stations in Sydney. Yet even on the most minor laneways, pedestrians do not have priority. At one of the major entries, it only takes one car to block the shared path. Then dozens of people squeeze past each other on a footpath that’s about 30 cm wide.

How did it become like this? St Leonard’s train station used to be an average station with two platforms and two sheds for the staff. Passengers exited onto the Pacific Highway only. Major rapid development has changed the station in recent years. A dozen odd thriving restaurants, supermarket, child care, chemist and newsagent are accessible at the station without leaving the concourse. It’s about one primary school short of being its own micro town. Many thousands of passengers are disgorged through 4 exits.

The surrounding roads have adapted to some extent, but have changed as little as possible. The environment is the typical treatment that the people of Sydney have come to accept.

  • To cross the highway, rather than going straight across, there are two sides of a t-intersection to cross, complete with beg buttons. Pacific Highway is now 9 lanes wide with turning lanes etc, and has sprouted a pedestrian fence to stop people crossing.
  • A pedestrian bridge traverses Herbert St. While it’s great to have, is the purpose really to avoid disrupting motorists?
  • A roundabout with no crossings greets those who want to head along Chandos St. Pedestrian treatments at roundabouts probably needs its own post.
  • The biggest shame is Sargeants Lane. There are two lanes to the laneway so that the few cars may turn both ways at the end. At the start, it’s one lane for cars, one lane for car parking.
Driver turning into a garage across people
Driver turning into a garage across people

Sargeant’s Lane is a pain point

The pavers and signs indicate Sargeant’s Lane is a shared space. I pointed that out once to a guy who honked at me, but he didn’t seem open to the idea judging by the profanity.

Sargeant’s Lane is one way with two lanes. Pedestrians keep to one side, and cars keep to both sides. Drivers turning right slowly merge into pedestrians, squeezing them towards the wall. Being merged into while walking is not a secure feeling. Having 30 cm of footpath and the gutter to use with dozens of other people is not the greatest entrance to a train station.

Also, cars accessing the underground parking conflict with walkers. When they climb out to exit, they have limited visibility ahead of them, due to the angle. A pedestrian facility is not useful if an 8 year old can’t use it. I would not be happy letting my kids use this by themselves.

The simple solution is to cut it to one lane for cars. It’s a small inconvenience for drivers so that the vast majority could walk comfortably. How many people on foot must outnumber the drivers before they get prioritised ahead of cars? Is this lane an acceptable treatment for an entrance to a major station?

Is it a lack of planning? Experts might know. It falls in an area shared by three councils, and only RMS holds the power. As per all of Sydney, reforming the RMS is key to achieving a pleasant, safer, more environmentally friendly city that may encourage people to walk.

Driving toward people at speed
Driving toward people at speed