I’d been reading this article about the proposal to narrow a section of Mountain Highway through Bayswater when the level crossing is removed — from 3 lanes in each direction down to 2.
Bayswater state Liberal MP Heidi Victoria has submitted the petition against the plans to State Parliament and urged the Government to intervene.
“Those of us who live and work in Bayswater know the traffic congestion is already at an all-time high,” Ms Victoria said.
“The community do not want this; local businesses do not want this.”
I don’t know the area well, but given Mountain Highway is 2 lanes east of the nearby intersection, and the removal of the level crossing would cut the major delay factor for cars, and the area just west of the station is a retail precinct, I thought the idea shouldn’t be automatically rejected.
Closer to my neck of the woods, Ormond is 3 lanes each way, and is quite pedestrian hostile. The noise of the traffic is near-constant, and unlike nearby Mckinnon or Bentleigh, it’s very difficult to cross the road to points of interest.
Looking at the Google StreetView imagery, there are similarities. It’s hard to tell what day of the week and time the pictures were taken, but the businesses all look open, yet there is an absence of shoppers. Many of the street car spots are free, suggesting that local shops don’t do spectacularly well.
Removing a lane, widening the footpaths and reducing the speed limit might improve things, and appear to be ideas supported by the local council.
Judging from the comments in the local paper, the most vocal locals don’t care much for Bayswater other than as a place to drive through as quickly as possible.
But area is marked as a pedestrian priority route under the Smartroads strategy, so it’s understandable where the council and Vicroads are coming from.
So I pondered on it Twitter:
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 7, 2016
Note that I didn’t say it was a wonderful thing. I just said it shouldn’t automatically be rejected.
A few hours later, this furious response from the MP for Bayswater:
— Hon. Heidi Victoria (@heidivic) May 8, 2016
Well, that escalated quickly. Is this really the standard of public discourse that one should expect? I know the limited form of Twitter posts isn’t great for nuance, but that just seems ridiculously over-the-top.
Apparently I’ve been barred from going to Bayswater by the local MP. There goes any chance of getting to know the area better. Is this like the opposite of being presented with the keys to the city?
Happily, other locals are more welcoming.
— Evan Cottle (@EvanC_Au) May 8, 2016
It’s hard to tell, but I would assume that Ms Victoria (and anybody else getting into a debate about traffic and roads) is aware of the term “traffic sewer” (meaning an environment that encourages lots of traffic to move through at speed, to the detriment of other local activities such as walking, cycling, shopping). It’s definitely not the same as calling a place a sewer.
Assuming she knows that, she appears not to consider that a six lane road through a shopping centre doesn’t actually result in a great urban and retail environment.
My guess is the level crossing can result in long delays and frustration for motorists. Removing it will drastically cut delays, especially long unpredictable ones. Removing the third lane each way (matching the road further east) may still mean overall fewer delays for motorists, while drastically improving conditions for walkers and shoppers. One would hope Vicroads has done modelling on this.
Perhaps for some — a bit like Skyrail — any hint of even considering any evidence has gone out the window, because outright rejection is seen by the Opposition as the best way to make a political point.
I’d hope for a more considered response from the Member for Bayswater, but perhaps I got off lightly.