You might have seen media coverage (Age / Herald Sun) of the new City of Melbourne Draft Walking Plan.
There’s lots of interesting stuff in the document (PDF, 35Mb).
Below are some notes from a skim through. (Page references refer to those at the top of the page, eg numbered from the start of the PDF including cover sheets/intro, not the start of the document.)
p1. The economic benefits from dense city centres and improved walkability, underpinning the need for action: “A 10 per cent increase in the connectivity of the Hoddle Grid’s walking network is estimated to increase the value of the economy by $2.1 billion per year by making it quicker and easier for people to move around the city to do business, access services and jobs.”
p6. The bottom line on numbers: 840,000 people visit the city daily, expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.
p10. Updated figures (2011) for journeys to work in the City of Melbourne: Public transport 50.4% (Train 39.5%), vehicle 37.7%, walking 5.5%.
Note that the City of Melbourne is a lot bigger than the CBD, and the Hoddle Grid — I would expect figures for just the Hoddle Grid to show a higher proportion of public transport trips, but this walking strategy covers the whole council area.
p12. Weekday trips within the City of Melbourne are dominated by walking (66%).
p16. The importance of resolving crowding: “Crowding discourages people from walking, creates delays which waste time and money and undermines Melbourne’s international reputation for liveability.”
p20. Yikes: “In the City of Melbourne, a pedestrian is killed or sustains a serious or other injury every two days.”
p21. They’re aiming/expecting to increase walking, and public transport and bicycle use, with private car trips reducing.
p30. They’re seeking to work with the Vicroads SmartRoads network operating plan, which already highlights which streets should prioritise which mode.
p32. Ever wondered why more traffic lights don’t automatically show a green man, even if nobody presses the button? Or wondered what it’s called? Apparently this is called “Auto pedestrian phase signals”.
Sounds like it will be implemented at a lot more crossings, which is good. Why is it important? As the document says: “They reduce waiting times for pedestrians (pedestrians do not miss an opportunity to cross if they get to the intersection after the time a walk phase could start). They give pedestrians a similar level of service to motorists, public transport vehicles and cyclists who do not need to manually activate lights.”
I’ve spotted this at a handful of recently re-programmed suburban traffic lights… would be great to see much more of it — it should be the standard.
p33 has a map of where they plan to implement it, which is encouraging. Thing is, I’d like to see it become the default for all signalised intersections — particularly as typical traffic light programming means a pedestrian who just misses the start of the green phase has to wait until the next one starts to get a green man.
p34 notes some (about 15) CBD intersections don’t have green man displays (“pedestrian lanterns”), apparently a legacy of the original installation in the 1940s! They’re going to install them — I suppose it may seem more restrictive for pedestrians, though as the document says “people with disabilities face significant difficulty when crossing the street as they are not alerted when it is safe and appropriate to cross”.
p36-47 goes into some detail about increasing pedestrian priority across the CBD, with five proposed categories:
- Street as place — eg a destination, for instance Centre Place, Degraves Street
- Walking street — for instance Bourke Street Mall, and proposed for the bottom of Elizabeth Street
- High mobility walking street (public transport corridor) — for instance Swanston Street at present, and proposed for the remainder of Elizabeth Street
- High mobility street (public transport corridor)
- Other streets used by pedestrians
p50 talks about improved maps around the city.
p52. Stop lines to be moved to require motorists to give way to pedestrians when exiting minor lanes.
p56-57 talks about works to assist current areas of pedestrian overcrowding, such as around railway stations.
p59. Widen pedestrian crossings at intersections, and build-out kerbs. Also act on motorists who block crossings.
Edit: This page also notes they plan to move blockages such as street furniture (eg bins) away from busy intersections.
p64-69 goes into some detail about access in and around railway stations, including investigating re-opening the Little Collins Street pedestrian subway into Southern Cross Station).
I’m somewhat amused that they believe they need to “investigate ways to encourage use of [the Degraves Street] entrance” to Flinders Street Station. One look at it makes it pretty obvious what the problem is — there’s zero signage telling you it goes to the station.
p72-73. More formal pedestrian crossings, such as mid-block crossings.
p76-77. It notes that it is completely legal to cross more than 20 metres from a crossing, and because this is important for reducing walking distances and delays, and because they can’t provide crossings absolutely everywhere, they want to make streets easier to cross between the crossings.
The example they give (William Street outside Flagstaff station) is slightly odd — the reason people cross here is to avoid the packed footpaths. It’s unlikely many would cross between the station and the old Mint car park — though some using the car park might be going to nearby buildings.
p84 onwards. The appendices cover a number of interesting topics, including pedestrian countdown timers — not generally seen as recommended as trials haven’t shown they improve signal compliance.
Barnes walks (scramble crossings). They conclude they’re not worthwhile due to overall delays to pedestrians, trams and motorists — though oddly that’s based on a study of two locations seemingly chosen at random. They really should have looked at spots which are more obvious candidates, for instance those with busy buildings on all corners and a railway station on one side: say, Spencer and Bourke, Spencer and Collins, and Flinders and Swanston.
Pedestrian early starts — showing a green man before parallel traffic gets a green light. Fair enough — it’s really of benefit when turning motorists aren’t correctly giving way, and this isn’t a big problem at signalised intersections in the CBD.
p95. An interesting couple of tables about “Pedestrian level of service” — that is, different standards for how quickly a pedestrian can cross the road at traffic lights.
p96. Another interesting table showing a Transport For London reference on pedestrian comfort levels (PCL), based on how congested a pavement is, measuring the number of people and how restricted movement is at each level.
“At Pedestrian Comfort Level D, walking speeds are restricted and reduced and there are difficulties in bypassing slower pedestrians or moving in reverse flows.”
This is important research — for someone who hasn’t regularly experienced such conditions, it can be difficult to understand why a photo of a bunch of people on a footpath which appears to have plenty of space is, in fact, quite restrictive if you’re actually trying to walk on it. (This is why people resort to walking on the road.)
The draft document makes a lot of good points, and it’s fantastic to see the breadth of thought and research into a topic that’s so important for the City of Melbourne, including recognition of such issues as permeability and crowding levels on footpaths.
Cities like Melbourne need to plan carefully to cater for more pedestrians. On foot (in conjunction with public transport access) is the most efficient way to move more people around a busy city centre.
The only niggle I have is that it completely fails to talk about motorcycles parked on footpaths — as I’ve noted before, the guidelines don’t seem to be well-known (or followed), and certainly aren’t enforceable.
But overall, a big thumbs up — and it’ll be great to see some of the proposed changes implemented.