Pedestrians in the car park – often there’s no choice

I sometimes wonder if motorists driving in and out of car parks get irritated by pedestrians walking through.

Often the pedestrians have no choice.

These pictures are from Caulfield Plaza – with the major drawcard inside being the Coles supermarket.

There is obvious pedestrian traffic from the railway station and the university campus to the southern entrance of the Plaza. There are no footpaths on this side, so of course people walk through the car park. There is a pedestrianised entrance from Dandenong Road, and another from Derby Road, but few people are likely to go the long way around.

Caulfield Plaza car park

In my suburb, Bentleigh, despite generally being very walkable, it’s a similar story at the big supermarkets:

  • Safeway Woolworths is on the corner of Jasper and Centre Roads, but provides no pedestrian access at all, so anybody coming on foot has to cut through the car park.
  • Aldi is on Centre Road, inside a bigger building, and has a dedicated pedestrian entrance to the street, as well as a car park around the back.
  • Coles has a well-placed pedestrian entrance from the eastern side, but from the western side there’s only a gap in the car spaces with some bollards (see below), and this is located well away from the desire lines, so nobody uses it.

Coles Bentleigh, pointless pedestrian path

These types of layouts are poor design, for both pedestrians and motorists.

And I guess until it’s fixed we just have to live with it. Motorists need to watch out, and consider that every pedestrian is one less car on the road and taking up car spaces.

And pedestrians need to watch out for inattentive drivers. Often visibility isn’t ideal, especially for cars pulling out of or backing into parking spaces.

I wonder though, is making pedestrians walk through a car park subtly discouraging them from walking? Particularly those who are, or are with, vulnerable walkers such as young children or those with mobility problems.

Would supermarkets and other businesses with their own car parks get more customers if they provided safe convenient paths to their doors?

Are newer car parks and shopping centres any better? How do we get this fixed?

Don’t park on a yellow line

I’ve often thought that we have too many parking restriction signs in Melbourne. Some streets have them every few metres.

One way around that is to use line markings. As a long-time watcher of British TV, I’m somewhat familiar with yellow lines: single (roughly: no stopping at specific times, but with some exceptions), double (no stopping at any time), red (roughly equivalent to a Clearway).

It’s not well-known, but we have some variants here: you’re not meant to park along a yellow line.

You’d think it might save some signage… well not in this case, spotted near Patterson station… the council has put a sign with the line (which is only a couple of metres long) to explain it.

Yellow line marking, Bentleigh

Meanwhile down at Mornington, one motorist is disputing a fine, declaring it “unAustralian”… seems a little over the top for a $91 fine.

I wouldn’t object to more use of lines to avoid having to put up signs everywhere, but given so few people seem to know about them, some kind of education campaign might be needed.

The Montague Street bridge strikes again

It used to be that the fashionable bridge for high vehicles to crash into was the Spencer/Flinders Street rail overpass — eleven hits in five years.

But it’s been usurped by the Montague Street tram bridge.

At lunchtime on Tuesday I went down to have a look.

Certainly no shortage of warnings signs. In this view alone I count four, plus the stripy guard barrier in front of the bridge:
Montague St bridge, looking south

What you may not realise is that it’s actually two parallel bridges. One takes tram route 109; the other has spare tracks used for tram storage, as part of the nearby Southbank depot. (Originally one was the Port Melbourne line; I’m guessing the other was freight tracks or sidings.)
Montague St bridge, looking north

Similar to train bridges, there are signs indicating you should ring Yarra Trams straight away if a vehicle hits the bridge. Presumably that phone number has been rung a few times recently.
Sign on Montague St bridge

I was only there for about ten minutes, but unbelievably, another vehicle hit the bridge while I was there. This truck’s exhaust pipe hit the barrier. The pipe bent markedly, but stayed on. The truck driver stopped momentarily, then just kept going.
Truck damages exhaust, Montague St bridge

Not a serious collision of course, but amazing that despite all the signage and all the publicity, it still happens so often — this was the day after it had been hit twice.

And thankfully the vehicles are really hitting the super-tough guard barrier, so damage to the bridge itself (which would cause untold delays for many tram services and passengers) has so far been avoided.



(Yeah nah I didn’t really damage the car with my sneaker. Apparently it was damaged in a collision on Wednesday night, and left at the scene, presumably for later towing. Hopefully nobody was hurt.)

Thoughts from the road

I don’t drive as much as many people (my average kilometres per year figure is about half the national average), but here are some recent random observations…

Seat belts. Why do some people wait for a few hundred metres before they put on their seatbelts? Do they think they’re somehow immune from accidents for the first minute or two?

Petrol prices are down at the moment. It’s unclear if this will get more people driving more often or further, or buying bigger gas-guzzling cars, but looking at the longer term on the bright side, it’s completely taken the heat out of the government re-instating indexation on fuel excise.

Manual vs Auto. My car is a manual. I had the opportunity to drive an automatic a few times last year. It’s easier to drive, but perhaps not as responsive as driving a manual. The car took a few seconds to work out when I wanted to accelerate rapidly… in a manual, I can tell it exactly what to do.

How not to drive through level crossings - the signs 'Keep Tracks Clear' are important

The race: One of the books I read a year or two ago (I’d tell you precisely which, but I can’t remember, and haven’t found the quote) noted that driving is a race. I think that’s right. I’m not a speed-freak (I hope), but on multi-lane roads, I constantly find myself wondering if I can get ahead of the other cars by switching lanes.

On single lane roads the race becomes one of strategy. Avoid Caulfield if there’s horse racing today. Don’t use the tram roads; you may get stuck behind one. Don’t drive through the busy shopping centres if you don’t need to go there.

Of course, if you get stuck behind a slow driver, ultimately, that’s just life, right? It’s the nature of the road system — everybody’s at the mercy of the worst drivers on the road.