One day in 1992, I had a joyous moment when I walked most of the length of Swanston Street — in the former traffic lanes — for the first time.
It was a wondrous thing, and while Swanston Street still sees delivery vehicles, taxis and the odd errant car, with the wider footpaths and cyclists galore, it’s a much more pleasant place to be than it was back then.
About the only one who doesn’t see it that way is new Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. He is firm on saying he wants to return traffic to Swanston Street. I guess he means something like this, filmed in 1988:
Doesn’t look all that great to me.
Of course to put cars back in, you’d either have to remove half the footpaths (and their trees) or mix up all the cars, trams and cyclists, resulting in a dangerous congested mess. And how you’d achieve tram platform stops (required by 2020 or so to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act) I don’t know.
Doyle appears to subscribe to the Neil Mitchell view, that people should be able to drive through the CBD at 60 km/h and park wherever they like. That might have been true… oh, about 160 years ago, but probably not since then, and it’s certainly not true now, not with over 700,000 daily users.
It might make sense if car drivers were a majority of city visitors, and they were lacking road space on other streets, but they aren’t.
It might make sense if the car ban applied at night and was keeping people out of the street, threatening safety, but it doesn’t.
It might make sense if there was space to properly segregate trams, cyclists, service vehicles, general traffic and pedestrians, but there isn’t.
It might make sense if we were wanting to encourage more motor vehicle traffic into the CBD, but we aren’t.
Swanston Street has its problems, but bringing back cars won’t solve them. On the contrary, it would clog up the street, sacrifice dozens of trees, delay thousands using trams, and make it less safe for cyclists, pedestrians and tram passengers alike.
If you feel strongly about the issue, join the protest at 5pm on Tuesday outside the Town Hall (timed to co-incide with the first meeting of the new council).
(Alas, I can’t make it.)