Many people walk along Moore Park Rd, then onto Fitzroy St and Foveaux St. This route is used by thousands of people after the football or cricket at the Sydney Football Stadium, as they head to the restaurants and pubs of Surry Hills or down to Central train station. Also, during weekdays, many Sydneysiders walk this route to get to work, shops or home. Perhaps we can imagine one person from each situation: a football fan and a weekday walker.
Let’s join them as they walk this 15 minute route.
We start off under the shade of some wonderful large trees. A promising start for the weekday walker in the summer sunshine.
At Driver Ave, the weekday walker waits 70 seconds for a green light to cross. Yet only 2 or 3 cars enter or exit Driver Ave. The car is king here.
On the other side, the footpath is marked as a shared cycle/pedestrian path. Not so comfortable for our weekday walker. Bicycles move quickly past them as they walk along.
Now we see sizeable cracks in the footpath. The journey is a bit less comfortable, especially for the football fan who is moving in a crowd of others who have left the big game.
Next we come across a portable electronic traffic sign on the footpath, for the benefit of drivers. Then beyond it is a permanent sign constructed with two poles in the footpath. Further along is a permanent electronic traffic sign (why is the temporary sign needed?). And then yet another permanent sign with two poles. All four obstruct the footpath, creating pinch points and reducing footpath space (which, remember, is shared by the weekday walker with people cycling). The football fan finds their conversations interrupted, and weaves around the obstructions with hundreds of other people.
At Anzac Parade, we see some minor wayfinding signage. The “Smartpath” program seems to be a nice intention from years ago that is ignored these days. It is 3 metres above the ground, so neither the weekday walker or football fan ever see it.
As a weekday walker crosses Anzac Parade, they see a 1 metre wide kerb cut, despite a 3 metre wide crossing. This is a bottleneck for prams and bicycles who both need to use it, which slows our weekday walker as they cross 5 lanes of traffic. The curling Albert “Tibby” Cotter footbridge might be useful, but is positioned 400 metres to the south.
Across the road we see some better wayfinding. Some clear signage and a map at the top of Moore Park. The football fan finds this useful, and is reassured they are on the right path to Surry Hills.
Our travellers reach a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the hill, where vehicles brake hard to stop. The journey feels unsafe here. The football fan has safety in numbers, but the weekday walker wishes for a raised crossing.
We continue along Fitzroy St, now west of South Dowling St. It is narrow. Very narrow. Our weekday walker has to share 2 metres of footpath with bicycles travelling both ways and squeezes against the wall several times. The football fan is elbow to elbow with the crowd.
Arriving at Bourke St, we see a nice wide crossing with a wide kerb cut and lights for pedestrians and cyclists. Things are a little better.
Next our walkers see the footpath narrow again for a public garden bed at Richards Ave, followed by another temporary electronic sign. The football fan steps onto the road to go round the bottleneck created.
We haven’t finished yet. We meet Sydney’s narrowest kerb cut (troubling for anyone with a motorised scooter or a two-child pram).
At Crown St, Surry Hills, our weekday walker approaches a bus stop, which is a bottleneck of people disembarking. The bus stop could so easily have been integrated into the park behind it, to leave more room and better seating for everyone.
Lastly we wish to cross Crown St to end our journey. But the kerb cut is missing – it is only provided for pedestrians crossing to the north, not the west. The weekday walker is reluctant to bring their pram along this route if they ever bring their kids.
What improvements are needed?
Street clutter needs to be removed. Wayfinding needs to be on both sides of Anzac Parade. Cycleways need to be separated from footpaths. Crossings need to be more accessible. Footpaths needed to be widened and smoothed.
For some examples of better infrastructure, simply look at how Melbourne’s MCG precinct is connected to the city and Richmond (click on the pedestrian).
The City of Sydney and the NSW government have a planned separated bicycle path for the Moore Park Rd segment. This will give our pedestrians wider paths and better crossings. However there is no timeline for starting construction and it doesn’t extend along Fitzroy Rd or Foveaux St which remain traffic sewers. Large amounts of traffic are encouraged to travel through busy Surry Hills on high-speed, three or four lane, one-way, mini-motorways. These two streets need to go on a road diet.
Our journey along the footpath with the weekday walker and the football fan indicates that we all deserve better walking access between Sydney’s major entertainment precinct and the city.