Categories
driving transport

Dash it all! Why intersection markings are changing

You may have noticed that some intersection markings, including pedestrian crossings, are changing.

Solid white lines are becoming dashed white lines. Ditto turning lines at intersections.

Intersection near Southland Shopping Centre

This change brings Victorian practice into line with the Australian standard.

NSW (and probably other states) used to have solid lines too, but sometime in the last few decades have switched to dashed.

Until recently, Victoria was the only jurisdiction to still use solid lines, but started switching in November 2015.

I first noticed them in early 2016:

This Vicroads page (since removed, but still available via the Web archive) explains it all.

It says they won’t go around and convert them all, but new lines will be in the new style, so it’ll be a gradual transition.

And it says that when they restoring/repainting part of a solid line (or a set of two solid lines), it’s meant to stay solid. I’ve seen numerous locations where this isn’t the case; whoever has done it has left one solid, one dashed line, or lines that are part solid, part dashed.

Mixed intersection markings, Murrumbeena

I can see how it’d make sense to move to the national standard.

Other changes over time have been more significant. It used to be that right hand turning vehicles had priority over left turners.

This change will mean the crossing looks different from the stop line. It may prevent confused motorists turning and stopping at intersection exits where they see a red light and (currently) a solid line.

And one might fantasise that somehow possibly it might also improve motorist compliance at pedestrian crossings, to kerb the relentless and unchecked practice of vehicles blocking pedestrians.

Though somehow I doubt it.

Categories
transport

Surprise surprise, expanding the Dingley Bypass caused more traffic

Remember the Dingley Bypass?

The western end was built as the “South Road Extension” as two lanes (one each way) just last decade. It mostly wasn’t dual carriageway, but it was otherwise suspiciously freeway-like. Having appeared in the 1969 freeway plan, it wasn’t difficult to see that it would be expanded.

Dingley Bypass in 2015 (Google Streetview)
(Dingley Arterial 2015 – Google StreetView)

Sure enough in 2010, it was announced it would be expanded to four lanes (two each way).

Fast forward to March 2016 when it opened… and somehow it’s become six lanes (three each way). Classic salami tactics!

Sow roads, grow traffic

So wouldn’t making a road three times as big be likely to lead to problems on the roads it connects to? Why yes.

What a surprise — it seems South Road now has congestion problems:

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Having fed lots more traffic into South Road, what can they do? Currently through Moorabbin it’s six lanes (three each way, but with one taken by parking). They could try and fix this bottleneck by imposing clear ways — effectively expanding traffic capacity by 50% and leaving a long mostly residential stretch of the road as a huge six lane traffic sewer. Eugh.

Making the environment even more hostile to pedestrians, bus/train and bike users sounds like a great way to produce even more traffic. (The intersection of South Road and Warrigal Road is horrible.) And it would probably just move the bottleneck elsewhere. Nepean Highway next for widening, perhaps?

The proposed freeway to remove the bottleneck created by the previous proposed freeway...

Even with no more road expansion, more traffic lights might be needed to help pedestrians and cross traffic now that the road is more congested — especially at the eastern end around the Sandbelt Hotel. (Somewhere I saw an online petition for a pedestrian overpass; I can’t find it just at the moment.)

Meanwhile, the main bus route along there is only every 20 minutes on weekdays (including peak hours, when it no doubt gets stuck in traffic), and every hour at night and on weekends. Most other suburban routes run even less frequently — generally only every 30 minutes on weekdays. No wonder so many people are driving.

I don’t know quite what the solution is. But I do know that free-flowing urban traffic is a myth. At least if there’s a bottleneck now, it’s preventing traffic levels growing even more.

Ways have to be found to move more people around the suburbs them each bringing a two tonne chunk of metal. Expanding road capacity further is the last thing we should be doing.

Categories
driving

Rego stickers are *so* last year

Lots of cars still seem to have rego stickers on them, even though they are being phased-out — you haven’t needed to have one on your car since the end of last year.

Rego stickers

…from 1 January 2014, Victoria will abolish registration labels for light vehicles, including passenger cars.


How will people know when they need to pay registration?

Although registration stickers will be no longer issued, there will be no change to the traditional reminders which car owners are used to receiving.

VicRoads will continue to send vehicle registration renewals notices around six weeks before registration is due, and a reminder letter will be sent if registration is not paid by the due date.

Vicroads: Discontinuation of registration labels

They also note that most other states have either already abolished registration stickers, or are about to.

Given it’s May and many more than half of cars still seem to have them, I assume many have expired but not been removed.

I peeled sticker off a few weeks ago, well after it expired. It took quite some time to remove completely, but on the bright side, I guess I’ll never have to do that again.

Categories
transport

Vicroads and their decades-long plans for road widening

Say what you like about VicRoads, they know how to do forward planning.

For example, there’s a stretch of Ballarat Road in Footscray, just west of where the dual carriageway ends, where this is a common sight:

Vicroads land, Ballarat Road, Footscray

Lovely, isn’t it. Derelict wasteland, left to rot.

A look at Google’s aerial view reveals quite a few empty properies along the street.

Ballarat Road, Footscray

In a classic case of salami tactics, VicRoads has been slowly buying up the properties, perhaps over decades, with a view to eventual widening and duplication of the road.

Looking at some Planning Property Reports for one of the properties, there is indeed a Public Acquisition Overlay for the sections of those properties that face the road.

Public acquisition overlay (yellow) / heritage overlay (pink), Ballarat Road, Footscray

So, when and if road widening ever happens, then between Gordon and Droop Streets, the old Kinnears rope factory won’t be touched, but a bunch of houses and shops will lose part of their land (and thus face demolition or modification). Further towards Victoria University, it won’t touch the newish apartment block on the southern side, but will take part of the bowling club on the northern side.

West of Gordon Street, it’d be the northern side of the road that gets wiped-out — though it appears that (for now) a heritage overlay protects the rather glorious avenue of trees between Summerhill Road and the next section of dual carriageway.

All this is not to say VicRoads has any immediate plans to widen the road. It could still be decades off. But they have the overlay, and they have some of the land in their possession already. It’s a similar situation in various spots around Melbourne — one well-known one is Punt Road in South Yarra/Prahran, where overlays have been in place for more than half a century. (It’s a reminder to always check for overlays when thinking about buying a property.)

VicRoads owns about 2500 homes across the state. They have been bought over the past five decades for the sole purpose of future road use.

Herald Sun 2/2/2008

Such road expension projects have taken place before; the widening of the Nepean Highway in Brighton took out scores of houses. St Kilda Road between the junction and Carlisle Street was once High Street, and the old shopfronts still seen on the eastern side once were on the western side as well — that widening removed the historic Junction Hotel. And close to where the above example, Geelong Road was widened in the 1960s, all but obliterating an Avenue of Honour that had been there.

Meanwhile, on RRL

The VicRoads way is symptomatic of the forward planning that goes on — the so-called “bottom drawer” they can whip road plans out of whenever funding is available for something. And while this road expansion never seems to solve traffic congestion (thanks to induced traffic), they seem very efficient at getting it built.

It’s arguable that having a clear plan via an overlay, and slowly buying up the properties — even if empty land is a waste and looks horrible — is better than turning up out of the blue and announcing to people that their homes are going to be bought and demolished.

That’s what’s happened with the Regional Rail Link project.

In contrast to quiet buying up of land for road widening in the distant future, down the other end of Footscray, the RRL project had to acquire and demolish a number of houses and industrial property — and managed to botch the notification to affected people.

And in Sunshine, RRL is shaving away a section of the HV Mackay gardens. The of course there’s the new Footscray station bridge demolition.

Apparently nobody envisaged that the main western railway corridor would ever need to be widened, so the land wasn’t reserved. One can only hope that over time, future planning will improve.

Categories
driving

Special licence plates

Horse Drawn Vehicle number plate

The Wikipedia article on Australian licence plates highlights some special prefixes, but here’s a list I’ve tried to come up with that includes others they don’t show, from personal observations and gleaning information from the VicRoads web site.

Bus number plateSome of them are clearly abbreviations for what they are… some not so much.

AO (suffix) – accredited bus

CC – Consular Corps

E56 – trailers

HDV – horse-drawn vehicle

Mxx – state vehicles, such as (marked) police cars

M – metropolitan Melbourne taxi

U – Geelong, Ballarat or Bendigo urban taxi

PS (suffix) – peak period taxi

ST – substitute taxi (replacement for regular taxi which is out of service for repairs)

C – country/regional taxis

TOW (prefix ) / TT (suffix) – tow truck

VHA/VHB/VHC – hire cars (eg chauffeured)

S000 to S999 – hire motorcycles

I particularly like HDV.

Are there others?

Categories
driving Morons on the road transport

This is the law

I’ve written about this before, but just so it’s absolutely clear, I’m going to include a picture[1] with the text:

When turning left or right at any intersection (except a roundabout) you must give way to any pedestrians crossing the road you are turning into.

Give way to pedestrians when turning

— source: VicRoads: Driving in Victoria — Rules and Responsibilities, pages 35 and 39.

I’m pretty narked off that a 4WD owner[2] I encountered yesterday not only didn’t know this, but when challenged said it was not true.

I was in a hurry, and in no mood to give way to vehicles I was not obliged to, if I could possibly help it. I signalled him to stop, which he did. I then crossed in front of him, and since his window was down, told him he had to give way. When he claimed otherwise, I didn’t swear, but I did get a bit shouty, and told him to check his road rules. He drove off.

I hope he does check the laws and gets educated. It annoys me that some people are out there, driving around, ignorant of basic rules.

[1]The picture actually comes from a later section which talks about T-intersections, but appears to have been drawn to illustrate the point for other intersections as well.

[2]With a bullbar fitted. Because you really need them driving along Centre Road.

Update Sunday morning: Similar situation with a VW Golf driver yesterday afternoon.

Note that different rules apply to vehicles coming out of streets you’re crossing (peds should give way) and on roundabouts (peds should give way). On entrances/exits to private property, such as car parks and shopping centres, drivers should always give way.

Most importantly, always use your common sense — no matter what the law, if the other person is not going to stop, don’t put yourself or them in danger.

Categories
driving transport

SmartRoads

For a while now, VicRoads has been working on a plan to allocate different priorities to different roads around Melbourne. Rather than the free-for-all we sometimes see now, some roads would be setup to emphasise pedestrian priority, some bus, some tram, and some would be “preferred traffic routes” and lesser “other traffic routes”.

I suspect it was inevitable that this would be launched under the title “SmartRoads“.

Here’s the glossy VicRoads video with Roads Minister Tim Pallas:

One of the positives is to encourage through-vehicle-traffic onto particular roads and off others, and with my sustainable transport hat on, hopefully it means better pedestrian facilities (eg crossings and low traffic speeds) and priority for public transport vehicles where it counts.

The detail about where the principal bike routes will be isn’t clear yet, and of course for cycling to really take off, these preferred routes need to be much more closely spaced than they are for cars.

Central Melbourne "SmartRoads" diagramThe down side of the plan is that if you live on a road which is deemed to be a preferred traffic route, you’re probably going to see more traffic coming through. But then, it does seem to formalise trends which have been ongoing for some time now, so you may not notice a huge difference. It’s been obvious for some time now that the Nepean Highway and Punt Road are traffic sewers.

One of the big questions will be what happens when two priority routes intersect? Anybody who’s caught a tram that crosses Alexandra Parade, for instance, will know you can spend minutes waiting at the lights. Hopefully the view that the higher priority is the number of people moving through the intersection, not the number of vehicles, will be the prevailing one.

I saw a draft of this thing in 2008; things have changed a little bit since then. In my area (which is still under review), happily, there are no preferred traffic routes, though there are some “other traffic routes”.

I think this is a step forward; recognition that the car is no longer king, at least not on every single road, and that more efficient movement of people means giving priority to trams and buses, as well as pedestrians in some areas.

But the devil will be in the detail — and to take full advantage of it and really cut traffic congestion, the government needs to push much harder on upgrading the alternatives to car travel.

How will it affect your area? Download the maps from VicRoads.

Categories
driving

So much for carpooling

Cynics have described carpooling as “a transit system with one round trip a day” — which means that while the trip itself may be faster and more comfortable, in terms of scheduling it’s less convenient than all but the very very worst public transport.

Even if you don’t believe that, it would appear that any pushes towards carpooling (which was supposed to be a big hope in reducing pollution, congestion and emissions from cars) aren’t working:

Car occupancy in Melbourne 1997-2007

— Source: VicRoads: Traffic system performance monitoring

One might argue that the 1997-2003 up-down pattern could be statistically insignificant, but since then there’s a pretty clear trend in the downwards direction.

Categories
Morons on the road transport

My rights as a pedestrian

When I’m out walking, I actively (but not foolishly, I hope) defend my rights as a pedestrian. If I have an opportunity to walk safely and legally before a car goes, I will take it.

The main rules are not difficult to comprehend, but some motorists just don’t seem to understand them.

[Page references are those in the Vicroads PDF summary of the road rules.]

Red means stop. It doesn’t mean drivers can zoom through at the last minute. Given that Yellow actually means “stop if it is safe to do so” [p27], there’s no reason why drivers should still be travelling through the intersection after I’ve got a (conflicting) green man. Not that there’s much I can do about this but glare.

Drivers are meant to stop behind the stop line, not halfway across it blocking the pedestrian crossing. If blocked by the cars ahead, that’s the driver’s fault for not looking ahead to make sure it was clear. [p27]

The zebra crossing means vehicles have to give way for me to cross. If a motorist was driving so fast they had to brake sharply, that’s their fault [p58]. (I view extended periods of delays to motorists at busy zebra crossings, such as in Flinders Lane, with some glee. If they were stupid enough to bring their car into the middle of a big busy city, they’re going to face some delays in their quest to get to the next red light.)

Flinders Lane pedestrian crossing

Flagged Children’s Crossings are more strict. Vehicles have to stop if someone is waiting to cross, and not drive through until the last person is completely off the crossing. [p57] (I also recommend not trying to run down crossing supervisors at lighted intersections, such as some right-turners at McKinnon and Jasper Roads seem to do.)

Vehicles are not allowed to park on a footpath.[p78] Foot. Path. It’s really not that hard.

If a driver is turning across my path, they have to give way to me [p29] — unless it’s a roundabout.

Many motorists, myself included, give way when coming out of side-streets to crossing pedestrians. Strictly speaking vehicles don’t have to do this, but personally I consider it polite.
(Update: Commenter Andrew notes elsewhere the rules say: “At Stop or Give Way signs […] you must not only give way to vehicles, but also to any pedestrians at or near the sign […]”. [p31] However it appears that this specifically applies at locations not at intersections. I’m not clear on why you’d have such a sign that’s not at an intersection.)

If a vehicle is going into or coming out of a driveway or carpark or whatever, they have to give way to me. [p60]

Drivers have to stop for tram passengers unless there’s a safety zone/platform stop. [p60] The tram is a big thing on wheels that’s 3-5 times as big as a car; there’s no excuse for not seeing it.

I don’t have to cross at the lights if they’re more than 20 metres away (but I’ll certainly do so if it’s safer to do so).

The above rules are, I think, pretty logical.

But there are some others I learnt about while reading up on it, which I suspect not so many people are aware of.

  • Motorists have to give way to peds when turning in a slip lane (including separated from the other lanes by just a painted island) [p30]
  • Motorists have to give way to all peds (and everyone else for that matter) when making a U-turn [p31]
  • Giving way to peds when turning includes instances such as turning into a main road that the pedestrian is crossing. [figure 24, p35]

Footnote: Why have VicRoads published the road rules in a PDF that doesn’t allow you to copy text out of it?