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Council street safety review misses the mark

Council street safety review misses the mark
Tony Penna

If you missed it, Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) in collaboration with City of Melbourne, hosted a forum for the council to announce new pedestrian road safety projects.

The community road safety survey from earlier this year was apparently used to inform the need for these projects. There were seven new projects announced (highlighted in red in image):

  • Coventry and Wells streets: zebra crossings and road humps (eight comments)
  • Kavanagh St: Coroners Court “wombat” crossing (three comments)
  • Grant St: zebra crossings and road humps (five comments)
  • Dodds and Coventry streets: zebra crossings and road humps (three comments)
  • Hancock and Clarke streets: kerb extensions and road humps (one comment)
  • Wadey and Wells streets: zebra crossing and road humps (three comments)
  • Dorcas St and Kings Way: pedestrian crossing (five comments)

While I commend the council for conducting the community road safety survey and subsequently identifying projects to improve our safety, I question their underlying methodology and logic with determining the decided projects.

Nearly 1200 community comments were received during the survey period from March to April 2023. Well done to our community for getting involved and providing this valuable feedback.

These comments were placed on a heat map to visually highlight the areas of concern. This map can be seen on Participate Melbourne – Road Safety Southbank.

Of particular note with extensive comments were:

  • Kavanagh and Power streets intersection
  • City Rd and Power S intersection
  • Balston St between City Rd and Kavanagh St
  • Southbank Promenade
  • City Rd and Moray St
  • City Rd and Clarke St
  • Sturt and Miles streets
  • Kings Way, Sturt and Coventry streets intersection

One of these high comment areas was addressed earlier this year (a month after the survey) being Balston St between City Rd and Kavanagh St with the installation of zebra crossings.

The fact this was addressed so quickly after the survey would have had very little, if anything, to do with the survey as to get such a project under way would inherently take months if not years to be scheduled. SRA was asking for zebra crossings on those roads well before the COVID pandemic, so we believe our initial lobbying was the start of this outcome.

A number of the other high comment areas are outside the remit of the council and are roads managed by VicRoads, such as Power St, City Rd and Kings Way.

In any case, the safety issues with those roads are no secret to the council and we can only hope it is actively lobbying the state government for greater attention on these roads/intersections.

However, there was still Southbank Promenade, Sturt St and Clarke St which were within the scope of the City of Melbourne, and Clarke St was a hotly discussed street by the attendees at the forum.

Within the scope of the presentation there was no mention of Sturt St or Southbank Promenade. It wasn’t until my summing up at the end of their presentation that I mentioned the very items highlighted in the heat map as being of significant concern to the community have not been addressed.

I specifically highlighted Sturt St as these comments were motivated by the dangers of the VCA students needing to cross that busy road. We were then informed this section of Sturt St would be upgraded by Yarra Trams with their planned upgrade for that stop (no timeframe known). This was a great, and important, piece of information to alleviate community concern, yet it was somehow overlooked in their presentation.

Likewise for Southbank Promenade. I have a whole lot more to say on this, but I won’t do that here – I will make that the topic of my December column.

 

The reason I am questioning the methodology and logic of the decided projects is that the number of community comments attributed to each of the selected projects is no more than eight.

 

I have placed the number of comments received next to the projects above in brackets at the end. You will note one of the projects only received one comment while the largest number was eight with the average being four. The Clarke St/City Rd intersection received 30 comments, with most of them being calls for a pedestrian crossing for the southern side of Clarke St (Woolworths Metro corner).

Clarke St is within the Jurisdiction of the City of Melbourne and clearly has significant safety issues. The presenter mentioned several times the council needs to get “bang for their buck” for the work they do with the limited budget (I believe he said around $400,000).

In my view, bang for their buck would be doing a project where the community has told the council loud and clear there is a problem. A pedestrian crossing on Clarke St would be no different to the pedestrian crossing recently installed on Balston St, just off City Rd, so this is not reliant on VicRoads’ involvement.

I am at a loss to understand how the council concluded projects with one to eight comments were more worthy than a project with 30 safety comments. From a safety perspective, bang for their buck would be to install a pedestrian crossing on Clarke St instead of the collective of the other seven projects, however I suspect the cost would be less, so perhaps we could get more than one project?

Sadly, with community feedback results leading to outcomes such as this, it will only lead to scepticism and cynicism in the future with community confidence eroded.

The City of Melbourne needs to do better. SRA will keep lobbying for better outcomes. •

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