Sorry, no time to do a proper blog post, so here’s a photo of a rainbow I snapped in Bentleigh on Monday, as dark clouds loomed:

Rainbow over Bentleigh

The Ukrainian crisis – so many familiar names in East St Kilda

Hearing the news of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has an added dimension for someone who grew up in East St Kilda. Lots of street names in the area come from the Crimean War — from the British forces, names of battles (which in turn are mostly named after locations), and even Florence Nightingale is in there.

Map of the Balaclava area (from Melway/street-directory.com.au)

There’s some guesswork here, not an authorative list:

Alma Road — The Battle of Alma, 1854.

Balaclava (and Balaclava Road) — the Battle of Balaclava, 1854, near the city of Balaklava.

Blenheim Street — perhaps after the Vengeur-Class battle gun ship HMS Blenheim which served in the Crimean War.

Cardigan Street — Earl of Cardigan, who led the charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava.

Crimea Street — the Crimean War, 1853-1856.

Inkerman Street — the town of Inkerman in the Crimea.

Malakoff Street — The Battle of Malakoff, 1855.

Nightingale Street — Florence Nightingale, prominent nurse in the Crimean War.

Odessa Street — Odessa, Ukraine.

Pakington Street — Sir John Pakington, secretary of state for war in the British government, and involved in several government reports into the war.

Raglan Street — Lord Raglan, commander of British forces in the war.

Redan Street — The Battle of Great Redan, 1855.

Sebastopol Street — The Siege of Sevastopol, 1854-55.

Westbury Grove and Westbury Street — Frank Atha Westbury, who served in the Crimea before emigrating to Melbourne in 1866.

Any others people have spotted?

  • 2/7/2009: Street clusters — newspapers in Cheltenham, cities in Murrumbeena, poets in Elwood, trees in Caulfield South

For sale: Idyllic home

What do you think of this house for sale?

Inner-city location, described by the real estate agents as an “Idyllic home/Office”.

House for sale, Kings Way

Very cute.

Wait a minute. Zoom out.

House for sale, Kings Way

Zoom out a bit more.

House for sale, Kings Way

Turns out it’s on Kings Way, dwarfed by surrounding buildings, and almost drowning in passing traffic.

It reminds me a bit of three properties in Caulfield: the last house resisting the expansion of Caulfield Racecourse; a similar one at nearby Monash University Caulfield; and the half-house remaining next to Dan Murphy’s.

(Kings Way house spotted by Marita.)

Service Kilometres Per Capita – are public transport services keeping up with population growth?

In the face of Labor’s proposal for 24-hour trains and trams at weekends, the State Coalition has been talking up its credentials in public transport. This tweet from Acting Public Transport Minister David Hodgett for example:

Unfortunately, Services/Trips per week can be a slightly shaky way of measuring public transport provision, partly because consistent information on it is so hard to come by.

And what does it mean? 3,870 extra bus trips sounds like a lot. But what does it represent in percentage terms? And what if those extras are mostly on really short routes?

As it happens, of the trips the Coalition has funded, many are part of the (excellent) Huntingdale to Monash University 601 shuttle, which runs every 4 minutes in term times. Terry K (not M) checked the timetable and counted 1,945 weekly trips (eg half the increase) are on that one route alone. Fantastic for Monash people, and it’s paid off in patronage, but it suggests buses elsewhere may not be doing so well.

A better measure than Trips is Service Kilometres. These are published in the budget papers every year, amongst a huge number of other measures of government performance, so you can compare them year-on-year.

It’s not perfect. An extra train, tram or bus running further is not necessarily useful to people if it runs against the peak flow, or if (particularly buses) are provided on indirect routes running from A to B via most of the known universe. And of course in capacity and speed terms, typically an extra train kilometre provides more than an extra bus or tram kilometre.

But as a raw indicator of how much public transport service is provided, it’s pretty good.

Here’s total metropolitan Service Kilometres since 2001, showing how they’ve done under both Labor (up to 2010) and the Coalition (from 2010).

Melbourne public transport: Service kilometres (millions)

(Note: the figures are for the financial year-ending, and all the 2013 figures in this post are the “expected” result. Others are all the “actual” results.)

What it shows is that in the early Labor years there was little if any increase in services. Around 2006 they finally woke up (as I said the other day, this was when crowding was really starting to bite) and extra services were introduced. This continued under the Coalition until around 2012. In the last year or so, extra service kilometres flat-lined.

This is likely to change when the Regional Rail Project opens, providing extra capacity (which, one hopes, would be used) on the Williamstown/Werribee and Sunbury lines. It’s also worth noting that PTV is slowly reforming the bus network to untangle confusing indirect routes, the resulting efficiency gain being that each kilometre of bus service is getting more useful for passengers.

OK, so what if Service Kilometres was measured against Melbourne’s population? After all, services have to keep up with population growth, otherwise there’ll be trouble.

So I scrabbled around for figures of Melbourne’s population for each year in this range. Basically the population has grown from 3.4 million in 2001 to around 4.2 million in 2013, or 23%.

This gives us public transport service kilometres per head of population.

Melbourne public transport: Service kilometres (millions) per capita

Once again, this shows that Labor wasn’t setting the world alight in its early years in power, but lifted its game around 2006.

But the growth has slowed under the Coalition, the 2012 and 2013 figures show public transport provision is actually going backwards compared to population growth.

What effect does this have on patronage? When you throw in Passenger Trips (like Service Kilometres, these are also in the budget papers) and divide by population, you can then compare services vs the number of public transport trips per person in each year. This shows us not just the raw number of trips, but whether individuals are actually using PT more.

Melbourne public transport: Service kilometres (millions) per capita vs trips per capita

I’m sure there are a lot of different factors, but it’s interesting to see that from 2006 to 2009, trips per person grew at a faster rate than Service Kilometres per capita.

Perhaps apart from issues like urban planning (where people live, work, play — for instance the growth in CBD residents) it also reflects that as you add more services, higher frequencies and better connections mean the network as a whole becomes more useful for more trips.

There was a blip in 2010 (tram patronage fell slightly that year) before growth to 2012… and then it appears to fall strongly backwards. Uh oh. But remember, that 2013 figure is only a prediction.

(See also: PT boardings compared between cities)

Correlation is not causation, but it does seem that if you want to continue to grow public transport patronage — and in any big city, this is a good goal to keep people moving quickly and efficiently, and preferably out of the traffic — you need to keep boosting services.

Perhaps they have something up their sleeves, but unfortunately with the Coalition’s current focus on the East West tunnel, they seem a little too obsessed on road building instead.

It’d be great to see both sides going into the election pledging more services, particularly more frequent services all day, when vehicle and track capacity isn’t a problem.

Motorcycle/scooter parking on *foot*paths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

Some years ago I wrote about issues with the City of Melbourne policy of allowing motorbikes and scooters to park on footpaths, except in a few locations where it’s specifically banned.

The problem is, most of the guidelines seem to be ignored.

The guidelines

Here are the guidelines (see also: PDF version):

DO dismount and walk your motorcycle while you are on the footpath

DO ensure your motorcycle is at least one motorcycle length out from the building line to allow free passage of pedestrians (this is important as people with a visual and/or physical impairment may use the building line for navigation)

Motorbikes parked along the building line

DO park at least one motorcycle wheel diameter back from the road kerb, to allow pedestrians free access to and from the road and to parked vehicles (You can leave less space between your motorcycle and the kerb if you park next to a “no stopping” zone).

Parked about half a wheel diameter away from the kerb

DO NOT PARK where signs indicate that motorcycles are not allowed to park
the signs seem to be well observedUpdate Friday: Last night I spotted this:
Parking where you shouldn't, Flinders Lane

DO NOT PARK opposite any parking bay reserved for people with disabilities (marked with a wheelchair sign and symbol)

Parking adjacent to a disabled car parking space

DO NOT PARK where space is reserved for footpath activities such as street cafés
– it’s a bit hard to tell, as most such areas seem not to be well-defined.

Parking in what appears to be a designated outdoor cafe area

DO NOT PARK on narrow footpaths
– this is far too vague, but based on the second and third points, one could conclude that it means don’t park on footpaths so narrow you can’t leave a motorcycle wheel diameter from the kerb, and a motorcycle length from the building line. This should automatically make any footpath narrower than a motorcycle length (plus a wheel length) out of bounds.

Parking on a narrow footpath

DO NOT PARK on or near service access points, such as manhole covers, post boxes or rubbish bins

Parking over a manhole cover

DO NOT PARK near taxi ranks or bus and tram stops

Parking in a bus stop

Parking in a taxi rank

DO NOT PARK on private property without permission from the property owner
– some areas can be identified as private property, but it’s not possible to tell if permission has been given.

DO NOT PARK where your vehicle could damage the footpath, pedestrian facilities or landscaping
– I didn’t find any evidence of this.

DO NOT PARK within 1 metre of fire hydrants

Parking closer than 1m from a fire hydrant

There are just three locations where motorcycle parking is specifically banned:

  • Collins Street, south side footpath, between Exhibition Street and George Parade — I’m not even sure why this spot was excluded; the footpaths are wide, and it’s not particularly busy
  • Flinders Lane, south side footpath, between Port Phillip Arcade and Elizabeth Street
  • Exhibition Street, west side footpath, adjacent to Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Everywhere else, it’s permitted:

In Victoria you can legally park your motorcycle/scooter on the footpath (unless otherwise signed), as long as you do not obstruct pedestrians, doorways, delivery vehicles, public transport users or access to parked cars.

Motorcycle parking brochure

Common sense

Of course, common sense would suggest a few others points, such as…

Don’t block ramps to pedestrian crossings, particularly tactile guidance paths for the blind

Motorbike blocking tactile guidance path

…or block the footpath opposite a tram stop exit

Parked opposite a tram superstop exit

…or park in pedestrian malls

Is it permitted to park motorbikes in tram stops in the Mall? Not legal to drive it into Mall. Rego 1C9PW.

…or in the middle of a civic amenity such as public rotunda

Parked in the middle of a rotunda

Why does this stuff even matter?

Firstly, I have a philosophical disagreement with the idea of motor vehicles being parked (and driven) on footpaths.

Many CBD footpaths are already congested. As the CBD continues to get busier, it’s going to get worse. In the past ten years, total daily city numbers have grown from 679,000 to about 830,000 — about 22%.

While the number of CBD visitors using motorbikes remains proportionately low (less than 1% — a comment on the previous post said about 1200 per day), obviously as the CBD gets busier, the numbers are likely to increase.

Efficient movement of people around the city means encouraging the most efficient mode: that means pedestrians. But their space is being encroached upon by a relatively small number of other users.

Note that cyclists in general don’t cause these problems because they need to be left chained to something, such as a pole, restricting where they end up parked. Pushbikes are also physically smaller.

There are several problems here, I think:

Firstly, the rules as they stand don’t seem to be enforced, and are widely ignored, or perhaps not even common knowledge among motorbike and scooter riders.

Are they even enforceable rules? Or are they just guidelines? I’m guessing the latter.

Either way, whatever the rules are, riders need to be made aware of them, educated, and then the rules enforced — even if it’s just issuing notices advising of what not to do.

Secondly, the free-for-all just doesn’t make sense in a busy city centre. With pedestrian numbers continuing to increase, and motorbike riders accounting for less than 1% of the total daily CBD population, this is simply not efficient use of footpath space to have them sitting there all day. It probably explains why other capital city CBDs don’t allow it.

In comparison, many local councils have cracked down on footpath trading in recent years because of concerns about pedestrian flows and the vision impaired, and have provided clear rules about where traders can place displays, signs, tables, and so on. There doesn’t seem to have been any such clarity around motorbikes, and formalising the current guidelines and enforcing them would help a lot.

Where motorbike parking makes sense

I’d much prefer the policy was changed to allow motorbikes on the footpaths only in defined areas — opt-in rather than opt-out.

There are “motorcycle precincts” such as parts of Elizabeth Street where their presence is to be expected, and there are spots where it works fine, for instance opposite some tram superstops where there are wide footpaths with plenty of spare capacity, and barriers mean nobody needs to park cars or cross the road at that point.

Motorbike parking, out of the way, opposite a tram superstop

The other thing that should happen is the replacement of more on-street car parking with motorbike parking. It makes sense because motorbike/scooter parking on the street is more efficient use of space than car parking. Plus there’s lots of off-street car-parking, and in any case car traffic needs to be discouraged.

Motorbike parking, Queen Street

(I’m less sure that motorcycles/scooters are more efficient in traffic… it might be that they take up about as much space as cars when moving. Motorbikes are also, in the main, much noisier.)

If there isn’t a switch to opt-in footpath parking rules, then there should at least be a blanket ban on parking on narrow footpaths (going by the points in the existing guidelines) and bans placed on areas of high pedestrian traffic, such as around the railway stations.

Ultimately though, the City of Melbourne should be prioritising pedestrians on footpaths. They account for the majority of footpath users, with numbers increasing every year, and are the most efficient use of available the space.


When I’ve raised the prospect of a change on Twitter, people cite a motorbike protest some years ago which was probably how the current policy came about. Motorcyclists parked (quite legally) one motorbike per car spot in protest, and the council surrendered. They imply this could happen again.

You know what? The threat of protest doesn’t make it a good policy.

And I think you could predict my attitude to this specific protest — a protest inconveniencing CBD motorists (another minority mode)? Let them. I don’t care one bit.

One more thing

It’s very much in the eye of the beholder, but what about the heritage and character of our streets?

Beyond problems of efficiency, of footpath capacity… do we actually want every street in Melbourne to be overrun with parked motorcycles and scooters?

Motorbikes on Bourke Street

Update Friday

Last night I spotted a violation of parking where specifically signed that you shouldn’t. Picture inserted above.

And City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has advised me that, as I suspected, they are unenforceable guidelines, not rules.

A day at the races

Perhaps a day at the races with the right skills and knowledge could be quite profitable, but for me (first time in over a decade), it certainly wasn’t a money maker — it was about the company.

Quite a glorious day, relaxing, standing in the sunshine, chatting to the blokes I was with, pondering horses and bets, and watching the races as they happened.

Caulfield Racecourse

For the record:

$45 entry. (You can book online for $40… plus a booking fee of, from memory, another dollar, which hardly makes it worth it)

Drinks $7.50 for a can of beer, $4.80 for a bottle of soft drink = $19.80. Was interesting to see stricter limits of 2 cans of alcohol per purchase after 4pm. I can’t say I saw any alcohol-related problems.

Starlight Foundation charity badge (pictured below) $5

I didn’t splurge on bets, but did put $5 each on Oasis Bloom (which came second) and Speediness (which came fourth) based on tips from friend of a friend, as well as liking the names — perhaps not the best strategy ever, but the best one I have.

Betting, Caulfield races

Caulfield Guineas day isn’t the busiest day of course. They had said at one stage they reckoned a crowd of about 25,000. Seemed well-behaved from where I was standing.

For the men there was a mix of casual dress and suits — probably more of the latter in the public areas, even more so in the more exclusive sections no doubt. Most of the ladies seemed to be in frocks. A few people were in fancy dress — I saw one Star Trek captain (a Trek tunic, plus a sailor captain’s cap), and several people in animal suits, though they’d all taken off the heads as it was pretty warm.

And the winner of the feature race? Long John.

There seemed to be plenty of staff and extra trains at Caulfield station afterwards, so getting home again wasn’t an issue. I wonder how they’ll cope on the really busy days.

Plenty of staff, announcements and extra trains after the races at Caulfield

Fire hydrants

This is one of those blog posts which is about something really quite mundane but which might possibly be quite interesting in a decade or three. Maybe.

You’ve seen lots of these around. This is a fire hydrant. Or at least, it’s the cover of a hydrant. The bits that actually work are underneath it, and are quite low to the ground.

Fire hydrant (covered)

This is also a fire hydrant. I’m assuming it’s an older one, as everything is visible — it doesn’t have a cover. This might be what people think of in their minds when they think of what a fire hydrant looks like.

Fire hydrant (uncovered)

And have you noticed these? I remember being told about them as a kid, I think on an excursion to the (now defunct) Elwood fire station. A blue rectangle on a power pole means there’s a fire hydrant up ahead. A square means it’s back behind you. I’m guessing these make it easier for the fire brigade to find a hydrant (especially at night) when they need it.

Fire hydrant up ahead

Fire hydrant is behind you

Update 6/10/2013: Some mention in the comments of blue reflectors (“cats eyes”) on the road to additionally help locate hydrants. For completeness, here’s a photo of one.

Fire hydrant, and cats eye on road indicating its presence

“OMG”! – a few amusing church signs

This very prominent sign spotted in Malvern, at the southern end of Glenferrie Road:
"OMG" - Malvern

Jeremy snapped this picture in Elsternwick at the start of the year, when the Coles “Down down” ads were at their height.
Elsternwick church: "Down down, Jesus came down"

This one was in Bentleigh — I found this one amusing:
Bentleigh Uniting Church: This is the sign

…Then a few weeks later, this one. Not sure about that bottom line… a trifle sinister?
Bentleigh Uniting Church: Come while you still can

Spotted any other good ones recently, or specific churches that go for witty slogans on their signs?