Posts Tagged ‘pedestrian’

Speeding up improvements to road safety

December 7, 2011

As a frequent motorist to Adelaide’s roads, I occasionally am confused as to the speed limit on the section of road on which I am driving. It seems to forever be changing – in both distance and time – and as more councils are taking speed limits into their own hands it only looks like becoming more confusing before the situation improves. Unley City Council is a good example of this where local speed limits have been reduced to 40km/h.

Speed limits can be confusing and frustrating for many motorists. (Source: AdelaideNow)

In the urban areas around Adelaide, there are large signs around in yellow notifying drivers that the speed limit is 50km/h unless otherwise sign posted. But if a driver has just turned onto an arterial or connector road from a local street how does a driver tell what the speed limit is, particularly if they aren’t familiar with the area? What happens if one of the 40km/h or 60km/h speed limit signs has been removed, knocked over, or vandalised?

I like the New South Wales approach to posting speed limits. The speed limits are painted on the roadway in addition to the signage. But where there’s no signage, the speed limits are often still painted on the road anyway such as on the entry to a local street. This approach communicates more clearly to drivers the speed limit of the road they are driving on.

But even this, I don’t think, is the be-all end-all solution to sorting out speed limits on Adelaide’s roads. There’s a lack of consistency across much of the metropolitan region. Some councils have local speed limits of 40km/h, others use 50km/h on local streets, whilst others such as the Adelaide City Council have widespread 50km/h speed limits with only a handful of exceptions. And then there’s the odd arterial road that has a speed limit that isn’t 60km/h such as The Parade in Norwood and some outer suburban roads such as Lonsdale Road.

However, are we asking ourselves the right questions when we consider speed limits to improve safety? So much of the media and public discussion in creating safer road and pedestrian environments revolves around speed limits. Purely focusing on this aspect alone ignores the bigger picture. An example of this is currently happening in discussions about Hutt Street and a number of other local streets in central Adelaide.

Hutt Street is a wide four lane road with median strip and dedicated right turn lanes as well as on-street parking. It is lined with a number of restaurants and bars and is a well regarded dining strip in Adelaide. Adelaide City Council proposes reducing the speed limit from 50km/h to 40km/h to “encourage an expansion of alfresco dining and encourage pedestrians to spend more time and money in the city”. No other changes are currently proposed for Hutt Street.

This solution is a bit short-sighted, although I can see how lowering speed limits fits into a bigger scheme as it has successfully been implemented in other cities including Swanston Street in Melbourne, which is now closed off to regular traffic except trams. Yes, lowering speed limits might slow down traffic but it doesn’t do anything to increase the appeal of the street and the street is currently not very pedestrian friendly, which is what Hutt Street needs. Other measures and planning are needed to transform Hutt Street into a place that people want to visit instead of changing a few rules and hoping.

Maybe the authorities and public have forgotten about one traffic calming solution that was implemented on King William Road in Hyde Park in the 1980s to slow traffic through the local shopping street (or high street as the English call them). The street is lined with bricks which causes vehicles to rumble as they drive over them, which encourages traffic to slow down as driving at high speed over them creates large vehicle vibrations.

Of course there’s other measures that could be considered for Hutt Street as well. Zebra crossings which prioritise pedestrian movements could be used at some locations. (For some reason that I can’t explain zebra crossings don’t seem to be in favour in planning across Adelaide.)  The angled parking that currently exists takes up an excessive amount of potential footpath and outdoor dining space and could be redesigned for parallel parking, allowing some of the space to be reallocated for outdoor space. As an aside, the existing City Loop Adelaide Metro bus route could be extended to include Hutt Street instead of Pulteney Street.

In discussions about improving safety in our road environments, we need to start looking at the bigger picture and stop imagining individual actions as be-all end-all solutions. There is no such thing as the perfect solution. However, there is always room for improvement and those safety improvements can take forms other than changing the speed limit.

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Pedestrian unfriendly streets

July 6, 2010

When walking along a busy footpath, there’s nothing more annoying than undulating paving that looks like it’s been dropped wherever convenient and having to manoeuvre around poorly placed obstacles – that includes poorly placed humans who decide to have a chat smack bang in the middle of the path. This certainly applies when you’re in a hurry!

In general Adelaide is pretty good at keeping its footpaths wide and clear – at least in the city centre – but there still is evidence in some places of a clear lack of proper thinking and planning when some things were built. Check out the following couple of images on North Terrace in Adelaide’s city centre adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital (which will soon be no more), both are bus shelters within a hundred metres of each other that some smart cookie thought would sit nicely in the middle of the footpath!

Bus stop in the middle of a narrow footpath outside Adelaide's RAH. It's even harder to get through here when there are throngs of people queued along here waiting for buses.

Another poorly placed bus stop on North Terrace, combined with a tree, taking up most of the footpath width.

A bit further down North Terrace, the situation is rather different. It’s clear that this layout was well thought through – the paving is consistent and tidy, there’s no obstacles in the middle of the path, and it’s pleasant and leafy – all key elements in making the paths easier to use and more inviting. This street section was upgraded a few years ago and has turned out quite nicely, even considering that the upgrade took well over a year to complete. This is an important factor in encouraging activity on the streets and is something that will be discussed in later posts.

The upgraded section of North Terrace, much better planned than the sections shown in the previous images.

Taking pedestrian-friendly design another step further, the following image shows Leigh Street which was redeveloped in 1999. This is one of my favourite streets in Adelaide. Not only has the paving on the path been spruced up, but all the other street furniture (The street lamps, benches, poles) has been designed to suit the surrounding heritage buildings and the roadway itself blends in with the footpath which encourages drivers to slow down. The result is very aesthetically pleasing and the amount of activity in this laneway during the day is in stark contrast with the drearily quiet scenes on other nearby laneways.

A very aesthetically pleasing Leigh Street, an excellent example of a pedestrian friendly street.

Even with some of the poor footpath jobs in Adelaide, we’re lucky we have paths on nearly all our streets. Some cities barely have footpaths on their streets!