Advancing Arncliffe

Arncliffe New South Wales is a suburb in the Bayside Council. It is centred on a Train Station on the T4 line and a High Street, and divided by that train line and Princes Highway. I live on the west side, between Arncliffe and Turella Stations, so my comments, while generalisable, are informed by a particular subsection of Arncliffe. Despite all the efforts in the area, there are things that could be done to make the place better, which would not cost very much in the scheme of things. It is this maintenance and low-hanging fruit investments which I raise here.

Shops

Arncliffe Village is the name I will give to the seemingly otherwise nameless and unmarketed collection of shops near Arncliffe Station mostly on Firth Street and Belmore Street, and a little bit on Forest Road. There has been a recent upgrade to the area so that there is mostly bluestone pavers in the area, some landscaping, and so on. The shops are mostly occupied with businesses, and the area works well. But it could work better.

If one continues to the end of Belmore Street, there is a one-block pedestrian walk adjacent to Belmore reserve and a recently remodelled playground, which connects to Wollongong Road and Kelsey Street. Historically a collection of shops grew up on Wollongong Road’s former tram line connecting Arncliffe to Bexley. Just at this intersection are King of the Pack, Espresso Haus, Seafood Connect, Doughcliffe Bakery, El-Zahra Butchery, a Hairdresser, a convenience store, and a consultant, and a block north, is the highly regarded Peace Bakery – supplier of Sydney’s best flatbread. To the non-resident of this side of the shops, they are unapparent. But they are only a few steps away.  I suggest that we functionally extend “Arncliffe Village” by connecting those disconnected shops more visibly.

This involves improving wayfinding, e.g. a tasteful, but visible, “More shops on Wollongong Road” sign at end of Belmore, to inform visitors and attract new residents (especially those from other side of tracks). But that’s not enough, crossing the misleadingly named “Station Street”, while not especially dangerous as these things go, is not something a visitor would naturally do.

It does require a bit more, to make this more obvious and attractive to pedestrians, namely installing several raised pedestrian (Wombat) crossings connecting  across:

  • Station Street at Belmore Street .
  • Wollongong Road at Kelsey Street
  • Kelsey Street at Wollongong Road and
  • Bonar Street at Wollongong Road (at Peace Bakery).

so that the whole area would be perceived as a single continuum rather than a disjoint collection of buildings.

Arncliffe Village Shops, with second train station entrance marked in light green, the intersection of Belmore Street and Station Street in a Yellow hexagon, with intersection narrowing denoted by orange, new wombat crossing in white, existing pedestrian path in maroon. Kelsey Street and Bonar Street and Wollongong Road Crossings denoted in the blue hexagons, with proposed wombat crossings in white.

Next, for some reason, Belmore Street at Station Street is far wider than it needs to be, with a wide radius of curvature. And the footpath is far narrower than it should be. And it is blessed with rubbish and recycling bins 24/7/365.

Bins! Public areas don’t separate recycling which is confusing. Do you want me to put recycling in regular bins? Why? Are bins expensive?

A casual inspection will show bins are on the southwest footpath from Station Street to Belmore Street every single day. Now a more wholistic solution would look at different space to store these bins. A casual inspection of the area will also show the Belmore / Station intersection is flared, so cars can exit Belmore to Station at a higher rate of speed (a wider radius of curvature permits a higher speed with equivalent driver comfort). See the attached aerial photos. A reconfiguration of the Belmore/Station Street intersection by tightening it up would be better for the urban form, but also free up space to put in a trash bin corral, which could store the bins of nearby businesses. Now everyone recognises that trash bins are never going to be particularly attractive, and other solutions (such as what the Netherlands does, of putting a recepticle above grade and a much larger container below grade, which is emptied via a vacuum device) are likely more expensive to implement, although better, this is still better than the present solution of bins on narrow the footpath on the primary path to the Arncliffe train station from west of Belmore.

Parks

Parks add value. The closer people believe they are to parks, the more property value they add, and the more they would be used. I suggest we make the parks more accessible by foot, and slow down traffic around park. For instance, implement Wombat (raised pedestrian) crossings on entering Arncliffe Park from all 8 directions, as shown in the attached figure. (2 already exist). Wombat crossings elevate the pedestrian (making us more easily seen), require cars to stop for pedestrians, making us safer and crossing more convenient, and act as a traffic calming measure by lowering speeds, making it safer and quieter for everyone. These should be aligned these with the park entrance, and ensure the remaining curb cuts are to modern standards. The park then reaches into the neighbourhood rather than being walled off by streets. This model could be extended to all the parks in Bayside, so that they are better integrated into the community rather than castles separated by a moat filled with cars.

Arncliffe Park, with existing wombat crossings circled, and proposed wombat crossings marked with a white stroke.

Finish Wolli Creek Park. This means various things to various people. I think two neglected aspects to this are constructing two Bridges

  • from Wolli Creek across Wolli Creek to Waterworth Park
  • across Cooks River to Griffith Street (Tempe)

Access to Train Stations

Arncliffe Station has one entrance, near one of its platform ends, and far from the other end. This increases the time required to enter the station from anyone on the wrong end of the station. It is easily remedied with a second entrance as shown in the Figure above. The same logic applies to other train stations as described here. This requires more cooperation with state government, but needs a local initiative to push.

Pools

There is no public neighbourhood swimming pool within walking distance of Arncliffe. Sydney gets hot. It is inefficient for every house to have their own pool . Pools are a classic shareable resource (like libraries and parks). The pool in Bexley is too far away and unwalkable, it assumes patrons drive. An Arncliffe pool doesn’t need to be super-enormous. (Everything is oversized in the name of “economies of scale”). Consider for instance the Urban Billabongs proposal. It could perhaps be located in the low-lying industrial area near Turrella Station, or on underused vacant land at Walker Street. Maybe near Silver Jubilee Park. Maybe on M5 land near Arncliffe Station. Maybe adjacent to Peace Bakery Maybe all of these. 

System Policy

  • Establish as policy, and enforce 30km/h on local streets. Cars and motorbikes speeding and driving recklessly throughout Arncliffe is a significant issue, on numerous streets, as identified by residents on your website, and all of those streets need more significant enforcement, “noise cameras”, lower speed limits to 30 km/h, raised pedestrian crossings (wombat crossings), and more traffic calming.
  • Ban through trucks when a parallel motorway path exists.
  • Ensure there are Footpaths on all streets, or those streets need to be shared streets with far lower speed limits when no footpaths are available
  • Footpaths need to be wider in many places so that they are more accessible.
  • Footpaths need to be even   Making different footpaths wider does not address this issue of existing footpaths which are uneven.  Why does this matter? Foremost, it’s a tripping hazard (and I would think a lawsuit waiting to happen). When footpaths are especially uneven, they are also an accessibility problem for the disabled (a problem of poor footpath design for the disabled is a far bigger issue that also appears to be unaddressed). Uneven footpaths discourage walking and increase driving, with all the negative externalities ensuring.  In general, neglect of public spaces brings down property value. Why are they uneven? They are uneven because over time ground settles, because tunnelling for major motorways (M5, M8, M6) under Arncliffe causes additional settlement, because trees establish roots and uplift concrete blocks, because rains wash out the soil underneath the footpath, and so on. But this is not unexpected over the decades. What is disappointing (or negligent, depending on your frame of mind) is there is not even a program to address this. For instance, consider this low-tech solution: someone going around marking uneven footpaths with spray paint, another crew going around after them with a grinder to level them out. I am sure there are other solutions, and places where they need to be rebuilt altogether.
  • Finally for this post, plant trees in the street. Many of the streets in Arncliffe are narrow, but strangely some are too wide. Even the same street varies in width in different locations for reasons obscure to history. Wide streets encourage fast driving. Planting trees can provide a calming effect. Consider the following figures from Haberfield and Glebe, and you will find hundreds of locations where that can be deployed around Arncliffe.

Tree in the street, Haberfield. Acts as traffic calming measure, reduces urban heat island effect, absorbs CO2. Is there anything trees can't do?
Tree in the street, Haberfield. Acts as traffic calming measure, reduces urban heat island effect, absorbs CO2. Is there anything trees can’t do? [They also raise property values]
Tree in the median of a street in Glebe
Tree in the median of a street in Glebe

WalkSydney submission on the Draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

To the NSW Environmental Protection Agency,

This is the WalkSydney submission on the Draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan.

WalkSydney is the peak advocacy group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. WalkSydney’s vision is that “Walking will be convenient, accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

In particular, our submission relates to 

Draft EPA Climate Change Policy 

2.0 Mitigate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  • We support our regulatory partners to understand and consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation as they make land-use planning decisions.
  • We encourage and support the broader community and businesses in general to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sinks in NSW, by using education, behavioural change programs and other innovative approaches.

Draft The Climate Change Action Plan 2022–25:

  • Continuing action 2: Engage and collaborate with climate change experts across the NSW Government, and with other jurisdictions, as the EPA develops and implements its climate change actions
  • Continuing action 6: Develop and implement tailored behavioural change programs to encourage and enable greenhouse gas emission reductions
  • Continuing action 9: Lead by example, maintaining efforts to become a carbon-neutral organisation by 2030

With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk, ride and catch public transport to local shops, services and places. The EPA draft Climate Change policy and Action Plan recognise the impact that the transport sector has on greenhouse gas emission but both documents are weak and silent on any action to address these impacts. 

We welcome the partnerships with Transport for NSW, Department of Planning and Environment, and other NSW Government agencies. However, it is not clear that the partnership with Transport for NSW will result in real emissions reductions in the transport sector, as shown on page 33 of the Action Plan (transport projected to emit ~16 Mt CO2-e in 2050). As transport currently accounts for 20% of total emissions, or 28 Mt CO2-e, and emissions are arising, this is a crucial missing element of the EPA Climate Change Policy and Action Plan. 

We therefore call upon the Environmental Protection Agency to work more closely with Transport for NSW to implement policy changes and ensure that transport emissions fall in line with current NSW  Government targets. In order to plan for and implement a healthier and zero emission transport sector in NSW, structural changes from other jurisdictions are instructive, e.g., the creation of Active Travel England.

We believe that the EPA has a role to play in helping shape NSW policy, so that people would transition to more sustainable forms of transport – including more walking and cycling and public transport. Half of car trips taken in Greater Sydney each year are less than 5km, and a significant proportion are under 2km. 

The EPAs draft plan should be part of the NSW Government solution to address this problem by: 

  • Transparently and robustly accounting for greenhouse gases from the sector and asking regulatory partners ( eg: TfNSW to develop a plan to reduce emissions) . This action must be specifically called out in the draft strategy, and cannot be left up to TfNSW. The electrification of the TfNSW bus fleet will not be implemented until 2045 at current rates of investment, and ought to be expanded as services grow and improve.

EPA draft action plan must include:

  1. Specific targets and mode shift changes for TfNSW to report to the Community about greenhouse gases from transport. 
  2. Behaviour change programs for transport modal shift, e.g. walking and riding to school, Idle Off
  3. New offset opportunities for private sector to invest in infrastructure to support people walking and cycling.

In addition, WalkSydney recommend these changes be made to NSW Government policies to support more people walking and riding bikes: 

  • Road Rules should Prioritise Pedestrians
    • Introduce a hierarchy of road users – those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others
    • Implement presumption of driver fault in crashes, unless driver can prove otherwise
    • Ensure drivers and riders give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road at every intersection without a signal, from every direction (every intersection a crosswalk)
  • Better Intersection Crossings
    • Reduce waiting time (shorter cycles)
    • Increase walk signal duration
    • Provide legal pedestrian crossings at all movements.
    • Increase the use of Wombats (raised pedestrian crossings).
    • Implement Pedestrian phases as the default condition, so no beg button (pedestrian actuation) required.
    • Install Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) at all intersections with pedestrians present.
    • Detect pedestrians automatically at all intersections (prioritise those with more pedestrians). Implement pedestrian detection technology (as used in Queensland and Victoria) that adjusts signal timing for people walking (shorter waiting times and longer time to cross the road).
  • Develop an offset fund for private enterprise to support sustainable transport infrastructure to:
    • Provide active transport connections to destinations, existing local infrastructure, and known walking/riding routes across the Greater Sydney area.
    • Fund public domain works around schools to overturn the widespread practice of drive-to-school, delivered by local government 
    • Fund network of protected bicycle lanes (not shared paths) for delivery by state and local government
    • Improve and plant trees on our streets by planting climate resilient trees to form dense, cooling canopy 
  • Reform institutions to support greenhouse gas reductions 
    • Reform  Local Traffic Committee so that one of their objectives is to create streets environment that have less greenhouse impacts plus a voting member who represents public health eg: make it easier to walk and ride 
    • Remove political intervention in the short-listing of  TfNSW (RMS) Walking and Cycling Programs (grants). Presently recommendations are made by officers, this list of recommendations is then provided to State MPs and can then be altered and reviewed and is then implemented according to a political rather than Community need. .
  • Retrain and refocus Transport engineers to provide sustainable and safe environments: 
    • Retrain local government traffic engineers and road safety officers on road designs to provide walkability.
    • Retrain TfNSW (RMS) traffic signals team about access by walking and bicycling . 
    • Retrain NSW Police on the NSW Road Rules as they apply to pedestrian access

Monitor, measure and innovate

  • Regulate Government, industry and businesses to report their contribution to transport greenhouse emissions and develop plans to reduce impacts, e.g. all police to be trained to ride bikes, and have access to these for work purposes. 
  • Advocate to the Federal Government to innovate and require speed limiters in all new vehicles as soon as possible (similar to the European Union), and retrofit current vehicles as soon as possible to reduce dangerous speeds and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. 
  • Lead by example
    • Change workplace and executive culture: where possible, offer free public transport, or support employees to use active transport, rather than company motor vehicles leaseback arrangements consider leaseback for electric bikes  etc. Include active transport targets and KPIs in executive contracts.
    • Develop a bike fleet for EPA officers to use, similar to the City of Sydney bike fleet. 
    • Advocate for these fleet arrangements to be replicated in other Government departments

Thank you for taking the time to read our submission. Please do contact us if you would like to discuss any points further. 

Mapping Sydney Billboards: Every QMS advertising panel in Sydney

View the map at SydneyAdvertisingMap.com

If you live in Sydney you will have seen them – the 86 inch advertising screens in the City of Sydney Council. These advertising panels are known as communication pylons in the language of the developer approvals. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the City of Sydney paused the rollout due to community backlash.

Through August and October I visited every QMS advertising panel. I surveyed their location and ref code to add to OpenStreetMap, an open geospatial database that powers many maps worldwide. I uploaded photos of many displays to Mapillary, a platform for openly licensed street imagery, which you can view by clicking on pins in the map above.

Travelling on foot and by bike I found many examples of this street furniture blocking footpaths and reducing pedestrian amenity.

I hope this open data, map and photographs encourages and enables further public discussion, such as where problematic panels are located, and what role large format outdoor advertising has on Sydney’s streets.

If you find any screens that aren’t on this list, or any data is incorrect, please comment below or send an email to the author (jake@jakecoppinger.com) with “QMS” in the title. If you’re interested, you can head to OpenStreetMap.org and contribute yourself!

Corner of Oxford Street and Crown Street. Ref: P3057. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127274102

Website

I created SydneyAdvertisingMap.com to visualise this data. It is open source on Github (GPLv3), and displays the data in an easy to understand form.

As of October 31st:

Panel placement

Most panels are placed on footpaths in the direction of pedestrian and car flow. They are placed nearest the road.

Many panels are placed next to an existing Telstra public telephone (though many are not). In these cases, the City of Sydney information side is facing the Telephone, and obstructed by the telephone. The commercial advertising side is always unobstructed by the telephone. I also surveyed nearby telephones on OSM while surveying the panels – I have not yet queried the percentage of panels near a telephone but this is possible.

In their 2007 survey of Sydney’s street life, Gehl Architects noted the amount of footpath clutter caused by the public phones. This issue has seemingly not been resolved.

The pay phones obviously serve two purposes. One is the service of offering the inhabitants a public phone another is to place commercial ads in the City Centre to be viewed by people passing by. In order to place these ads in the best viewable way the pay phones are installed facing the footpath and thus blocking pedestrian movement in a number of streets.

“Public Spaces – Public Life, Sydney”, Gehl Architects 2007, Part 1, Page 58

Some panels are placed where a City of Sydney kiosk used to be. You can see the outside of the distinctive kiosk shape on the pavement in a couple of areas. The removal of the kiosk is also a reduction in pedestrian amenity.

Corner of Macquarie St & St James Rd (in public square). Ref AB1008. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10096976338

The ref code is on a silver coloured metal plaque on the inside of one of the legs. Some screens are missing a ref code – I am unsure what the development approval status of these are.

Examples of screens blocking footpaths

South end of Bayswater Rd. Ref: P3049. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10125991662
Broadway, walking eastbound before Wattle St. This is an extremely busy pedestrian thoroughfare. A cyclist is also squeezing past the screen on the footpath (illegally) to avoid the 8 lane 50km/h dual carriageway, even though they will have to navigate an extra traffic signal (with unfavourable timing) for a car slip lane. Ref: P5025. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/9935141850
South end of Bayswater Rd. Ref: P3049. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10125991662
Liverpool Street, just after Kent St heading East. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127278979
Oxford Street heading westbound, at George St (not the CBD George St). Ref: P3052. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10129366315
Corner of Cleveland St & Elizabeth St. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10134477311
Corner of Bourke St & Campbell St. Ref P3056. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10134483208
George St at Curtin Pl. No ref marked. I think this part of George Street will be pedestrianized, but this is still a horrible design outcome. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127318716
Alfred St at Circular Quay. This image makes it abundantly clear the panels are not placed for public utility – it’s right next to a bus shelter advertisement. Ref: P1061. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10081120332
Right in the middle of a busy CBD footpath, with a logistics van unloading. Ref: P1199. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10096951007

Advertising screens obstructing seating views

Macleay St north of Manning St. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10125962334
Alfred St, Circular Quay. Ref: P1007. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10081118846
George St, just north of Ultimo Rd. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127287801

Further reading

Appendix: OpenStreetMap survey method

To identify the streets and neighbourhoods the panels would likely be I looked through development approval documents.

I then methodically visited each street, either on foot or on bicycle. I added each advertising panel to OpenStreetMap with the following tags:

advertising=poster_box
animated=screen
lit=yes
operator=QMS
operator:website=https://www.qmsmedia.com/
sides=2
support=ground
ref=...
mapillary=...

(If you have a suggestion for better tags please let me know!)

I took photos of many of these panels, which I uploaded to Mapillary. I also added the Mapillary image ID to the advertising panel nodes.

Some screens are missing a ref code, for these I set ref=none. I set ref=unknown where I forgot to survey a ref code (only one or two).

Appendix: Geospatial data

Download geospatial data of QMS ad panels (surveyed by me, under ODbL licence). You can fetch a Geojson, gpx or kml file at https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/1nbB

Note: This article first appeared at jakecoppinger.com/2022/10/mapping-sydney-billboards-a-map-of-every-qms-advertising-screen-in-sydney-with-photographs/

Halloween in our streets

In Australian suburban streets, Halloween is the day that shows us what is possible. Neighbourhoods become places where people take priority over cars. On this day, people get to see what a truly walkable suburb looks like, as throngs of families flood their local streets to explore, admire decorations, door knock, catch up and eat too much sugar.

When people are out walking on the streets in large numbers, those people driving think twice about their driving speed. With children regularly crossing the street, drivers are more wary. And those on foot feel entitled to walk on the roadway. This is what we deserve to have everyday on our streets.

Halloween shows us how valuable walkability is. Kids delight in exploring their local streets on foot. Every kid prefers trick or treating over having an equivalent Halloween party confined to a backyard. So despite the unhealthy food, we should thank the United States for giving us this holiday.

Community connections are strengthened as locals bump into each other, with space and time to stop and say hello. A healthy street is one where you regularly meet people you know, without planning to meet them.

The streets where trick-or-treaters congregate are those with shady trees, wide footpaths, far away from loud, fast-moving cars and, of course, with lots of spooky decorations.

In highly walkable cities elsewhere in the world, everyday feels like Halloween (minus the ghosts, zombies and chocolate) as communities live and thrive in the public space of their residential streets. This can’t happen if we all travel in cars. If we are prepared to lower speed limits, redesign street crossings and intersections, upgrade our footpaths, build appropriate building density and improve regulations, we can have a little bit of Halloween everyday in Sydney.

Frederick Street pedestrian crossing upgrade

This is the WalkSydney submission on the Frederick Street pedestrian crossing upgrade.


WalkSydney is the peak advocacy group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. WalkSydney’s vision is that “Walking will be convenient, accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk, ride and catch public transport to local shops, services and places. We want TfNSW to make Frederick St and Milton St safer streets for people. Within one kilometre of these two streets there are two high streets, more than seven schools, two playing fields, a major aquatic centre, many preschools, and several playgrounds.

People should be able to safely, conveniently and comfortably walk to these destinations, including the Ashfield and Croydon town centres high streets. People should not be endangered, or inconvenienced by, traffic for making short trips by walking.

The proposal is inconsistent with TfNSW’s own policy and procedures

The proposed solution also is inconsistent with the Road User Space Allocation Policy, and the recently released Future Transport Strategy. Inconsistencies with the latter include:

  • This proposal will improve conditions for driving and make walking more inconvenient. Future Transport aims to stabilise or decrease vehicle kilometres travelled traffic in the Sydney region while the population increases, and to increase walking and cycling movements and modal share – particularly for short neighbourhood trips of < 2km
  • This proposal will not “create safer, greener and more liveable 15-minute neighbourhoods across NSW, where wider footpaths, cycle lanes, street trees, pedestrian crossings and lower speeds will improve access to nearby shops and services”, as written in Future Transport.

With improved conditions for people walking, this section of Sydney could be walkable and safe for residents. We could have a healthier populace, and children who are independent and able to go to school, sport, and the playground by themselves. Instead, we have a dangerous road through the middle of our community.

The proposal does not address safety risks

The proposed signalised solution to the road safety risks and dangerous conditions at John St and Frederick St will result in increased waiting times for people walking, which may lead to people waiting becoming frustrated and taking risks, or dissuade people from walking at all.

In the instance that traffic lights are installed, the wait times should be set to the lowest possible time. People walking should not have to wait.

  • WalkSydney requests TfNSW implement the following to make Frederick and Milton Streets better:
  • Safe speed limits: Make Frederick St 40 km/h, make local streets 30 km/h
  • Better pedestrian crossings: Install a wombat crossing at John St
  • Prevent through traffic impacting local streets: Create a cul-de-sac at John St, in accordance with the Westconnex LAIS published in 2018, which would be safer for people walking, and limit through-traffic on John St
  • Improve the traffic signal conditions elsewhere along Frederick St to limit wait times for people walking, e.g. at the intersections with Elizabeth St, Thomas St
  • Improve the Frederick St rail underpass and provide more space for people walking
  • Install all missing pedestrian crossing legs along the entire length of Frederick Street and Milton Street
  • Install separated bike lanes on either Frederick St or a parallel street so that people walking are safe, and people riding bikes, electric scooters, and other devices have safe space away from people driving motor vehicles. This could be part of the link from Five Dock to Ashfield in the Eastern Harbour City Bike Network.

Thank you for taking the time to read our feedback.

Access and place improvements: The Grand Parade – Kyeemagh to Sans Souci

[A submission I made personally to the Bayside Council, but it might be of general interest]

When asked to “Have Your Say” on “Access and place improvements: The Grand Parade – Kyeemagh to Sans Souci”, input is requested based on the proposed changes without any evidence provided about the justification for, or consequences of the changes.   

Ethical engineering requires such evidence be used before making an informed recommendation. For instance, Engineers Australia, the peak body of the engineering profession, has a Code of Ethics, item 2.3 says:

 “Act on the basis of adequate knowledge “ 

In this case, “adequate knowledge” for the recommendation of adding capacity, in the form of an expanded clearway and changes to roads on the Grand Parade would involve the conduct of what is usually referred to as a “Traffic Study”. A “Traffic Study” collects data on existing conditions (motor vehicle flows, freight traffic, pedestrian flows, transit usage, parking, air quality, crash risks, network conditions, etc.) on the relevant network — the link(s) being considered, as well as those upstream and downstream, and those which might serve as alternatives.

 It then tests alternative interventions in the network and assesses them against appropriate performance indicators. These performance indicators include change in travel demand patterns (induced demand resulting from shorter travel times), traffic congestion, safety, pedestrian delay, transit walk times, air quality, and so on. This is often conducted using tools like microscopic traffic simulators and strategic transport models, among others, combined with engineering judgment and experience. 

If an intervention unambiguously improves all performance indicators, it is an easy recommendation. If an intervention improves some indicators, and not others, a recommendation may be made, but the advantages and disadvantages are presented and reported to policy makers. 

One hopes a high-quality traffic study took place, but the evidence thereof is missing.  What is presented to the public is a “hypothesis” that this is an “improvement”, something that should be tested, but for which there is to date no evidence. Sometimes interventions are experiments or trials because evidence needs to be gathered from the real world, and models can only do so much. Engineering practice would require labelling those trials as such, and they would have a definite start and end time, at which time an evaluation would be conducted, and a decision made.

However, in this case, the proposal is presented as a fait accompli, not a trial. The consequences of the proposed interventions are not available to the public, or I understand, elected officials.

Item 3.3 of the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics says:

“Make reasonable efforts to communicate honestly and effectively to all stakeholders, taking into account the reliance of others on engineering expertise “

Where is the evidence that was undertaken? The traffic study must be made public to allow for peer and expert review. Good public policy requires all information be made available to the public and policy makers, so that the trade-offs of alternatives can be openly discussed and weighed.

Item 4.2 of the Code of Ethics says:

 “Practise engineering to foster the health, safety and wellbeing of the community and the environment” 

In this case, that means the changes in air quality and CO2 emissions associated with the proposed changes need to be reported. Without a traffic study, we cannot know whether the proposed “improvement” worsens emissions because of the higher speeds and increased traffic flow that will be accommodated.

I encourage the Bayside Council to demand the Traffic Study for the proposed changes be made public and subject to peer review before any such intervention is approved. If no Traffic Study was conducted, the proposal should be rejected.

Western Distributor Road Network Improvements (from Anzac Bridge to the Sydney Harbour Bridge) Review of Environmental Factors

Rob Sharp

Secretary, Transport for NSW 20-44 Ennis Rd
Milsons Point NSW 2061

Cc Trudi Mares, Deputy Secretary Greater Sydney
Cc Camilla Drover, Deputy Secretary, Infrastructure and Place Cc Simon Hunter, Chief Transport Planner, TfNSW

Dear Rob Sharp,

This is the WalkSydney submission on the Western Distributor Road Network Improvements (from Anzac Bridge to the Sydney Harbour Bridge) Review of Environmental Factors (Sep-Oct 2022).

WalkSydney is the peak advocacy group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. WalkSydney’s vision is that “Walking will be convenient, accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk, ride and catch public transport to local shops, services and places. We are very concerned about the Western Distributor project and its impacts on walking, riding bikes and the streets of the Pyrmont peninsula. We want TfNSW to abandon this proposal and instead prioritise investment in Pyrmont/Ultimo consistent with the Place Strategy, ahead of investing in motorway related improvements.

Why is TfNSW proposing this scheme now?

  • The REF says the proposal is required because motorists using this route experience high congestion and long traffic queues, particularly during the morning peak.
  • WalkSydney Factcheck: Proposals to direct more traffic from the Anzac Bridge through Pyrmont have been made several times before (“The Bays Precinct Pyrmont Traffic Improvement Project”), and rejected for lack of strategic merit and unreasonable impacts.

Westconnex will open in less than 6 months. TfNSW says

“the benefits of Stage 3 are improving motorway access and connections to Western Sydney and key employment hubs across the city, moving traffic and heavy vehicles to the underground motorway, reducing traffic on local streets and creating opportunities for urban renewal.”

If Westconnex is already providing these benefits why do we need this proposal? Is TfNSW changing its assessment of the benefits of Westconnex? Will Westconnex fail and traffic and heavy vehicles not move to the underground motorway? Conversely, if these changes are required because WestConnex is now predicted to funnel more traffic into Pyrmont, do you consider it a good solution to make ‘two wrongs’ to address this?

What is the project justification? “Traffic queues and traffic growth”

  • REF says ‘bottlenecks’ at Allen / Harris Street and long delays in the AM peak. Traffic queue onto the Western Distributor impacting on traffic efficiency.
  • WalkSydney Factcheck: Vehicles counts in Pyrmont have been stable for over a decade. Improving the flow of traffic through Pyrmont by removing parking and reducing delays at intersections will induce more traffic through the peninsula. Removing the pedestrian crossing will make it harder for people to walk and ride in Pyrmont, entrenching the flow of traffic on Harris St reduces amenity and safety for the people who live in Pyrmont/Ultimo. The Government has invested billions in Westconnex to provide a bypass and access south of the CBD, continuing to provide an inner bypass on local streets makes no sense. The Westconnex project gets less than 10 lines of text in the 300 page REF despite being the most significant road investment project in NSW history!

TfNSW have invested in the new Western Sydney Metro with a new station to provide rapid and efficient access to jobs, homes and places in Pyrmont. Regional travel demand growth previously addressed by the Western Distributor will transition to a more efficient mass transport option in Pyrmont, and regional travel will have access to the WestConnex motorway. Making walking and cycling more unattractive in Pyrmont will undermine this investment in Pyrmont as a place, as well as Metro as a mode

The proposal makes it seem TfNSW is not serious about walking and cycling

  • The REF says walking in Pyrmont (p74 – 36.8% walk to work) has the highest walk mode share in the City of Sydney, if not Greater Sydney.
  • WalkSydney says: If so, this project is inconsistent with improving amenity for people walking and riding. Crossings must be restored. Footpaths must be widened and separated bike infrastructure must be provided before we build more motorway ramps.

By removing pedestrian crossings, this proposal pumps more traffic into one of the most densely populated areas in Australia. Removing buffers from fast moving traffic (parked cars), removing and widening pedestrian crossings, removing trees are direct impacts on people walking along the main pedestrian spine of the peninsula. Impacts on the main pedestrian entrance to Darling Harbour – Tumbalong Boulevard – are no less severe.

Pyrmont should be a model for achieving the strategic vision outlined in the Future Transport Strategy, not a ‘Back to the Future’ own-goal prioritising more cars.

Vision Zero is a cornerstone of TfNSW strategic investment, this project is about traffic efficiency not safety

  • The REF says there are over 100 crashes occurring eastbound on the Western Distributor.
  • WalkSydney Factcheck: An analysis of publicly available road safety data shows that between 2007and 2020 there has been one fatality, and on average 2.7 serious injury crashes per year. The total number of crashes during this 13 year period is less than 35. No analysis of the potential worsening of road safety along Harris Street has been undertaken – an AusRap assessment comparison of Harris Street and the Western Distributor would indicate, there is a greater risk of future fatalities on Harris St as a result of the works.

While stating there are crashes in the REF, no analysis of how these will be mitigated is provided, and the scheme is based on flawed or inaccurate data and calls in question TfNSW commitment to Vision Zero when it prioritised an investment on a small section of a motorway above other road safety interventions such as 40km/hr across Sydney. Between 2007 – 2020 more than 30 people were killed crossing streets in the CBD. There are five times as many people walking in the City as driving cars on motorways, why aren’t we investing a similar amount to save lives of people walking? TfNSW’s own economic investment guide requires road safety investment in the most important places.

The project is not compatible with a “place-based approach” per the Pyrmont Place Strategy

  • The REF says the project objectives “align with the future needs of the Pyrmont area as it aims to improve safety on the Western Distributor at the Darling Harbour weave area through constructing a new weave ramp to avoid the traffic merging issue and improve Western Distributor off ramp traffic efficiency. Improvements at the Pyrmont Bridge Road and Allen Street intersections would also support traffic efficiencies at these locations.”
  • WalkSydney Factcheck: The project is not aligned to the Pyrmont Place Strategy. The proposal’s impact, particularly on Harris St, contradicts the place analysis and strategic vision for Pyrmont. The Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy (PPPS, DPE, 2020) supports more walking and cycling, and making Harris St more multi-modal and pedestrian friendly.

Failure to align with Government endorsed strategic plans, the place vision and the local transport context is a serious flaw in the development of the proposal. The NSW Community rely on transparent and robust planning processes to guide land use changes that should then shape transport investment. The proposal has adopted a traffic solution to land use change and population growth, even though there is a place strategy that proposed a completely different approach. This type of opaque decision making process undermines the Community’s trust in Government to make good decisions.The PPPS transport strategy includes outcome E – reallocate road space away from private car – and to pedestrians. It discusses the role of Harris St, a key activity street, classified as a local street (M&P Framework) with high walk/cycle mode share. The proposal ignores this outcome and proposes removal of a pedestrian crossing and buffer to pedestrian space, as well as inhibiting future footpath widening and dedicated bus and cycle lanes.

Why should local Communities trust the Government to make decisions on their behalf if these commitments can be ignored by highway and traffic engineers without regard for local places and transparent processes?In particular, the proposal contradicts or hinders the following elements of the PPPS:

  • Direction 3: Centres for residents, workers and visitors (also Direction 6, 7) “Place Strategy response:
    • Harris Street rejuvenation through a new street-based transport route creating new hubs of activity at each stop, improving the safety and enjoyment of this important historic street.”
  • Direction 7 / Place Strategy response:
    • Investigation of a new street-based public transport link (such as bus or other mode) along Harris Street providing connectivity along the Innovation Corridor from Central to the Bays and increased frequency of the Inner West Light Rail.”
  • Structure Plan (Section 08):
    • “Harris Street Upgrades to public transport, footpaths and shopfronts link existing clusters of businesses and homes along the peninsula’s historic main street. This is a diverse, affordable, eclectic place of enterprise and economy – linking the peninsula to the broader Innovation Corridor.
  • At a Glance p56 “Heavy vehicle traffic along Harris Street hinders the pedestrian or cyclist experience.
  • Ultimo Place Priorities:
    a. Rejuvenate Harris Street as the historic urban spine of the Peninsula:a. consider Streets as Shared Spaces.
    b. create an intermediate public transport corridor along the Innovation Corridor from the Bays Precinct to Tech Central and Australian Technology Park.
    c. 
    investigate the reduction in traffic lanes and conversion to allow for a contra-flow bus lane between Thomas Street and Regent Street.
    d. 
    widen footpaths, calming traffic, rationalising bus stops and providing new pedestrian crossings.
    e. create active transport connections to Harris Street from surrounding areas.
    f. improve the streetscape and activation, enhancing heritage buildings and increasing tree cover.
    g. install heritage interpretive elements
    h. create new centres of activity as major sites are developed, with new connections and open spaces and busy street frontages to 
    transform Harris Street into a pleasant pedestrian environment.

We are in a climate emergency – loss of tree canopy is not acceptable

  • The REF says the proposal will result in the removal of 71 trees.
  • WalkSydney says – The loss of trees due to the construction and associated compounds for works is not acceptable.

The highly urbanised peninsula has relatively low canopy cover and any further loss stands to worsen urban heat and reduce walkability. The project recognises that the significant trees in Zone K (Tumbalong Boulevard, Darling Harbour) are to be lost. No design options appear to have been done to reduce this impact.

Zone G – the intersection of Allen St and Harris Street – stands to lose 10 fully-mature street trees on the north and western sides of the intersection (Appendix C, p43). These shade the western-side pedestrian crossings during lunch and from hot afternoon sun in an area of active frontage – the preferred side of the street for locals and providing the greatest amenity – local fresh food and food retail. There is no mitigation proposed for this intersection, and this will significantly worsen walkability in this area (as will wider crossings on these junction arms).

The current flooding disaster across Victoria, northerns and western NSW highlights how important trees are to reducing the impacts of CO2 emissions. It is not acceptable to cut down trees for cars to park, construction compounds and projects that enable greater volumes and faster car travel.

The consultation is inadequate

  • The REF says TfNSW will consider feedback about construction impacts.
  • WalkSydney says – The community were blindsided by this proposal, despite numerous strategicplanning processes occuring in Pyrmont over the past five years this project has never been mentioned. Consultation is being run over school holidays limiting the number of people able to participate! TfNSW already has a poor reputation for listening to community concerns. In this instance, the project appears to have gone to significant lengths to minimise feedback and limit community input. Was the Government deceiving local residents and stakeholders when it released its plan for the area?

The online REF feedback mechanism is inadequate. The online form and a single paragraph box, without proper mechanism for detailed comments about the proposal is flawed. The feedback form will restrict and inhibit objections. We understand that limited agency consultation was undertaken prior to public exhibition – and limited to only defined components of the project such as the ANZAC sculptures.

While general public consultation was inadequate, were commercial interests privately consulted separately? We insist that all communications with commercial interests, including toll road operators, about this project be made public.

It is ironic that the Executive Summary mentions “consultation fatigue” – it is unclear why this project would be up for consultation when previous iterations of the same project have already been rejected.

The proposal does not represent value for money

  • The REF does not disclose the cost of the project, although 1000 workers will be employed for 2 years. The overall benefits of spending hundreds of millions of dollars is not quantified.
  • WalkSydney says: The cost of the project can be estimated in the hundred of millions based on the number of workers and the length of construction. The efforts of these works would be better aimed towards projects that improve our citiesThe Government should quantify how many lives will be saved and how much time saved for motorists ( Seconds ! ). Is any of the time saved “productive”? How much pedestrian time and how many pedestrian lives will be lost by the additional inconvenience and the reduction in crossing points? What health costs will be incurred by making physical activity dangerous and unpleasant for locals and people travelling by public transport? What increase in vehicle emissions are associated with this project? Will these be paid for with expensive offsets?

In contrast if this money was spent on place enhancements as described in the Pyrmont Place Strategy or the Tech Central Transport Plan, the livability, economic productivity and safety of all transport users, including people walking, would be improved. For example: the footpath along Bridge Road is less than 2m wide in some sections, and does not provide comfortable and safe space for people walking, and will significantly worsen with the opening of Metro, Fish markets, and the Blackwattle Bay development.

Pyrmont Bridge, a significant transport heritage item, remains in very poor condition, despite its recognised strategic merit in providing local connectivity to the Bays West. Without reallocation of road space from vehicles to people, walking to the Pyrmont Metro will be more difficult, encouraging more vehicle

A place-based approach to transport funding should have identified these options in the Strategic Business case phase – Gate 1 as preferable to the proposal.

TfNSW must undertake a transparent and thorough investigation to solve Pyrmonts growing transport demands

WalkSydney recommends that the project does not proceed. Any investment in Pyrmont/Ultimo should focus on improvements consistent with the Place Strategy, and the current Pyrmont Transport Plan over any other motorway related improvements.

Thank you for taking the time to read our feedback.

Yours sincerely,
Lena Huda


President, WalkSydney

Objection to the removal of automated pedestrian crossings

 

25th October 2022

WalkSydney Incorporated

www.walksydney.org

Level 4, 68 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills NSW 2010

Rob Stokes
Minister for Cities Infrastructure and Active Transport 52 Martin Place
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Cc Rob Sharp, Secretary, Transport for NSW
Cc Trudi Mares, Deputy Secretary Greater Sydney
Cc Camilla Drover, Deputy Secretary, Infrastructure and Place Cc Simon Hunter, Chief Transport Planner, TfNSW

Dear Minister,

We are writing to object to the removal of automated pedestrian crossings in NSW. TfNSW have not consulted the community, stakeholders or local government prior to this change, and are not providing any reasons to justify their actions. It appears to be a creeping issue, with automated signals removed from health precincts in May, but ‘retained for the CBD 24/7’ as of 9 October, only to be rolled back to ‘daytime hours’ 10 days later. Why is the community not being consulted over these proposals? TfNSW removal of pedestrian crossing automation in the CBD, high streets, and health precincts is unacceptable and a throwback to mid-twentieth century-era road engineering.

WalkSydney is the peak advocacy group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. WalkSydney’s vision is that “ Walking will be convenient, accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone.” Our members come from a wide cross-section of the community advocating for government to do more to support walking.

We do not support removal of automated crossings particularly from metropolitan centres and high streets where people can become frustrated when they are delayed from crossing resulting in an increased risk of pedestrian injury or fatality.

The NSW Government prioritises walking in its strategic investment framework, Future Transport released in September 2022 says:

“15-minute neighbourhoods

Our vision for 15-minute neighbourhoods will allow communities to be strong, vibrant and active. We will do this by prioritising place making, walking, cycling and micromobility to support 15-minute access to everyday destinations and local transport networks.”

Every pedestrian who stops for an automobile, loses access to valuable destinations, contracting the number of opportunities available to them in a 15-minute walk. For every traffic signal missed fewer people are within walking distance of jobs, bus stops, and train stations. Signals requiring actuation to change increase the likelihood of missing the “walk” signal, and having to wait a full cycle.

ABC news report that the removal of automated pedestrian covers is to reduce delays to motorists. On shopping streets and city centres, there are many, many more people walking than driving cars, why are delays to people walking being prioritised over delays to people in cars? TfNSW road space reallocation policies and procedures have no value if traffic operations staff in the Greater Sydney division of TfNSW continue to prioritise people driving cars over people walking.

It is worth noting that in the UK where temporary schemes for active transport installed during pandemic began to be removed, the relevant state minister stepped in to stop that happening before proper evaluation could be made, since removing infrastructure is a waste of public funds.

Walk Sydney request :

  1. That the removal of these automated pedestrian crossings is immediately halted andreversed.
  2. A meeting with us, you and TfNSW staff, to discuss how we can undo removal or pedestriancrossing automation, and align road operations with TfNSW policy and strategy.
  3. TfNSW justify removal of crossing priority in centres, high streets, and health precincts, andconduct Community and Stakeholder engagement to understand and act on feedback.
  4. The government put into legislation the road user hierarchy prioritisation to require road trafficengineers in TfNSW consider the needs of all road users, specifically people walking, riding or catching public transport above the needs of private car drivers, to avoid this happening again.

Yours sincerely,

Lena Huda
President, WalkSydney

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Don’t penalise non-drivers

In a number of situations in life it’s necessary to provide photo identification. The most common way for people to do this in NSW is with a Driver Licence.

What do people who don’t drive do? I’m one of them. Allow me to explain.

We have to provide a Photo Card which costs $57 for five years. The Service NSW website states:

“A NSW Photo Card may be used as photo identification if you don’t have a NSW Driver Licence. It has the same application process as the driver licence, and some of the same security features.

The Photo Card may be accepted as identification in most places a driver licence is recognised, however cannot be used as a form of identification for some online applications.”

Breaking this down, we see that a Driver Licence confers on the holder two benefits: one is the legal ability to drive, the other is the ability to be identified.

You would think that if you just want the identification part, that the cost should be lower. Not quite.

The cheapest form of licence available is the Learner Licence, which costs $26 for five years. There is an effective penalty of $31 for not being a driver.

One possible counter to this argument is that to get a Learner Licence, one also has to take a Driver Knowledge Test, which costs $49. But a non-driver does not require this component and therefore shouldn’t be counted in any fair comparison.

I wrote to the Premier about the matter two years ago and was referred to Victor Dominello, Minister for Customer Service. His office ignored the argument and made no changes to the fees.

It’s also worth noting that Driver Licences attract a 50% discount under the “Fair Go for Safe Drivers” scheme. This amounts to $97 over a five year license period.

Obviously not driving at all is at least as safe as ‘safe driving’, so if we are talking about a ‘fair go’, shouldn’t I get a $97 credit towards my Photo Card?

Being generous, I’ll accept a Photo Card for free and let the NSW government keep the $40 difference. This would help reduce discrimination against non-drivers and also be fairer for people struggling on low incomes who can’t afford $57.

Giving way to pedestrians: in theory, at least

One recurring issue faced by pedestrians is the lack of ‘giving way’ by vehicles turning left or right, to pedestrians crossing the street. There seems to be confusion among road users – both pedestrians and drivers – as to who has right of way. For others, to be sure, it is blatantly disregard by some drivers for the rights of pedestrian rights, the ‘might is right’ approach if you like. The lack of adherence to this rule is a risk to pedestrian safety – especially for those who are less mobile. 

Such is the non-adherence to this rule that this requirement is number two in the NRMA’s Top 10 most misunderstood road rules.

As a driver who is aware of this rule, I often see pedestrians wave me forward as I approach to turn, even though I’ve already slowed in my approach and have deliberated indicated with my hand to cross first. Conceivably, they may not be aware that they have the right of way, or it may be that they simply do not trust drivers – given the many occasions in which vehicles ignore this rule. 

To address this, leading urbanists have proposed reconceptualising the relationship between the footpath and the roadway. Specifically, as University of Sydney Professor David Levinson has stated

“We should think of these intersections as spaces where vehicles cross an implicit continuous footpath, rather than as places where people cross a vehicular lane.”

This change in perspective would require a significant education campaign to address the current outlook that it is pedestrians who are seen to be crossing the path of vehicles on the roadway. The Centre for Road Safety in Transport for NSW may be the logical/necessary lead organisation to coordinate this. It is worth noting, though, that of the 10 Tips and Advice to reduce pedestrian deaths and serious injuries, only one addresses drivers’ responsibilities – This placing the bulk of the onus on non-drivers for safety seems topsy-turvy, given that it is the driver’s who controls the ‘weapon’, which kills over 1100 people a year in Australia (and 132 pedestrians) according to BITRE

An alliance of civil society organisations to inform the design and roll-out of such an education campaign would be particularly powerful. Certain groups in society, such as older people, people with disability, parents of young children, may be less able or comfortable to assert their rights as pedestrians. Their experiences and others similarly affected should inform any education campaign. 

Aside from any high-profile campaign, there is a strong argument for enforcement, following an initial period of public education. Without a ‘stick, it seems unlikely that there will be any significant behavioural shifts in favour of pedestrian safety. 

Raising this issue with the office of Minister Stokes – who is currently minister for Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, and Active Transport at NSW Government – may be one way to highlight this issue and agitate for education and appropriate enforcement.

The Four Horsemen of the Carpocalypse

Due to my upbringing, my understanding of the prophesies of Revelations may be just slightly off from standard interpretations, but it’s pretty clear to me that the Four Horsemen of the Carpocalypse are among us today, convincing us to destroy ourselves. The fact that they are riding horses not driving cars is further evidence, as it was the horse which was replaced by the car, and this is, among other things, a tale of vengeance.

The White Horse: Pollution

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

— Revelation 6:1–2 New American Standard Bible(NASB)

While the pollution per car for “criteria” pollutants has been decreasing for decades, the number of cars globally has been soaring, and cumulative CO2 emissions remaining in the atmosphere continue to rise, boiling us in our own pot.

Pollution is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place. We don’t.

The Red Horse: Congestion

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from Earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

— Revelation 6:3–4 NASB

Cars waste our time, not only through death and injury due to crashes and air pollution, and the time required to earn enough money to pay the cost or ownership and maintenance, but also the cost of delay because so many people are competing inefficiently for scarce road space. Congestion induces anger, which induces road rage.

Congestion is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Black Horse: Cost

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”

— Revelation 6:5–6 NASB

Infrastructure costs too much (and automobility too little), both to the individual, and to society as a whole. With rising fuel prices, this is getting worse. It sucks away resources needed to pay for other things, like food, whose costs are in large part due to transport

The cost of transport is a problem we could collectively solve, at least in part – e.g “overheated major project pipeline” means government is competing with itself for scarce resources. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Pale Horse: Death and Injury

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a pale horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

— Revelation 6:7–8 NASB

Cars are the wild beasts of the earth. Cars kill 1.35 million people globally per year. There are something like 1.42 billion cars. (Really, no one knows exactly). Doing some rough maths, globally each car on the road is responsible for about 1/1000 of a death per year, right up there with drugs and gun violence. (Leaving aside injuries, property damage, and the like). Over a 20 year vehicle lifespan, this would be a 1 in 50 chance that the car you are in will end in someone’s death. Seems too high.

The excessive number of road crashes is a problem we could collectively solve. But because it is a collective action problem, and we don’t have the right institutions in place, we don’t.

The Revelation is not that cars will be destroyed, but that we will destroy ourselves with cars, because we fail to rein them in.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Walking Sightless – an Experience

Instagram Post about Poppi the Guide Dog. Text Below:

This a repost from Instagram with permission
poppitheguidedog

954 likes
poppitheguidedog


Warning this post is triggering and involves the near death or injury of Poppi and myself.
I have been left feeling shaken, helpless and a like Poppi and I don’t matter. Poppi was guiding me through the main street in our home city of Parramatta. We were on the foot path (or so we thought) when suddenly I heard heavy breaking and discovered Poppi and I were in the middle of the road. Poppi tried to get me off the road and we ended up in another road. Before this, we had also crossed a busy street with NO idea.


How did this happen? Our state has introduced a new design of major cities with light rails running through them. They have created a “boulevard” look that makes everything from the tram lines, roads and surrounds look like one giant foot path.


There is no difference between the road and foot path from looks, levels, materials. NOTHING.
Why did they do this? It looks pretty and gives a sense pedestrians can walk for miles.
Poppi who is a great guide dog no longer has any clue where the footpath ends and a road begins and nor do I.


The state designers say this is ok beause they have put down dots that are meant to tell me there is a hazzard. Now I have to find the dots, then guess what they mean. To be honest I’m not very good at ths game. I also have a wide walking gait and can easily walk straight over them. I can also barely feel them and well…. Suprise but I CAN’T SEE THEM.
I feel so sad that I literally can not go into my main city independantly. Worse still, they love this design and don’t want to change so I won’t be able to go to many major cities anymore. Sydney CBD included.


I’ve never felt more disabled.


This is a picture of Poppi looking really sad and confused as industry professionals (blindness, council and project leads) try to test if Poppi and I can recognise the new dots to tell us there is a road. We failed. (Or perhaps, the designers failed.)

GuideDog #GuidedogsAustralia #Dog #Labrador #Parramatta #ParramattaLlghtRail #Disability #Death #Cruelty #TransportNSW #PawGust2022

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GreenWay from Iron Cove to the Cooks River

Greenway-Plan-540px.jpg

WalkSydney Members Event:

GreenWay from Iron Cove to the Cooks River

Presentation by the Inner West Council GreenWay project manager.  Mr Hawken will speak about the completion of the GreenWay from Iron Cove to the Cooks River largely alongside the Light Rail. This is a fully funded project which is anticipated to be complete in 2024.

Venue: Upstairs at Little B.I.G. House – 16 Flour Mill Way, Summer Hill.  It is located 1 minute from the Lewisham West Light Rail stop on the western side. https://littlebigfoundation.org/

Date and time: Saturday 23 July 2022: from 2pm – 3pm

Refreshments: If you care to walk to Arlington Light Rail we could have afternoon tea at Cafe Calibre, (next to Arlington Light Rail)

Bookings essential https://www.trybooking.com/CAYHJ

Better Transport for Sydney

We asked our Twitter readership what they would do to make transport in Sydney better. Below we synthesise and organise their responses below. Note, no one said “build more motorways”. The general sentiment was to prioritise those making shorter trips, prioritise safety, and prioritise people throughput above all else. We don’t endorse all of these of course (but we don’t not endorse them either).

Pedestrian Infrastructure

  • Every street with a speed limit above 30 km/h to have footpaths.
  • Crossings on all arms of all intersections.
  • Awnings on all buildings (And on pedestrian/cycle bridges ).
  • Fix Traffic Signals:
    • Halve pedestrian wait times at traffic lights;
    • Make the pedestrian phase automatic on every phase of traffic lights;
    • Are always set to walk by default, and only change to don’t walk when a car approaches.
  • Pedestrianise around schools:
    • No school car drop-off 100m radius from the school;
    • Build raised continuous footpaths (and wombat crossings) within walking radius of schools at every intersection, making it obvious pedestrians and mobility riders have right of way. 
  • No cut corners and lessen the distance for pedestrians to cross side streets.
  • Plan walking routes for pedestrian desire lines.
  • More elevators.
  • Pedestrianise major shopping streets
    • Start with King St / Enmore Rd in Newtown. Even if just for a section. It’s Sydney’s best High Street but it’s treated like a car sewer. 
  • Test Spanish style mega blocks without car access. Inner city suburbs like parts of Surry Hills & Manly are perfect.
  • Open more public markets, street markets, open streets, etc. (and develop a permanent high-quality fruit market like the QVM in Melbourne).

Bike Infrastructure

  • Build a complete, continuous, connected network of separated and protected bike lanes. Sydney is unique in leaving cyclists to fend for themselves, (among car traffic) when a lane just vanishes, like it does ahead of many intersections and roundabouts.
    • Protected bike lanes to all schools and stations in a 3km radius;
    • Protected bike lanes to all railway and metro stations and bus interchanges and ferry wharves;
    • Find the road space by removal of parking spots on roads;
    • Provide secure, undercover bike & scooter storage at major terminals.
  • Priority at intersections/ crossings for active and public transport. Private vehicles should be the lowest in the hierarchy of movement.

Public Transport Infrastructure

TRAMS

  • Bring back the trams and make them charming so people fall in love with them:
    • Start with Broadway/Parramatta Road and a route on the east side of the Sydney CBD.

Buses

  • Ensure high frequencies on all routes.
  • Open more  bus lanes:
    • Keep bus lanes open for 18-24h, not just in the peak.
  • Keep working to improve bus routes/getting rid of the old ‘replace the tram’ lines.
  • Roll out shelter improvements/PIDs/e-ink displays. (E-Ink displays at every bus stop;):
    • When there is a rail disruption, to make use of all the PIDs to show alternative transport routes available from the station to get to or near your destination in real time ie bus, light rail, Uber/taxi stops.
  • Construct proper bus interchanges. 
  • Make feeder buses to train stations in outer suburbs free (they raise no revenue anyway).
  • Plan or future proof adequate transport networks for new developments.
  • Perform similar bus network upgrades in all regions of Sydney similar to those conducted in the Northern Beaches & Eastern Suburbs regions.
  • Double the frequency of train station feeder buses in the suburbs (especially along the metro). Levy/tax on people who register a vehicle to a Sydney address that is within (say) 400m of the entrance to a station unless they prove their work requires it.

Trains

  • Upgrade all Tangara trains to modern standards of passenger information.
  • Add two more tracks to the corridor between Macarthur to Revesby for fast trains.
  • Electrify the Southern Highlands Line and Canberra Line.
  • Continue building more Sydney Metro and Sydney Trains lines.
  • Ensure alternatives are provided swiftly when there is disruption to service.
  • Integrate multi-modal pricing of transit (i.e. purely mobility-based, blind to mode used, trip breakages and chaining).

Ferry

  • Support the current trial of a ferry to Glebe (Blackwattle bay) with proper signage, updating all maps and info and make it accessible with Opal card.
  • Treat ferry like a serious mode, with high quality timed transfers, and integrated ferry/wharf designs to speed boarding and alighting (See Vancouver SeaBus).

Street Infrastructure 

  • Set a 30 km/h urban default speed. 
  • Perform road diets and streetscape upgrades (Dutch style) whenever a road is repaved- bike lanes, landscaping, trees everywhere, narrow road lane seating etc.
  • Fix parking:
    • Remove on-street parking for narrow major transport corridors in most residential areas;
    • Price street parking everywhere else;
    • End the expectation of free on-street parking from residents and businesses. This could allow streets like Military Road to have all day bus lanes and Rangers Road to have fully separated cycle ways.
  • Remove slip lanes from intersections.
  • Implement road pricing, weight-distance taxes for trucks, and vehicle efficiency standards. 
  • Enforce noise standards for cars, trucks, and especially motorcycles.
  • Cap motorways.
  • Implement a car-free CBD in all the major business districts.

We would love to see most of this, and encourage our elected officials to adopt this as part of their transport agenda.

Walking and cycling should lead mobility post-social distancing

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has shown us that we need to look differently at the way we go about our day-to-day lives and offers a great opportunity to rethink our mobility for more livable and safer cities.

Many cities around the globe are turning to walking and the trusty bicycle to help them navigate the unprecedented challenge to global health. Cases such as the “Innovative Streets for People” in Auckland in NZ are a brilliant example about how simple yet effective measures can be implemented to tackle our invisible and pervasive enemy, whilst paving the road for a people-friendly spaces and safer streets that increase the quality of lives once this after the pandemic vanishes.

These temporary implementation of these urban mobility strategies have one thing in common – using the Tactical Urbanism approach for testing. Tactical urbanism is reversible, lowering risks. Implementation costs are often minimal. Demonstration helps drive acceptance.

Reclaiming city streets for more space (and priority) to people are crucial to this new urban agenda.

The list of reclamations of streets for pedestrians and cycling involves more and more cities as we go through this pandemic, showing that an alternative mobility is not only a viable option, but probably one of our best planning tool for mobility.

What about Sydney?

The Harbour City faces the same challenges as other cities, however no bold actions have been taken so far in consideration to how we move throughout the city.

  • Centennial Park closed its doors to cars during the four-day Easter Weekend, and remained open only to pedestrian and cyclists [link].
  • Pedestrian crossing managed by push buttons, also known as “beg buttons”, have been made automatic in Sydney CBD so that people avoid touching unnecessary surfaces. We at WalkSydney had a role in promoting this change and we support this action being extended to Greater Sydney and New South Wales. The extension of the automated pedestrian crossing to be expanded to key health precincts in Greater Sydney is a good signal things are going in the right direction [link][link]. Intersections around Hospitals in Wollongong are also being made automatic [link]. Beside Covid-19, these buttons have long been criticized as their purpose is less to keep people safe than to reinforce the dominance of cars so that car traffic signals can minimize the car travel “delays” associated with people who need to cross a street on foot.

These Covid-19 mitigation measures are certainly a good starting point to positively impact the way we move in Sydney, but chances are that they are planned to accommodate the temporary rather than to fit into a long term plan. This approach poses the risk of going back to normal once the pandemng is over and experience a surge in the use of private car to observe social distancing and feel secure; Cars will once again clog up roads, the vehicle Level of Service decreases and we will plan for road widening instead of focusing on the opportunity to rethink the way we move for a more sustainable and safer city for the better of Sydneysiders.

Public Transport agencies are experiencing a great loss of revenues (mostly coming from selling tickets) and the threat of a new surge in the use of private vehicles seems has been realised.

So what’s the scenario for Sydney?

There is no receipe for this but common sense. A large proportion of trips in Sydney, approximately 76% of all domestic trips, do not exceed 10 kilometers in distance and more than a third of these trips are made by people aged 20 to 39 years (Household Travel Survey, 2016). A subset of this proportion are younger generations that do not own a private vehicle and in principle seem not interested to buy a car anytime soon.

More than ever, planning for pedestrians and cycling should be a top priority in the urban agenda. Tactical urbanism can be used to make quick progress by testing and piloting projects to help demonstrate their value to the community.

WalkSydney Gets Results: Whose turn? The strange case of Golden Grove Street and Darlington Road — Resolved

In March 2020 we wrote “Whose turn? The strange case of Golden Grove Street and Darlington Road“. (You can see details there)

We are pleased to report that the intersection, which connects the Darlington Campus of the University of Sydney with Newtown, has been improved for pedestrians. There is now a raised pedestrian crossing (a wombat), and the right-of-way for cars has also been clarified (it is structured as a single continuous street, rather than a turn onto a new street. Good work, City of Sydney

Golden Grove 2020
Before: Golden Grove and Darlington Road 2020
After: Golden Grove Street and Darlington Road 2022

International Energy Agency calls for more walking, and car-free Sundays

The conflict in the Ukraine has led to huge price spikes for oil, devastating many people across the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a ten-point plan for advanced economies to “lower oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months – equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China”. These changes would make our neighbourhoods more safe and peaceful, save money, and make our air cleaner. (Advanced economies includes OECD countries + Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania.)

This could have an impact because the IEA is very influential amongst governments and companies, to whom it has provided analysis and policy guidance since it was formed following the oil crisis of 1973.

If the IEA plan were taken up in all advanced economies, it would mean a 6% fall in oil consumption in four months. For context, Covid-19 led to a drop of 16% worldwide in Q2 2020 versus 2019 levels, but the planned savings should have fewer negative impacts.

Improving conditions for walking is an important factor – the IEA advocate for car-free Sundays, and for micromobility, walking, and cycling to be incentivised.

IEA 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use

The IEA report notes: “Reducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure. Sustained reductions are desirable in order not only to improve energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution.”

Australia’s liquid fuel problems

After a series of refinery closures, Australia now imports 90% of our petrol and diesel. In the event of an emergency, the Federal Government reported in December 2021 that we have 67 days of reserve available onshore, up from 18 days of petrol in 2019. The Federal Energy Minister is rumoured to be suppressing a report on Australia’s liquid fuel insecurity – it was finished in 2019 but has still not been made public.

Currently Australia has terrible fuel standards (until 2024, our petrol is allowed to have much higher sulphur and aromatics than other countries), and no formal vehicle fuel efficiency standards (the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has a voluntary target that is a decade behind Europe). Had fuel standards been introduced in 2016, in 2019 Australians would have saved a combined A$1 billion.

In a report commissioned by the Australian Electric Vehicle Council, Ernst and Young calculated that when petrol vehicle is replaced by an electric vehicle, our government and society benefit by more than $8,000, and when a diesel vehicle is replaced, the benefit is more than $11,000. (Electric vehicles do, however, release particulate matter due to their tyres and brakes disintegrating which are bad for our health, and have all the other issues of motor vehicles i.e. spatially inefficient, parking, resource intensive, etc.)

The NSW Government is aiming to electrify all 8000+ buses by 2030.

The IEA points and their calculated impact:

  1. Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h 

    Impact*: Saves around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks
  2. Work from home up to three days a week where possible 

    Impact: One day a week saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
  3. Car-free Sundays in cities 

    Impact
    : Every Sunday saves around 380 kb/d; one Sunday a month saves 95 kb/d
  4. Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micromobility, walking and cycling 

    Impact: Saves around 330 kb/d
  5. Alternate private car access to roads in large cities 

    Impact: Saves around 210 kb/d
  6. Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use 

    Impact: Saves around 470 kb/d
  7. Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods 

    Impact: Saves around 320 kb/d
  8. Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible 

    Impact: Saves around 40 kb/d
  9. Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist 

    Impact: Saves around 260 kb/d
  10. Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles 

    Impact: Saves around 100 kb/d

Note: Impacts are short term and reflect implementation in advanced economies where feasible and culturally acceptable; kb/d = thousand barrels of oil a day.

Pedestrian fatality in Ashfield

The news that a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver in a vehicle while on a zebra crossing on Frederick St in Ashfield on March 13 is terrible. We would like to extend their sympathies to the family and friends of the victim, and also to the driver. This is a horrible burden to live with. 

Humans make mistakes – it is up to our Governments and Transport for NSW to make the system safe.

There are five schools within a kilometre of Frederick St, many daycares and preschools, and the Ashfield Aquatic Centre. There are several playgrounds, two sports fields, and one off-leash dog park. Our community, includings kids and the elderly, should be able to enjoy getting where they need to go safely – with good footpaths and bike paths, plenty of crossings, and calm streets.

Beautiful trees have recently been planted along the footpath, which is far more attractive, but unfortunately limits space for people walking and for those on bikes still further. There is a plan for an off-street walk and bike path on a local canal, but this is in the early planning stages and likely years away from being finished. This path will also require safe walking and cycling links that run across Frederick St. 

WalkSydney, Safe Streets to School, and the Friends of Iron Cove Creek are calling on the NSW Government, Transport for NSW and the Inner West Council, to improve the safety of our streets now by making speed limits safe and providing more off-road walking and bike paths. 

  • Safer speeds on Frederick St.
  • Pedestrians crossing the road at this intersection should be made safer with appropriate upgrades.
  • All similar roads in the Inner West should also be made safer.
  • Develop more off-road walking and bike paths in the LGA, such as the Iron Cove Creek path.
  • Transport for NSW to expedite the installation of safe 30 km/h limits for local streets in the Inner West. 

Frederick St has two zebra crossings, and four traffic lights. 60 km/h speeds are not appropriate. There are options for design changes and speed limit changes that would make this street safer for everyone. 

The roll out of safer speed limits for local roads (currently 50 km/h) by Transport for NSW within the Inner West Council LGA was agreed upon more than a year ago, but this has been delayed. International examples show that 30 km/h local streets are safe for all residents to walk and ride bikes, and to unlock the benefits of healthy streets.

Many institutions support these speed limits, for example the Heart Foundation, which calls for “for 30 km/h in residential areas and 40 km/h on busy roads where there is high pedestrian and cyclist activity”, and the Grattan Institute, which suggests that safer speed limits in shared environments be implemented, and safe, separated bike lanes be built on roads with unsafe limits.

The Haberfield Public School P&C Association met with Safe Streets to School this month, and has been very active in promoting road safety for all pedestrians for many years.

Either elevated wombats or a set of traffic signals may be appropriate at this intersection. A community petition has been created asking for traffic lights. 

Image shows missing barrier along pavement under the railway underpass on Frederick St, taken 3/3/21.
Image shows missing barrier along pavement under the railway underpass on Frederick St, taken 3/3/21.

Friends of Iron Cove Creek have been running a community survey on the project to install a safe, off-road pathway on an existing canal, and have found that people living in the area overwhelmingly want safe places to walk and ride bikes, away from cars. Residents want children to be able to safely walk and ride bikes to school, and to be able to get to the Bay Run, Aquatic Centre, shops, and the city via bike instead of always having to use a car. 

The Inner West Council are looking for feedback now on their new Cycling Strategy, due April 11.

Peter Norton: Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving

On March 12, 2022, (March 11, 2022 where Peter was speaking) Peter Norton talked to WalkSydney, EcoTransit, and Friends of Erskineville

A recording of the talk is here:

https://www.facebook.com/walksydney/videos/652985232452991

Bio: Peter Norton is associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, where he teaches history of technology, social dimensions of engineering, research, and professional ethics. He is the author of the excellent Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City (MIT Press), which among other things examines the history of jaywalking and motordom, and of the newly released Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving (Island Press, 2021).

A grand bargain

We know that lowering vehicle speeds on residential streets increases safety, reduces traffic, and that low traffic neighbourhoods encourage more people to walk and bike.

We know that raising vehicles speeds on motorways will attract drivers from local roads to motorways, may encourage more travel by motorway (and maybe overall), but will increase safety risk on motorways (but arguably might reduce risk overall, as drivers divert from less safe roads to safe roads).

Doing both could be a politically powerful bargain, improving our urban environment. But how does this net out? Will the safety improvements on local streets from fewer vehicles and lower speeds outweigh the increased risk on motorways?

Because we don’t know how this nets out, and the risks of being wrong are fatal, I propose that we study this. 

  • Hypothesis: Raising speed limits on motorways and lowering speed limits on local roads in urban areas reduces traffic deaths per capita.

How do we test this?

We can simulate this in silica, but that only goes so far. We don’t really know the demand response to complex changes in travel speed limits (how much does speed actually change when the speed limit changes depends on the design of the road), and models are not particularly accurate. In the end, we will need to do trials, find a motorway network (or multiple networks) and set of local roads where the change can be implemented, along with a control case where it is not, and compare.

The evaluation should assess traffic safety, mode shares, and environmental impacts, along with speeds and speed limit compliance.

The answer could make it politically expedient to lower urban speed limits, and shift car crash risk from pedestrians and bicyclists to motorists. I look forward to seeing the answer.