Why is this road rule never enforced?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I see a lot of motorists blocking intersections, including pedestrian crossings.

Here’s road regulation 128:

Entering blocked intersections

A driver must not enter an intersection if the driver cannot drive through the intersection because the intersection, or a road beyond the intersection, is blocked.

Penalty: 3 penalty units.

At the time of writing, a penalty unit is $155.46, so this is a fine of $466.

A separate regulation, 59, talks about where vehicles coming to a red light must stop:

(1) If traffic lights at an intersection or marked foot crossing are showing a red traffic light, a driver must not enter the intersection or marked foot crossing.

Penalty: In the case of a natural person, 10 penalty units; In the case of a body corporate, 120 penalty units.

(A similar rule applies to entering the “bicycle storage area”.)

So, the rules are pretty clear.

But it happens all the time in the city centre, and there’s no visible policing of it.

Little Bourke/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Latrobe/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Flinders/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Spencer Street - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Of course, in a lot of cases, the errant vehicle(s) will end up blocking other traffic, including private vehicles, freight and public transport.

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Note: The above instances are all from the last fortnight.

You would think that in the city centre, drivers would be more conscious of not blocking intersections, since the chances of traffic congestion are much higher.

You’d also think that given the huge number of pedestrians (the area is dominated by public transport and pedestrians, far exceeding motorists), authorities would put more care into ensuring that vehicles don’t encroach on pedestrian space, for safety if nothing else.

Nope. No visible enforcement. Not even — as many of these photos are — in the middle of the legal precinct.

In contrast, police “blitzes” on pedestrians are very very common — yesterday morning they were busy doing it in at least two locations in the CBD alone.

Even while police are on the scene practicing traffic direction or watching for jaywalkers, they ignore vehicles blocking crossings.

Along with motorcycles parking in pedestrian spaces, and advertising and vehicles blocking footpaths, this is one of my pet hates. And the common theme is that pedestrian space is being constantly encroached upon, and almost nobody cares.

And how is it that the excesses of people in their metal boxes are condoned, while those walking around on their own two feet are marginalised?

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32 thoughts on “Why is this road rule never enforced?”

  1. 1
    Philip says:

    And why are police officers’ faces blurred in photos but members of the public are clearly visible? If someone doesn’t want to be seen in public, they shouldn’t take a job in which they predominantly appear in public in a uniform.

  2. 2
    Alex says:

    I recently moved here from Adelaide and it has really stood out the amount of people that will enter intersections when there is no hope of actually crossing it completely. I rarely saw this happen in Adelaide, tis a very Melbourne thing and probably a symptom of lack of enforcement of the law

  3. 3
    Blair says:

    Another aspect of this is vehicles that enter a blocked intersection and then do something risky to get out of it (like changing lanes in mid-intersection). As a cyclist, in the last week I’ve had two cars suddenly move into my lane mid-intersection at blocked inner-city intersections, apparently without looking, for one hit and one near-miss. (Fortunately, the hit was at a low enough speed that it didn’t involve any damage to either myself or bike).

  4. 4
    Me again says:

    That’s reg 128, not 218, Daniel.

  5. 5
    Daniel says:

    @Philip, that was Michael’s choice. The issue isn’t with individual officers; it’s the management and training.

    @Blair, yes, agree, you sometimes see motorists suddenly swerve into bike lanes to try and exit the intersection. The other aspect is that blocking pedestrian crossings and bike lanes can force the users of those spaces out into traffic, which can be dangerous.

    @Me again, whoops! Numeric dyslexia. Fixed, thanks.

  6. 6
    Khris says:

    In answer to the main question: It involves Plod getting off his rear end to do the job he is paid to do!
    I used to live in country Vic and the road signs show parallel parking so, so visitors to town parked at trees with the rear end of car protruding out into the road which is a truck thoroughfare. People would park in No standing zones and block the road at the point where it narrows on a bend.
    WHY wouldn’t plod enforce road laws: “Because the people wouldn’t come back to the town and it would upset the stores in town”
    My response : Bet I would get booked the minute I parked in a No standing area in Melb.
    He laughed!
    Little wonder I have so much contempt for Plod nowadays!

  7. 7
    Andrew says:

    Interesting point from Blair that I’d never thought about. Cars regularly block Swanston Street trams at Flinders Street and Little Lonsdale Street, and at times Lonsdale Street and very occasionally Collins Street. The police do nothing, Vic Roads does nothing, the council does nothing and Yarra Trams does nothing.

    Why do people do it? Stupidity and a lack of concentration. I have some sympathy for people who are behind a truck and can’t see that the truck will only just clear the intersection and they won’t, but if they were paying attention to the traffic flow, they might be more cautious.

    New York is shocking for vehicles blocking intersections and it is so bad that if you don’t, you won’t get anywhere.

    I believe in England they have dealt with this by painting yellow lines over the intersections and you don’t enter the yellow box area without space on the other side for your car. If you are sitting within the box and stationary when the lights are green for the cross street you are snapped by a traffic camera. Given the lack of will by our police to enforce the law, this may be the only way to stop it, that is with technology.

    I don’t think Adelaide is a good comparison as the traffic there is not nearly as heavy, but surely Sydney is a good comparison and while the same problem may happen there, I have never seen it.

    I also think it is an inner suburban driver failing. At the entrance to the Monash freeway eastbound by car travelling north along Burke Road, the one car at a time entrance ramp traffic lights cause a bank up on the ramp back to Burke Road. No one ever queues back across Burke Road. Drivers make sure there is space for them on the ramp before they make their turn from Burke Road.

  8. 8
    Daniel says:

    @Andrew, Yarra Trams has occasionally put someone out on the Flinders/Swanston St intersection to try and wave cars off the tracks. It doesn’t really work. (Marcus Wong has a pic of this somewhere.)

    Crosshatching might make it more obvious that you’re not meant to stop on the intersection, but legally speaking there’s nothing at all preventing them issuing fines right now, with or without automated cameras.

    Crosshatching has appeared on a lot of level crossings in the last year or two, but it doesn’t necessarily stop people queuing across them: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielbowen/23388921169/

  9. 9
    Dave says:

    I’ve just moved here from wellington and I can’t believe you actually get a fine for jay walking! I thought it was just a myth in cartoons

  10. 10
    Albert3801 says:

    I can tell you why it happens in Sydney. And buses block intersections too. It’s because there is no alternative. This is what happens:

    1) traffic light is green but intersection is blocked. So you wait and don’t enter the intersection

    2) traffic light goes red. Traffic on the other side of the intersection begin to move off. Traffic from the cross street now has the lights to turn into the road in front of you. It begins to fill the space left by the traffic that was in front of you.

    3) Your traffic light turns green. But the other side of the intersection is now full again. So you wait

    4) Go to 1)

    Buses in particular have to enter the blocked intersections else they will never be able to get in

    While Melbourne traffic is nowhere near as bad as Sydney’s, I think you’ll find a similar thing sometimes happens. It’s in the interest of keeping traffic moving that the law is not enforced because if it is, traffic in one direction would get blocked for hours

  11. 11
    Aaron says:

    File this one under “obnoxious driving.” It happens all too often in the inner city, especially those geniuses who manage to completely block the pedestrian crossing, forcing people to wander into traffic to cross the road. Good luck if you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a pram!

    I would love to see offenders start getting fined for this behaviour. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep practising my disapproving glare.

  12. 12
    nick says:

    Daniel, please keep up the fight on this. Every time I’m about to cross an intersection in the CBD, I’m counting down to when I’ll have to deal with yet another unenforced intersection blocking. This affects everyone. Even drivers have to get out of their cars!

    I know there are vastly more important issues in the world, but I’m so sick of the inaction and disproportionate response towards ‘jaywalking’ (and cyclists in general in NSW) when you Never Ever see any enforcement of regulation 128.

    I will continue to slap boots/bonnets and yell ‘don’t block the crossing’ to drivers with their windows open. Maybe I’ll print copies of regulation 128 and superglue it to any offending motorist’s vehicle if things get bad enough.

  13. 13
    Matthew says:

    It’s struck me as dangerous because most cars in Victoria are automatic and drivers are too lazy to use hand brakes at crossings. If there isn’t a spare metre or more in front (as there should be from the stop line) they are inevitably going to hit pedestrians if their foot slips off the brake.

  14. 14
    Matthew says:

    THANK YOU Daniel for calling out motorists and law enforcement on this. It’s unbelievably frustrating and selfish (and in the case of level crossings, outright risky) for everyone- other motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and PT commuters- when they’re held up by cars that can’t just wait their turn at the lights. Have some patience people, you’re ruining the ‘green waves’!

  15. 15
    TranzitJim says:

    Perhaps, the powers to be, do not understand what a gold mine this could be.

    And, not enough people complain about it too.

  16. 16
    John says:

    @Matthew good call on the importance of space between vehicles (even when stopped) and other road users, who would drive their car across the front of another within less than 50cm yet pedestrians and cyclists are expected to?

    The design standards require significant setbacks between pedestrian crossings and the stop lines for vehicles since at traffic signals the drivers don’t need as much visibility to check for cross traffic. But without enforcement its all academic even if they were in the correct position.

    Note also there are painted areas to remind drivers at many of those examples, the bicycle storage areas!

  17. 17
    Tim says:

    This would not nearly be as much of an issue if police started issuing fines for people who change lanes within an intersection. If this practice were stopped, people would not feel the need to follow cars straight away, and would be more willing to wait for the intersection to be free on the other side. But currently, if you do that, some wanker will drive up past you on one side and cut across to the gap you were about to drive in to.

  18. 18
    Kev says:

    Daniel, why do you think it is not enforced? Is it a safety matter for police to be on the road? Or are the vehicle drivers/owners able to be fined by photographed evidence but it doesn’t happen?

  19. 19
    Daniel says:

    @Dave, bear in mind jaywalking isn’t a legal term, and crossing illegally is actually quite limited in terms of what you can be fined for, unlike the US where it’s mostly illegal to cross anywhere other than a marked crossing.

    @Albert3801, you may have a point, though the intersections in Melbourne’s CBD where this appears to be the worst mostly limit turning movements due to pedestrian numbers (limiting left turns) and hook turns (limiting right turns). Most of the traffic is going straight ahead, and from observations, the problem isn’t turners filling up the road ahead – it’s mostly motorists going straight.

    @Matthew (#13), possibly there’s also a risk where pedestrians are forced to cross between vehicles.

    @Kev, the post specifically says “no visible policing”, but feel free to show me some evidence of enforcement. They publicise blitzes on mobile phone use in cars, jaywalking, cyclists. (Note: added a pic of two police officers standing by while a car blocks the crossing, forcing pedestrians into traffic lanes.)

  20. 20
    gxh says:

    My theory is that at least some of the “blitzes” on jay walking are to give junior police a chance to practise handing out tickets and interacting with annoyed members of the public. I’ve seen instances of tickets being issued by a seemingly junior police officer, with an apparently more senior supervisor hovering nearby.

  21. 21
    Philip says:

    It’s not illegal to change lanes within an intersection. What IS illegal is changing lanes immediately before an intersection, across solid lines, but it seems to be the aim of a lot of drivers in recent years. I can’t believe how many people do it. It’s as though they’ve bought this myth that they can’t change lanes in an intersection, but want to change lanes before they’ve crossed it, and so they nip across the solid lines and break a real law without knowing it.

  22. 22
    Doug says:

    Nice article – basically don’t enter the intersection (cross your stop line box with any part of your vehicle) unless it’s totally clear on the other side the intersection, IIRC.

    But it happens *all* the time. Plus cars weaving across unbroken lines changing lanes (indicators optional), not pulling away at intersections promptly (what are they looking at in their lap?), parking across foot paths (prams, wheelchairs don’t exist), not allowing right of way to buses to pull out of stops (what does that sign on the rear of every bus mean?).

    I assume it’s a Melbourne culture thing. I loathe driving here … I feel an outsider because I try to do it properly :)

  23. 23
    George Darroch says:

    Slightly off topic, but these all demonstrate the terrible crowding we’re now experiencing in the central city. It is becoming very difficult to move in certain parts of the city, especially those areas near transport infrastructure.

    Melbourne has a Walking Plan. As far as I can tell, they’re not implementing it.

  24. 24
    Andrew says:

    A Yarra Trams CSE tried to help at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston and was disciplined for going beyond his duties. It is essentially a policing matter, but as Vic Roads control the road, it is a matter for it to control traffic on the street. Vic Roads can do so easily by installing traffic queuing loops in Flinders Street and limiting the the travel along Flinders Street or by timing the lights better at Russell Street so that there is no bank up of cars at Swanston Street. Vic Roads only ever pay lip service to keeping trams moving. Moving along 30 people in 30 cars is much more important to Vic Roads than moving 30 trams with 300 people.

  25. 25

    […] Bowen, a long time public transport advocate in Melbourne writes in his latest blog post about how the police are currently targeting and fining pedestrians for jaywalking, while at the […]

  26. 26
    enno says:

    People are encouraged to drive in the inner city because tram fares are so expensive.

  27. 27
    Kev says:

    @Philip 21, there are generally no actual marked lanes within intersections, at least not signalised intersections. An exception to that rule is right turn lanes with a solid curved line. I don’t think cateye reflectors signify marked lanes, but are only guides projecting the lane marking across the intersection. (This issue is relevant to cycling, with the possibility of cyclists passing on the left of left-turning vehicles.)

  28. 28
    Malcolm M says:

    Last week I was in a crush load E class that couldn’t cross William St for over 2 traffic light cycles because a black Mercedes was trapped on the tram tracks trying to do a hook turn into Bourke St. The single occupant of the Mercedes must have been really important to delay 150+ tram passengers for over 3 minutes.

    Melbourne City Council’s pedestrian plan has actions about enforcement of the rule about vehicles not entering an intersection unless it’s clear. There are no recommendations about fining pedestrians for crossing lane-ways where there is a red man but no traffic. (Why can’t the traffic light system be intelligent enough to detect that there is no traffic, such as through the loop detectors that are the vehicle equivalent of a beg button.) Why does the city Council’s study appear to have so little sway over the police department ?

  29. 29

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  30. 30

    […] the years I’ve written a lot of snark about CBD motorists pushing the boundaries, encroaching into pedestrian spaces. I never, ever imagined anything as horrific as […]

  31. 31
    Ben says:

    On crosshatching: there’s some tram turnouts at the intersection of Hawthorn Rd and Glenhuntly Rd that need to be changed by hand, and therefore have crosshatching on them (east side of the intersection): nevertheless, people park over them and delay everybody while the tram driver taps his turnout-changing rod impatiently.

  32. 32

    […] Yes, even back in 2007 I was narked off by motorists blocking pedestrian crossings. […]

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