Being a considerate driver to pedestrians, cyclists, PT users

As someone who can do a lot of my travel by foot or on public transport, I drive fewer kilometres than the average. But sometimes I have to drive.

I was thinking about the things one can do to be a considerate driver with regard to more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and also specifically with sustainable modes such as pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

Centre Road, Bentleigh

Of course the first thing is simply observing the law: for instance giving way where required — when turning into streets (except roundabouts), turning in or out of private premises including car parks.

Stopping at the stop line (or equivalent spot), not beyond it, obviously. And avoiding entering intersections where the exit isn’t clear — common in the CBD, resulting in blocked pedestrian crossings.

Always indicating, of course, whether I can see people or not — as my driving instructor noted, it’s when you don’t notice someone nearby that it’s particularly important.

Giving way to buses pulling out from the kerb is not only mandated by law, it also gives me a warm inner glow.

Of course, don’t park on footpaths.

But beyond what the law requires… what can one do to facilitate others, particularly those using more sustainable travel modes?

What can I do that not only keeps those people safe, it also makes their trip more pleasant, such that they are encouraged to keep doing it?

I tend to give way to pedestrians when I’m coming out of streets, even though this is not required by law.

When giving way or stopping for others, I don’t zoom up to the stop line then screech to a halt like I’m in a car chase. Coming to a stop slowly and acknowledging others with a nod if they look my way seems to me to be a way of giving them assurance that I’ve seen them and am willingly waiting for them. And I’ll give them plenty of space and time to cross, and not zoom past once they’re done.

Some motorists do this really badly, their driving style telling us they are only giving way grudgingly, and some appear to almost try to intimidate others to relinquish their right to go first.

I try to avoid having to wait to turn right, blocking trams. In fact I mostly tend to stick to non-tram roads when driving. There are plenty of them, and it helps us both.

If I feel like I have to sound the horn for safety reasons, I can do so with a short, gentle, almost cheerful “bip!” rather than a sustained angry “beeeeep!”

Staying at least a metre from cyclists isn’t yet law in Victoria, but is a good practice anyway.

What else can we do?

Border Force farce

If you haven’t heard about Friday’s Australian Border Force debacle in Melbourne, here’s the background: Timeline: How Operation Fortitude unravelled

It started with their Friday morning statement, which said, among other things:

“ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with.”

The media dutifully reported it. The prospect of officers stopping people on the street and demanding proof of immigration status was, of course, bound to get a negative reaction.

Cue a backpedal from ABF:

“The Australian Border Force (ABF) will not be ‘stopping people at random’ in Melbourne to ‘check people’s papers’ as reported in media this morning regarding Operation Fortitude.”

As pretty much reported in your own statement, actually.

The original release also noted a media launch at 2pm at Flinders Street station, and with a rapidly rising level of outrage over what it all meant, that was enough to get a protest.

As it was more-or-less lunchtime, I wandered down. I came through the station, and saw an ABF officer, a Victoria Police officer and a uniformed Metro employee in a huddle, looking furtively towards the protesting crowd nearby.

I stood nearby and watched the protests for a while. It was not a huge crowd — media later estimated 300 — but they were doing plenty of chanting. Given the type of protest, there were of course some with Socialist Alliance banners, but it didn’t appear that they were in the majority.

When I left, the protesters had moved into the intersection, and were blocking traffic. (Note the sign on St Paul’s Cathedral.)

Border Force protest, 28/8/2015

While I was there it was peaceful but noisy, and it was enough to get the official media event cancelled… but of course, having gathered protesters and media to the site, coverage was guaranteed.

Shortly afterwards, Victoria Police advised that the entire operation was cancelled.

Subsequently the Victorian Police Minister issued a press release, expressing something less than complete happiness at what had occurred.

Operation Fortitude was intended to be a standard police operation.

We fully support the decision by Victoria Police to cancel the operation after the unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation by the Australian Border Force today.

So now we’ve all heard of Border Force

It strikes me that if it was an exercise in brand recognition, then it was a resounding success… but really it’s all about politics, and in those terms, it was a disaster.

Even the name is overly political. The ABC explains that the ABF merged the frontline functions of Customs and Immigration.

But the name isn’t as utilitarian as Customs or Immigration. Australian Border Force is a macho, action-man name evidently designed, along with current immigration policies, to make the government look tough.

Remember, the launch was botched: at the announcement in July 2014, they managed to prominently use an image of a faceless authoritarian tough guy that was never intended to be used as a standalone logo, leading to numerous parodies and the graphic designer to remark “It was never meant to be a logo; it was just a small icon. It’s been overemphasised and so I can understand the reaction.”

As for Friday’s cancelled operation, why would anybody think sending these guys in to piggyback on a Victoria Police operation was a good idea in the central business district of Australia’s most left-wing capital city, and one of its most multi-cultural?

I’m betting they won’t try that again in a hurry.

Impacts of proposed tram and train strikes

Today’s tram strike

Some media is saying trams will start heading back to depots from 8am — but Yarra Trams tells me 9am. They also tell me trams will come back out of depots right on 2pm, but it may take until 6pm for things to be completely back to normal.

Tram replacement buses during industrial action 27/8/2015

Options during the tram stoppage:

Yarra Trams has a list of alternative service — both regular scheduled bus/train services, and special replacement buses on a few routes.

(I think it’s a pretty good effort to put on some replacements. Can you imagine trying to organise bustitution for the World’s Biggest Tram Network(tm) for 4+ hours?)

PTV also has an information page.

For getting around the CBD, walking often isn’t that much slower than tram for trips of less than a few blocks, though the weather may not be the best for it.

You can use the City Loop: the direction changes are confusing, but PTUA has a map of it.

Frequent buses run along some streets in the City and inner suburbs — some of them include:

  • Crown Casino (Queensbridge) via Queen Street to Lonsdale Street: 216, 219, 220
  • Queen St/Collins St along Queen St then along Lonsdale St, Russell St, Lygon St: 200, 207
  • Victoria Market via Queen St, Collins St to Southern Cross, Docklands (Collins St), South Wharf: 232, 235, 237
  • Lonsdale St/King St along Lonsdale St, Victoria Parade, Hoddle St: 905, 906, 907, 908

All of these buses have realtime information via the PTV app and other apps such as Bus Tracker. Remember none of these will be free like CBD trams.

Tram/bus stop, Queensbridge Street, Casino East

Next week’s possible train strike

Some of the actions proposed next week are harmless, some less so.

> Refusing to wear company uniforms

Who’d notice? The trammies did it a few days ago, and nobody noticed.

> A ban on inspecting mykis

The problem comes when there’s confusion over which days/modes it applies.

> A ban on short arrivals and short departures [when trains do not run to the end of the line]
> A ban on station skipping between 9am and midnight

Sounds good? Well, perhaps not. Those changes (along with skipping stations) are sometimes to get delayed trains into position for a peak run. If they are banned, it may mean more delays in peak hour.

> A one-hour stoppage between 3am and 4am Thursday
> A four-hour stoppage between 2am and 6am Friday

No trains run before 4am, but even the 3-4am stoppage would cut into train prepping time, affecting early morning services and morning peak hour. A 2am-6am stoppage even moreso; that would affect a lot of services.

Many of them sound harmless at first, but have real effects on services which may not be immediately obvious.

Hopefully, on both trams and trains, a settlement can be reached without further impacts on passengers.

Photos from ten years ago: Canberra

Almost all my photos from August 2005 seem to be from a three day Canberra trip (actually the only time I’ve been to Canberra). I remember it being cold but fun.

And many of the photos are from around the Parliament Houses (old and new).

Old Parliament House:
Old Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

Old Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

New Parliament House. I think this was the approach from Canberra Avenue. Obviously there were works going on at the time.
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

It’s rather impressive up close.
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

At the time there seemed to be pretty free easy access to the top. Can you still go up there?
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

Inside: the House of Representatives.
House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

The Senate. In contrast to some of PM Abbott’s appearances, only two flags — almost seems unpatriotic in comparison.
The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

A panorama from the roof of Parliament House. Use the scroll bar to move across, or view the large size at Flickr.

A typical Canberra bus shelter. They look funny to this Melburnian’s eyes, but you can’t deny they’d provide actual shelter from the weather, unlike the glorified advertising billboards we often get here.
Bus stop, Canberra, August 2005

This was snapped out of the plane window as we left Canberra. Makes you realise how low-rise it is (or at least, was).
Canberra from the air, August 2005

The Black Mountain/Telstra Tower. Shame we didn’t get a chance to go up there.
Canberra from the air, August 2005

Metro rail tunnel ads

Remember the ads for future transport projects that we saw in 2010 and 2014? They’re baaaaaack.

Advertising for Melbourne Metro rail tunnel in a train

The metro rail tunnel isn’t fully funded.

But the ads are a bit different from the ones we saw last year for the proposed (but now scrapped) Melbourne Rail Link (the Coalition’s then-alternative tunnel plan) and the airport rail link (on ice for now).

Although not yet fully-funded, work on the metro rail tunnel project has actually started. There has been test drilling along Swanston Street and elsewhere, as well as a lot of planning work.

Labor is clearly pushing to have major construction started before the 2018 election. This isn’t unreasonable — unlike the Coalition’s East West Link, Labor went to the 2014 election promising it. And of course Labor would be hoping to use the sight of bulldozers and tunnel boring machines as a springboard to re-election.

Hopefully this also locks in the project for completion, no matter who wins in 2018.

Obviously they’ll be hoping for Federal funding. Tony Abbott’s Coalition is highly unlikely to provide any, but if leadership of the Coalition falls to someone else, and/or the Coalition is defeated at the next Federal election, funding is more likely.

And if not? Well it’s a ten year project (by the time it’s finished, we’ll certainly need it), with a cost of about $10 billion. It would obviously be a lot of money, but $1 billion a year wouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of the state… though of course the tunnel will only really work well as part of a suite of train, tram and bus upgrades, for which funding is needed. And of course money is also needed for other projects (transport related and elsewhere).

Metro test drilling

So is this round of ads as extravagant and ill-conceived as those from Labor in 2010 and the Coalition in 2014?

I think not quite. These ads (from what I’ve seen so far) are lower-profile/cheaper, and not as directly/blatantly aimed at re-election.

And at least they have a purpose: to inform of a project that is actually underway, point people towards the project web site, which in turn points people to the online survey.

And of course, I’d encourage everyone to look at the survey and give them your views of the project!