One issue is road infrastructure that allows a vehicle to reach high speed in a constrained, pedestrian-dense area like Flinders Street.
The speed limit is 40. But apart from the placement of tram superstops (one of which finally stopped the vehicle) there’s been little change to this section of road in decades. It’s wide and straight, with no form of traffic calming; no speed humps or other treatments that you might see in a suburban school zone, for instance.
Not that the road was clear. The traffic was apparently congested, but the driver apparently veered out onto the tram tracks to speed towards the intersection.
“[Melbourne] has big wide streets, wide footpaths and of course, it has trams, and the tramways enable a [car] driver, as this driver did to pull out of stopped traffic, get into the tramway and then make an attack. This is an issue for protecting, for example, the Bourke Street Mall.”
In Flinders Street, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make it harder for motor vehicles to get onto the tracks. A small separation, preferably with the tracks raised slightly, would do it — such as this design I spotted in Brussels in July:
The beauty of this design is that it helps stop all sorts of unauthorised vehicles getting onto the tracks, or turning across them. This would improve tram safety and cut delays to trams.
It does come at the cost of convenience for some motorists (frankly, not a priority in the city centre) and making it trickier for emergency services to use the tram tracks, as well as limiting where people with wheelchairs or other mobility aids can cross. These issues would need consideration.
Apparently none of this is impossible to resolve, because you can already find this design in central Melbourne — in Spencer Street:
Depending on the precise design, it doesn’t make it completely impossible for a vehicle to get onto the tracks, but it could make it a lot more difficult.
The PM is right to note the Bourke Street Mall presents some challenges. But it would be wrong to assume it can’t be solved.
Permanent bollards have recently been placed either side of the tramway, at both ends.
But the tramway itself remains open — to trams, obviously, but also to other vehicles, including unauthorised and/or clueless motorists.
What do other cities do? Some of them use retractable bollards, to let through only authorised vehicles.
Here’s a quick video of them operating in Cardiff. This is the main bus route between the city centre and Cardiff Bay.
This has potential, though in this case, you can see it’s a little problematic:
It’s far too slow to respond. I assume it’s controlled remotely from an operator somewhere watching on CCTV. To cut delays, the bollards should retract as the bus approaches, not wait for it to stop and wait.
If bollards like this were placed at either end of Bourke Street Mall, hopefully engineers could come up with a system that sees them retract automatically as trams approached or waited in the tram stop.
Another issue might be the risks of putting them in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic. Careful placement (between tram stop platforms, or away from the footpath, on the edge of the intersecting roadway) might resolve this.
Getting this right brings numerous benefits, not just for safety from vehicle attacks, but also keeping pedestrian areas free of unauthorised vehicles, and also preventing them disrupting trams.
Authorities shouldn’t give up. Other cities have solved similar problems. I’m sure we can too.
- The Conversation: How urban design can help protect pedestrians from vehicle attacks in the city
- A broader, not directly related issue is the constant low-level intrusion of motor vehicles into pedestrian spaces
- 14/1/2018: The Age: Melbourne’s car-based attacks bolster calls for city ‘ring of steel’