Sydney Harbour Bridge Active Transport Accessibility

Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge has separate walking and cycling pathways, separated from motor vehicles and trains. This is a vital connection between North Sydney and Sydney CBD, across our beautiful harbour.

After many years of advocacy, two lifts were opened in late 2018 connecting the existing pedestrian path across the bridge.

However, our friends using the cycling pathway on the other side, are still struggling with accessibility issues up and down the 55 stairs. Design proposals have gone back and forth for years without proceeding to construction plans. With over 2000 people cycling this route every day, this is a major accessibility issue, obstructing those with mobility requirements from accessing work, events and other activities via active transport. We have heard awful instances of wheelchair marathon athletes having to navigate physically down the stairs whilst their bicycle escorts carry their wheelchair.

Transport for NSW is proposing 2 ramp options, a linear and a double loop cycleway connection as part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Cycleway Access Program to increase active transport participation.

Transport for NSW has been investigating many design options, shortlisting the linear and double loop.

WalkSydney’s thoughts on the proposal are:

1. We are generally supportive of the moves to upgrade the cycling accessibility and amenity of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and support moves to do this with urgency, preferring an immediate workable solution over a perfected longer-term vision. 

2. WalkSydney’s general rule is that separation of different speeds is desirable (walking, cycling, cars etc), so we support the clear distinction between modes across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

3. Increases in cycling are proven to make it safer for walking so any general increase in cycling amenity is supported by WalkSydney.

4. Adding in a pathway that does not have steps will improve the accessibility of the path for riders and other mobility users so we strongly support the introduction of a ramp in regards to access. 

5. From a safety perspective the linear ramp is preferable to the spiral option as view lines will be clearer, making it easier for people to see movements and activity around them. This is a key part of designing out crime in urban design. 

6. In the medium term we support converting a road lane into space for active transport as there will soon be roading options under the harbour to Sydney’s south and western areas, and sending cars into the city should not be a priority. A new path could be added on the alternative side of the bridge so that pedestrians and cyclists can use both the west and eastern edges of the bridge and their associated parts of the city. 

Have your say in the survey by midnight Mon 28 Jun 2021. (extended from 27 Jun due to the Sydney lockdown)

More details at Transport for NSW Sydney Harbour Bridge Cycleway Access Program.

Connection to Alfred Street cycle path
The PedalSetGo team struggling to manage their cargo bicycle up the stairs. PedalSetGo are cycling instructors based in the Inner West, who often run cycling and bike maintenance courses for North Sydney and Lane Cove council.

Street clutter continued

Spotted by our friend Pushie Pedlar again last month, road signage prioritising communication to motorists, whilst compromising safe movement for pedestrians using the footpaths.

Rouse Hill Opposite the Aldi on Windsor Rd. Completely across the footpath with no room to pass. Plenty of room for this sign to be placed off the path onto the grass.

Wellington Rd Auburn. Opposite Progress Park. A smaller trailer sign but looks like they tried to leave space left between it and the fence.

This is the result of ongoing lack of awareness and education to contractors about priorities when implementing transport management plans.

Has anyone found a trick to getting these moved to a more appropriate location?

See our previous posts on street clutter:

Maroubra Junction Masterplan submission

WalkSydney and BIKEast are pleased to make a joint submission on the Draft Maroubra Junction Masterplan.

We believe that providing and maintaining open and accessible space for the community is very important.

We also believe safe, continuous, and connected walking and cycling routes will encourage more people to participate in active travel – an outcome that is consistent with NSW and Local Government strategies to realise the considerable individual and public benefits of increasing the mode share of active travel (walking or cycling).

As such, we submit the following comments.

Summary of issues

  1. Improved placemaking – prioritisation of people and community
  2. Designing priority transport connectivity – based on the Transport for NSW Road User Space Allocation policy and the related Walking Space Guide
  3. Improved pedestrian facilities – based on the relaxed Transport for NSW policy which allows councils to decide where they install pedestrian crossings on unclassified roads
  4. Connecting the local cycling network with safe infrastructure – to encourage local trips by active transport
  5. Lower road speeds to improve safety for all road users and especially pedestrians and people riding bicycles

Important Note: Although the comments below are focussed on the Maroubra Junction Town Centre focus area, they are equally applicable to the Bunnerong Road and Flower Street retail focus areas.

Improved placemaking – prioritisation of people and community

Maroubra Junction is a Place and needs to be planned appropriately, not just as independent functions around a road space.

The design of this precinct needs to take into account the significant shopping centres – Pacific Square and Maroubra Plaza with their mid-block entrances, as well as other local services needs to accommodate people movement from all directions.

  • Green St on the opposite side. 
  • Various car parking locations. 
  • Public transport stops

The provision of car parking in the Anzac Parade median strip also adds to the functional use and access needs around this space.

Maroubra Junction should be considered and planned collaboratively as a place – as part of the Movement and Place framework that focuses on people, rather than just roads or buildings.

“Movement and Place considers the whole street including footpaths, from property line to property line. It takes into account the needs of all users of this space including pedestrians, cyclists, deliveries, private vehicles and public transport, as well as people spending time in those places, whether moving around the place or enjoying street life including outdoor dining, waiting for a bus or watching the world go by.”

The outline document advises that it is “to better balance and align movement and place in the design, planning, construction and operation of NSW’s transport network”.

Maroubra Junction has been identified as a strategic centre with liveability expectations of high levels of amenity, and walkability and being cycle friendly.

“Centres are not just places for economic exchange. They are where communities gather, and where recreational, cultural and educational pursuits are found. They are important to how people participate in community life. This is particularly true in the Eastern City District, where an increasing number of residents live in apartments and rely on public spaces.”

Designing priority transport connectivity

Prioritising equitable access for people walking and cycling with all abilities

The new Transport for NSW Road User Space Allocation Policy (CP21000) dated 27 Jan 2021, indicates:

When allocating road user space based on the network vision and road functions, consider all road users in order of: walking (including equitable access for people of all abilities); cycling (including larger legal micro-mobility devices); public transport; freight and deliveries; and point to point transport ahead of general traffic and on-street parking for private motorised vehicles

Currently, based on Transport for NSW’s ‘Order of Determining Road Space Allocation’ (refer to the figure below) the three focus areas appear to be designed as Through road functions, prioritising vehicular movement, rather than equitable access for people of all abilities.

Removing punitive pedestrian measures such as fencing.

Existing punitive pedestrian measures such as the additional fencing and deterring pedestrian access in 2020 detracts from these strategies, moves and condenses the existing issues further down the road, and will reduce the amenity and sense of community around the location.  These also impact all forms of active transport, including cycling access (especially for families with children along the footpaths).

Better strategies to facilitate easier walking will improve safety and in turn support all forms of active transport. This includes:

  • Improved intersection design including upgrade of the signal phasing to provide priority for pedestrians
  • Improved surrounding footpath surface, width and amenity

The existing fencing from 2020 reduces the space used for being picked up, dropped off, walking and cycling to Pacific Square.  This now means there is no suitable pick up and drop off point for people being transported to Pacific Square, who may not be able to travel there independently.

The fencing extension also forces people moving around the road space into the bus stop areas around the heavy bus vehicles. These bus stops experience high traffic.

Fencing is often in-effective in areas of strong pedestrian desire-lines and there is clear evidence that these measures do not result in positive behaviour change.

Improved pedestrian facilities 

Improved pedestrian facilities would make walking easier, safer, and more enjoyable and encourage alternative travel paths.

Improve intersection design including upgrade of the signal phasing to provide priority for pedestrians

The length of the block is already longer than usual – about double the surrounding blocks.  This creates an unusual length of walking required to reach the location.

Mid-block pedestrian movements are likely exacerbated by the amount of time it takes for the lights to change, as well as the two stage crossing (over 2 cycles) required to cross Anzac Parade.

Improving the signal phasing for pedestrians would encourage easier and safer crossing at the signalised intersections.

Improve the surrounding footpath surface, width and amenity

Many of the surrounding footpaths and pedestrian facilities are outdated and require upgrade.

Some examples below:

The footpath on the median strip is narrow, difficult to navigate, often overgrown with foliage, and in peak times, often with insufficient space at the intersections for people to wait.  The kerb ramps are outdated and do not have guides supporting the direction of travel.  Some of the grades along the median footpaths do not comply with the Disability Discrimination Act and some people have difficulty negotiating the steep inclines.

These aspects may mean that people prefer to move towards a safer, wider, space as soon as possible, even if this means crossing mid block.  The footpaths around Pacific Square are much wider.

When parking in the median strip, there is only 1 kerb ramp at the Northern end to access the narrow footpaths.  This footpath and access is not to current Australian Standard and is hazardous by encouraging walking through the carpark.

There are no pedestrian crossings between the medians even though pedestrians can and do legally cross at these locations.

People may prefer to walk along the wide road surface and cross to Pacific Square or Maroubra Plaza via the shortest distance across Anzac Parade (20m) rather than another whole block (60m) to Boyce Rd crossing (which can add up to 150m).  This is quite a substantial difference even without including the time required to wait for the pedestrian lights.

150m to cross at Boyce Rd40m to cross directly

As a result, many people choose to walk through the carpark, due to lack of other pedestrian access. 

This is hazardous with vehicles moving in and out.

Connecting the local cycling network with safe infrastructure

There is noticeable increased traffic congestion around Maroubra Junction. To alleviate this demand, there should be encouragement of local trips by walking and cycling. However, safe and amenable facilities must be provided to support this. Randwick Council Bicycle Plan 2006 (refer to screenshot) indicates an intended cycling route grid around Maroubra Junction. 

15 years later, Maroubra Junction still lacks significant safe, protected infrastructure encouraging people of all abilities to cycle for local trips.

Lower road speeds to improve safety

Lower speeds are the easiest way to reduce risk of injury or fatality. The masterplan should follow the initiatives of Transport for NSW trials by reducing the speed limit to 30km/hr and/or nominating this space as a High Pedestrian Activity Area for traffic calming.

We know that reducing the speed limit has a dramatic increase on reducing road fatalities, not to mention injuries.

30km/hr hour is now global best practice and Transport for NSW policy documents are supporting this. 30please.org has more information.

We believe the benefits of active travel to community and worker health, environmental and sustainability community benefits, as well as traffic congestion, are important to the local community, and should be captured in the Maroubra Junction masterplan processes going forward.

Thank you for taking the time to read our feedback.

Willoughby Council consults on crossings for school kids

Willoughby Council wants to inform residents about a program to construct 13 raised pedestrian crossings (also known as wombat crossings) to improve safety of school children in the local area.

Comments are welcomed at the survey before Sunday 6 June 2021.

Background

The Federal Government has implemented a program to improve school children safety that is funding the construction of raised pedestrian crossings (also known as wombat crossing) on public roads. The locations chosen are adjacent to schools and along known pedestrian routes used by school children.

The School Children Safety Wombat Crossing program is being funded thanks to $1.95 million in grant funding from Federal Government Stimulus Commitment under the Road Safety Program (School Zone Infrastructure). The funding will result in an upgrade to 11 existing pedestrian crossings and the installation of 2 new wombat crossings in Willoughby LGA (subject to Council approval).

Locations

  1. High Street at Bedford Street, North Willoughby (upgrade)
  2. Hampden Road, north of Barton Road, Artarmon (new)
  3. Merrenburn Avenue at Willoughby Road, Naremburn (upgrade)
  4. Hatfield Street between Mowbray Road & Farran Street Lane Cove North (upgrade)
  5. Kirk Street at Archer Street, Chatswood (upgrade)
  6. Keary Street at Eaton Street, Willoughby (upgrade)
  7. Keary Street, south of Oakville Road, Willoughby (upgrade)
  8. Rohan Street at Willoughby Road, Naremburn (new)
  9. Kendall Road between Holly Street and Rosebridge Avenue, Castle Cove (upgrade)
  10. Kendall Road, south of Holly Street, Castle Cove (upgrade)
  11. Edinburgh Road between The Parapet and Edith Street, Castlecrag (upgrade)
  12. Westbourne Street, east of Pacific Highway, St Leonards (upgrade)
  13. Reserve Road, north of Pacific Highway, St Leonards (upgrade)
Map of raised pedestrian crossings program locations

For more information, or to provide support and comments, go to Have Your Say Willoughby

Burwood Council Sustainability Strategy

WalkSydney is pleased to make a submission on Sustainable Burwood Strategy.

WalkSydney is a community group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk to public transport, local shops and services, and shared transport options and Burwood Council’s Sustainable Strategy provides a great opportunity to achieve these outcomes.

Summary of points:

  1. Prioritise good air quality by reducing motor vehicle emissions and improving pedestrian facilities.
  2. Prioritise quality pedestrian facilities to encourage walking and benefit community health and sustainable transport
  3. Incorporate strong accountability into the council’s sustainability strategy process

Prioritise good air quality by reducing motor vehicle emissions and improving pedestrian facilities.

  1. Pedestrianise (reduce motor traffic pollution) and/or widen the footpaths along Burwood Rd. See Committee for Sydney’s Reclaiming Sydney’s High Streets report which highlights opportunities to improve the livability of Sydney neighbourhoods. 
  1. Make walking and cycling safer to improve local air quality and make active transport more attractive and increase mode share. 
  1. Plant trees in median strips where possible to shade hard surfaces and reduce the urban heat effect

Transport for NSW Walking Space Guide 2020

Prioritise quality pedestrian facilities to encourage walking and benefit community health and sustainable transport

  1. Adopt a strong transport hierarchy policy, which prioritises pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, freight, private vehicles in order of benefit to the community. For example, the Waverley transport hierarchy policy, Waverley Council’s People, Movement & Places policy
  1. Adopt the Transport for NSW (TfNSW) policy that “every transport project that is funded by TfNSW must include provision for walking and cycling” and that this “must be delivered from the outset of every transport project” for Burwood Council transport projects. 
  1. Adopt and implement Government Architect’s Movement and Place framework focussing on placemaking of significant community locations (rather than road design) and provide a high level of service for pedestrians.
  1. Work with TfNSW to lower the speed limit throughout the LGA and investigate limiting through-traffic with traffic filters. 

Source: Future Transport 2056 and Greater Sydney Commission

Incorporate strong accountability into the council’s sustainability strategy process

  1. Include sustainability KPIs in the contract of the CEO
  1. Re-establish a Council/Community Environment and Sustainability committee/advisory group, to review policies and progress

Thank you for taking the time to read our feedback.

Yours sincerely,

WalkSydney

The Little Streets of Melbourne

The popular laneways of Melbourne are being redesigned for people on foot. (Walk this way: Melbourne’s little streets to be transformed into pedestrian paradise, The Age, 12 Dec 2020)

Little Bourke St

These iconic thoroughfares are part of its identity, and are a notable experience for those looking to dine, shop, live or work in the CBD. They often have unique, small shops and due to their narrowness, fewer and slower cars, which makes outdoor dining far more appealing.

Melbourne City Council has moved to improve the experience for those on foot and bicycle, by lowering the speed limit from 40 km/h to 20 km/h, widening footpaths, installing more plants and seating, and best of all, giving pedestrians right of way over vehicles and bicycles. This strengthens the roads purpose as being a place instead of being for vehicle movement.

Artists impression of an upgraded laneway

This Little Streets project has been rolled out in four streets, and will expand to more this year.

Where would you like to see this in Sydney?

National Road Safety Week

We need to make road safety a major conversation. This conversation involves all of us: how can we make our roads safe for everyone? National Road Safety Week is May 16-23, 2021 and a great time to expand the public discussion.

This occasion lines up with the UN’s Global Road Safety Week, where the theme is #love30. As the UN says:

We’re calling on policymakers to act for low speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to 30 km/h (20 mph) where people walk, live and play.

30 km/h (20 mph) streets save lives and protect all who use them, especially the most vulnerable, like pedestrians, cyclists, children and older people and people with disabilities.

Sydney needs to join Paris, Helsinki, Munich, London and dozens of other cities in rolling out more 30 km/h zones.

How will you and your community promote and call for safer streets?

  • You can write to a local representative calling for 30 km/h speed limits.
  • You can spread the word on social media (the hashtags are #nrsw #love30 ). Tag WalkSydney!
  • You can share the Myths and Facts sheet regarding a 30 km/h speed limit.
  • The website for the Australian campaign has a place where you can pledge to drive so other survive, and there are even ribbons to buy and display.
There is a global movement for Streets for Life

Safer crossings in Randwick

Randwick Council has announced new and upgraded pedestrian crossings in Sydney’s east. These improvements are centred around schools and the surrounding streets and is supported by NSW stimulus funding. The local improvements include refuge islands and converting pedestrian crossings into raised pedestrians crossings. This is a positive step, and councils across Sydney should seek to copy this type of investment.

Raised pedestrian crossings (also known as wombat crossings) are more effective than plain zebra crossings. They make people driving, slow down at the crossing, which is far safer for people crossing the road.

Wombat in Willoughby Council area
Wombat in Willoughby Council area

It is so important to increase the accessibility of schools by foot. We should work to get over 50% of children walking or cycling to school. The benefits for children’s physical health, mental health, community connections, and awareness of their neighbourhood are huge.

We need even more wombat crossings and pedestrian refuge islands – keep them coming!

Erskineville Station Southern Entrance

Dear Lord Mayor,

WalkSydney is a community group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk to public transport, local shops and services, and shared transport options. The proposed southern entrance at Erskineville Station provides another opportunity to achieve those outcomes.

WalkSydney supports the current proposal to install a southern entrance at Erskineville Station, which will significantly improve pedestrian access to the station, especially for residents living in the Ashmore estate area. We thank the Lord Mayor for your advocacy in this matter.

With the new concourse there is an opportunity to also provide access on the south-western side through Kirsova No 2 reserve. This would benefit residents of streets such as George, Victoria, Pleasant Ave, Prospect, Morrissey, Lambert, Rochford and others.

It appears however that TfNSW is ruling out this proposal at this stage due to concerns about disturbance to the children’s playground within Kirsova No 2 reserve.

This need not be a concern. Pedestrian traffic usually increases safety through “eyes on the street”. This idea (from Jane Jacobs) has been validated numerous times in the literature. With appropriate lighting, fencing, and security cameras safety should be ensured. With careful design and placement of the access points, there should be enough space for a pedestrian path to skirt a fenced-off playground.

Another concern is the narrow width of footpaths on George St. Recall the current situation involves pedestrians walking the entire length of George St to reach the existing northern entrance. This side entrance would reduce that distance walking on narrow footpaths by about half.

A few minutes shaved off a journey has the potential to shift many commuters from private vehicles to public transport, gradually reducing the need for on-street parking. This creates the opportunity to re-allocate space from parked cars to more green space that would compensate for any losses to Kirsova No 2.

We hope that you could support this proposal for an extra entrance by writing to Transport for NSW to encourage them to reconsider the current plans.

Thank you for taking the time to read our comments.

WalkSydney joins #Love30 campaign

WalkSydney is joining the United Nations #Love30 campaign because 30km/h saves lives and improves liveability!

We are calling for 30km/h limits as a matter of urgency on urban and residential streets.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

We are asking for photos of you holding signs:

Step 1: Print off of the #Love30 image

Step 2: Take a picture holding the printed image on a street.

Step 3: Upload the photo to our social media post with the hashtag #Love30 or email us. We’ll be using the best photos and sharing them widely. 30km/h speed saves lives, improves liveability and supports local businesses. All without impacting overall journey times. #Love30 is this year’s theme for the UN Road Safety week, which runs from the 17th-21st May 2021. More information available at www.unroadsafetyweek.org

Last day for NSW 2026 Road Safety Action Plan

Transport for NSW has set a target of zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads by 2056 as part of the Future Transport Strategy

Transport for NSW are now developing a new, five year action plan to build on the success of Road Safety Plan 2021 (target of reducing road fatalities by 30 per cent from 2008–2010 levels by 2021). This new Plan will include 2030 trauma reduction targets, which are the next step in moving towards the goal of zero trauma on NSW roads.

They have identifed the following ideas:

Is there anything you would like to comment on, or that is missing from this list?

We urge all our followers to please go to the Road Safety website and complete the survey. The consultation closes on Thursday 29 April 2021.

A few of our points in our submission include:

  1. Deploy 30 km/h safe street neighbourhood zones: All NSW policy and guidelines need to be more explicit about how a 30 km/h speed limit in residential, school and certain commercial zones will significantly save lives and reduce serious injuries of all road users, consistent with International best practice, the aim of the strategy, and devise strategy to make this speed limit reality.
  2. Prioritise vulnerable road users. The safety improvements implemented for one demographic of road user should not compromise the safety of other users (eg. vulnerable road users.)
  3. Increase and improve education of road rules to improve the safety of vulnerable road users. Road Rules affecting the safety of vulnerable road users should form stronger education and communications programs.
  4. Stop victim blaming: A road fatality and serious injury is most commonly the result of a collision with a vehicle. Blaming the victim such as a pedestrian for an injury caused by a vehicle driver excuses the driver from being responsible for the operation of the vehicle.

NSW Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) submission

WalkSydney is pleased to make a submission on the new NSW Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).

WalkSydney is a community group advocating for walking and better streets public places and walking networks. Streets provide places for important social and economic engagement as well as infrastructure for walking. WalkSydney wants to see bold coordinated action to make walking in Sydney safer, easier and more pleasant.

WalkSydney wholeheartedly supports the five general principles outlined in the draft Design and Place SEPP that will provide a framework for :

  1. Making Places of Character and Beauty;
  2. Inviting Places
  3. Productive and Connected Places
  4. Sustainable and Greener Places and
  5. Resilient and diverse Places

WalkSydney would like to emphasise the fundamental need for the SEPP to prioritise that walkable and social aspects in the design of all public places.

In particular, the SEPP must give the highest priority to providing the best possible pedestrian amenity in the design of any public place whether a street, park, square or any public reserve.

(The only exceptions to this principle could be those corridors set aside and engineered for an exclusive type of high-speed vehicular transport – such as Railways, airports or motorways which will probably be outside the SEPP).

The SEPP should ensure that the principles that define the quality of public places ensure that such places are comfortably walkable with sufficient space for social economic and recreational purposes, with good shading and accessibility.

WalkSydney would particularly like the SEPP to ensure that public places of high pedestrian activity such as town and suburban centres, railway stations, metro, bus and tram stops are designed to provide excellent walking amenity in their immediate vicinity and permit safe access to both the public transport and the connective fabric of their surrounding localities. Where existing places are to be renovated or designed anew, they should conform to best international urban design practice for pedestrian amenity.

WalkSydney would also like the SEPP to acknowledge that wherever pedestrian amenity may be in competition with vehicular transport for the use of limited public space, that space for walking should prevail.

Walk Sydney commends the draft SEPP in addressing the principles for improving the public domain within the Sydney metropolitan area, Greater Sydney and NSW. We acknowledge that the SEPP has the potential to benefits walking amenity and infrastructure and improve the quality of public spaces for all. We would also like to request the opportunity for future comment on specific details of the future Design Guides in development.

Jailing child-killing drivers won’t stop the slaughter

This month, Samuel Davidson was sentenced to at least 21 years in jail for killing four children with his ute on a residential street in Western Sydney. They had been walking to the local shops to buy ice cream. He had been driving drunk at 130 km/h.

Earlier this year, Jacob Donn is alleged to have killed two children with his car in Wellington in regional New South Wales. They had been walking home from the swimming pool. And last month, a motorist hit and killed a five-year-old girl on a pedestrian crossing in Sydney’s west.

“Public Tribute” by ChiralJon is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

A sobering 308 people were killed whilst walking along New South Wales’ streets from 2015 to 2019. That’s five times the state’s COVID fatalities. Twenty of the victims were aged under 17. A further 45 children were killed whilst being driven in a motor vehicle. Thousands more were seriously injured.

I’ll leave it for others to debate whether Samuels’ 21-year sentence is just. But will it help stop the continued slaughter of children on our neighbourhood streets? Was Davidson deterred by past punishments for vehicular homicide? [And notably the maximum punishment for vehicular manslaughter is 10 years in jail, while manslaughter without a vehicle can result in 25 years behind bars.]

Media reporting of such killings usually focuses on the behaviour of the driver – and very often blames the victim(s). But do other factors make these killings more likely in the first place? Why was it even possible for Davidson to drive an oversized, two-tonne ute along a residential street at 130 km/h? Why was the street as wide as a racing track? Do Australian street design guidelines give too much priority to traffic flow and speed, and too little to children’s safety? Have they evolved to offset the growth in danger from ever-increasing average vehicle sizes and weights?

Parramatta Council has since installed a guardrail where Davidson mounted the footpath – but this merely reinforces the impression of a racing track. If anything, it encourages more speed.

Best-practice road safety in recent decades has adopted a ‘safe system’ approach. This acknowledges that humans – whether driving, walking or riding – will inevitably have moments of inattention, and many will do stupid and illegal things. So, as well as trying to prevent mistakes and dangerous behaviour, it aims to minimise their consequences.

Through a safe system approach, both Oslo and Helsinki have progressed from dozens of pedestrian deaths every year to zero. Does no one in Oslo ever drink-drive? Does no Finnish child ever forget to look before stepping off the footpath? Of course not – people in these cities still make mistakes and do stupid things. However, pedestrians are unlikely to be killed because of such acts, primarily because the authorities have implemented measures to reduce urban traffic speeds. A driver hitting a pedestrian at 50 km/h – the default residential speed limit in all Australian states – has a 90% chance of killing them. But a driver hitting a pedestrian at 30 km/h has only a 10% chance of killing them.

The New South Wales government recently implemented 30 km/h zones in Liverpool and Manly – a small but welcome step. But speed limit signs alone have been shown to have very little effect on urban traffic speed. Enforcement is required and streets need to be redesigned to discourage and inhibit unsafe speeds. The long, straight streets of racing track proportions found in most Australian suburbs and regional towns are an open invitation to those motorists who get a thrill out of speeding. They distort motorists’ perception of their own speedas do SUVs with a high driving position – making it difficult for even the conscientious majority to stay under the limit.

Every year that state governments continue to delay implementing a default 30 km/h residential speed limit will mean more preventable child deaths and injuries, and more devastated families. At the same time, national street design guidelines need to be revised to prioritise children’s safety over traffic flow and speed.

These measures might make driving a little less convenient for some, but that’s actually a good thing: the less convenient driving is, and the safer and more convenient other transport modes are, the less traffic there will be – and who would object to less traffic? And any inconvenience would be trivial compared to the restrictions Australians have largely accepted to prevent COVID deaths.

Opinion surveys repeatedly show most voters want more civilised urban traffic speeds – which would also reduce traffic noise, a major cause of sleep disruption. For the vocal minority who want to drive fast, there are plenty of racing tracks and motorways, where they are much less likely to kill innocent children.

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Cooks River shared path underpass upgrade

Canterbury Bankstown Council are about to embark on 2 projects:

  1. Upgrade / widening of Cooks River underpass shared path (purple line below)
  2. Intersection upgrade of Canterbury Road, Close Street and Charles Street (pink circle below)
Diagram of the 2 projects

On first look, it looked positive, especially with the new signals to better enable crossing at this significant location (shopping precinct).

However, the proposed road realignment includes a large amount of new road space, rather than new footpath! What a surprise, especially when other cities are removing slip lanes and reducing road space to improve pedestrian safety.

Pink sections indicate the new road alignment and signals (including a slip lane)

The surrounding footpaths and kerb ramps desperately need upgrading to Australian Standards so the intersection upgrade is much needed. Hopefully there is enough of the setback (distance between kerb and where building starts) in the surrounding areas to maintain and allocate sufficient footpath space for pedestrians.

Google Maps

Construction on the underpass upgrade is expected to start at the end of May 2021 and take approximately 6 months. During this time, the underpass will be closed.

Despite there being a specific cycling detour plan – possibly due to the commuter cycling community’s vocal actions in requesting this upgrade for obvious reasons – there’s no specific indication of a pedestrian detour, so it presumably would align with the cycling detour.

The proposed detour during this time is suggested below:

Details are on the Canterbury Bankstown website and consultation / feedback is now open.

There’s still 1 week to have your say – contact Council’s Project Team projects@cbcity.nsw.gov.au before 5pm Friday 23 April 2021.

Trees in the street

Problem: There is not enough tree canopy, and so temperatures will got hot.

Problem: Sterile environments worsen mental health.

Problem: Impervious surface increases storm runoff and pollutes and wastes water.

Problem: Cars drive too fast.

Solution: Plant trees in the streets.

As shown in the figures below, Glebe and Haberfield, two of Sydney’s leafier suburbs, have trees planted in the street, using space that would otherwise be vacant most of the time (nominally available for car storage). Some newer areas, like the Bonar Street section of Arncliffe, are doing similar things. It is an excellent way to get more canopy than currently available, reduce travel speed and likelihood of collisions and because of the lowered speed, make collisions less severe, improve mental health and the physical environment. Walking under the canopy of trees is far more pleasant than walking directly under the hot sun, and so people will walk more in that environment. Planting trees also increases property value.

More suburbs should do this.

Tree in the Street Haberfield
Trees in the Street: Haberfield again
Trees in the car park, University of Sydney
Glebe: Trees in Median and Verge
Tree in the street defines parking space and narrows movement path in Arncliffe.

Resist Victim-Blaming: Focus on the Real, Underlying Problems – and Solutions

Pedestrians and cyclists run a high risk of being killed by cars. These groups are also the least likely to harm other road users. 

EU Data: https://eu.boell.org/en/road-safety-wanted-strategies-to-protect-the-weakest

In Australia, you can often hear people putting the responsibility of a fatal crash on the pedestrian: pedestrians that get killed by drivers are responsible for their own deaths: basically they did not watch out. 

However, it is less known that Australia aims to achieve Vision Zero by 2050 and it adopted its Safe System approach. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. 

Oslo, Norway, has reached a remarkable milestone in its pursuit of Vision Zero: The city witnessed zero cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in 2019.

It would be foolish to assume that pedestrians or drivers in Oslo never make a mistake. The difference is that Oslo has worked hard to create a forgiving road environment where mistakes are not deadly. 

The road system in Australia is dangerous by design: the lack of priority crossings for pedestrians paired with higher speed limits in urban areas than seen in most other OECD countries means that if a pedestrian or a driver makes a mistake, there is a high chance that the pedestrian will die. 

The NSW Center for Road Safety states: In a crash between a car and a pedestrian, there is a 10 per cent risk that a pedestrian will be killed at 30 km/h, 40 per cent risk at 40 km/h, and a 90 per cent risk at 50 km/h. However finding a 30km/h zones in Australia is like trying to find a needle in the haystack.

A study by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London reveals that primary school children cannot accurately judge the speed of vehicles travelling faster than 20 mph (30km/h). Not a single child was killed on the roads of two Scandinavian capital cities, Oslo and Helsinki, in 2019. Road crashes are a leading cause of death for children aged 1-14 in Australia. We shouldn’t accept that people die on our roads; we should aim for zero road deaths.

Elderly people in Australia often can’t safely cross a road as there are no crossings within a reasonable walking distance and traffic is too fast for them trying to dart across the road quickly. It is unfair to blame them if they get killed when trying to cross a road.

Recent articles and campaigns about pedestrians being distracted by mobile phones are not supported by evidence. Information on who was at fault in these more recent deaths is not publicly available, and only survivors tell their side of the story. However a recent study by the New York City Department of Transportation, looking at both local and nationwide data, concluded that mobile phone use was not a significant cause of pedestrian trauma, causing less than 1% of crashes. 

It is wrong to imply that it is pedestrians’ responsibility to avoid being run over by inattentive drivers. While in other countries drivers give pedestrians priority even in situations when they don’t have to, in Australia many drivers don’t even know that by law they have to give pedestrians priority when turning. Responsibility for road use rises with capacity to cause harm.

Combine the unsafe street design with the victim-blaming messaging and the implied message becomes clear: Pedestrians aren’t welcome, and it’s their fault if they die. It tells drivers not to watch out for pedestrians, and it discourages walking. Heeding these messages will make streets less safe and more congested.

Giving Way where there are no signs or lights

On 21 December 2019 WalkSydney posted Why Australian Road Rules need to be rewritten to put walking first. Our proposal is that every intersection is implicitly a crosswalk, whether marked or not, so vehicles at uncontrolled intersections always must yield to pedestrians both crossing and about to cross. In many places outside Australia, this is already the law, and under certain circumstances this is the rule in Australia, but it is needlessly complex, and there is little awareness.

Sometimes pedestrians need eyes in the back of their heads – it seems that many drivers do not understand and/or observe the give way rules. (Vehicles turning into roads are supposed to yield to crossing pedestrians, but under current road rules, those leaving a road are not.)

Road rules are integral but not sufficient to improve pedestrian safety and that is why a new approach to sharing road space is needed, including for the crossing of roads.

Road fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrians are most commonly the result of a collision with a vehicle. Blaming the victim such as a pedestrian for an injury caused by a vehicle driver excuses the driver from being responsible for the operation of the vehicle. Road rules should codify that the responsibility for road use rises with capacity to cause harm. Driving at a slower speed makes drivers ready for the unexpected in places where there are all types of road user.

WalkSydney advocates for the many ways that walking can be made safer and locations more walkable. WalkSydney gives pedestrians a voice. Join us! Membership information can be found here.

Sometimes road design helps cars decide to whom they must give way. But is this actually a marked crosswalk?

National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030

Every ten years federal, state and territory governments agree on a set of priorities to reduce road user fatalities and serious injuries. WalkSydney has submitted to the consultation and our full submission is available online. In summary our main points are:

  1. Deploy 30 km/h safe street neighbourhood zones: The strategy needs to be more explicit about how a 30 km/h speed limit in residential, school and certain commercial zones will significantly save lives and reduce serious injuries of all road users, consistent with the aim of the strategy, and devise strategy to make this speed limit reality.
  2. Prioritise vulnerable road users. As almost all road users are classified as pedestrians at some point in their journey, the strategy should acknowledge the importance and significance of specific actions to improve the safety and situation of vulnerable road users in 2021-2030. 
  3. Change the law / road rules to improve the safety of vulnerable road users. The strategy does not address how safety for vulnerable road users should be better enforced / codified into the Road Rules. This is a significant omission. 
  4. Stop victim blaming: A road fatality and serious injury is most commonly the result of a collision with a vehicle. Blaming the victim such as a pedestrian for an injury caused by a vehicle driver excuses the driver from being responsible for the operation of the vehicle. Road rules should codify that the responsibility for road use rises with capacity to cause harm.
  5. Integrate with infrastructure funding strategies: Provision should be made in the infrastructure and road spend for specific routes for pedestrians that are separated and protected from potential vehicle conflict.
  6. Plan for new technologies. A 10 year strategy must look towards upcoming technology, to anticipate, allow, and account for the differences in road safety of our future road configuration.

WalkSydney gives pedestrians a voice. Join us! Membership information can be found here.

Lower class underpass

You may already be aware of this infamous underpass with its special rainy weather excitement..

Canterbury Rd underpass on the Cooks River Path

Last year, we heard that Canterbury Council acquired funding confirmation from the NSW government to fix this underpass up.

Discussion raised that in order to increase the vertical space between the path and underside of the bridge, the path will be lowered. It will be interesting to see how this will be handled to maintain safety around the water level.

Some design inspiration of what could be, spotted in Zurich by Mike Harris.

In January 2021, an update from the council stated:

We are working through the detour route options with the contractor and once we have their preferred solution we will be in touch with key stakeholders.
We are still trying to start in February however we have run into some design delays where it was noted that the longevity of the current design wasn’t where it needed to be (100 years).

Stay tuned!