Pedestrian and Cyclist Hazard at Barkly St / Sydney Rd Brunswick

This submission was prepared by Walk on Moreland, Brunswick Residents Network and concerned community members. It was sent to the Department of Transport and Moreland Council on Feb 26, 2020. It discusses reducing the hazard for pedestrians and cyclists at the east intersection of Barkly St and Sydney Rd Brunswick.

Summary

In this submission we discuss how the eastern intersection of Barkly St and Sydney Rd is hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists due to the high volume of turning vehicles. Barkly St has become a rat run, with through traffic proceeding to Lygon St or turning into Ewing St. Navigation apps are further exacerbating this as they often direct northbound through traffic from Royal Parade onto Barkly St rather than the main roads (such as Brunswick Rd and Glenlyon Rd).

We then make suggestions on how the Department of Transport and Moreland City Council can make this intersection safer for pedestrians, in particular by reducing traffic on Barkly and Ewing St.

1.    Significant local concern about lack of safety at Barkly St / Sydney Rd Brunswick

Many Brunswick residents have expressed concern about the lack of safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the eastern side of the Barkly St / Sydney Rd intersection.

This is evidenced by discussions on two social media groups (Brunswick Good Karma Network and Brunswick Residents Network) which attracted over 280 comments. We have also spoken with Seth Rothery from Pachamama Wholefoods, whose desk overlooks this intersection. He reported witnessing frequent near misses, daily road rage, and five accidents.

2.    What makes this intersection unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists

It is hazardous for pedestrians crossing Barkly St along the eastern boundary of Sydney Rd, and for cyclists heading south on Sydney Rd, due to the following:

  • There is a high volume of pedestrian movements along Sydney Rd, as it is a major shopping precinct. 
  • Many northbound vehicles turn right from Sydney Rd into Barkly St. There is persistent traffic on Sydney Rd in both directions, so drivers are looking for a break in the oncoming southbound traffic and may miss seeing a pedestrian crossing Barkly St. This also presents a danger for cyclists travelling south on Sydney Rd.
  • Southbound vehicles on Sydney Rd turning left into Barkly St often don’t see cyclists on their left, and hence cut them off. Seth Rothery noted that he witnessed five such collisions between a vehicle and a cyclist.
  • The right-turning vehicles include large delivery trucks heading to Barkly Square shopping centre. Pedestrians or cyclists hit by a large vehicle, compared with a car, are far more likely to die or sustain a severe injury.
  • Barkly St is wide at the intersection (approx 11 metres). It comprises a wombat crossing, without a pedestrian refuge island. At the minimum walking speed of 0.74 m/s (as specified by VicRoads) it could take 15 seconds to cross. In this time traffic conditions can change quickly.
  • Vehicles turning into Barkly St and pedestrians are confused about who has right-of-way. Confusion ensues leading to pedestrians stopping then starting to cross and drivers slamming on the brakes. (This common scenario was described by Seth Rothery.) The new threshold treatment may be exacerbating this as there has been no education campaign on them.
  • Because of the high number of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, there is a lot of road rage (witnessed by Seth Rothery). This is exacerbated by some drivers being unaware of their obligation to give way to pedestrians when turning. (According to Road Safety NSW, this is one of the top misunderstood road rules.) Road rage can lead to more dangerous behaviour by drivers.
  • Many supermarket delivery trucks enter and exit Barkly St at this intersection. Sometimes, these trucks wait in Barkly St while another truck is in the delivery bay. This can hold up traffic. Sometimes the traffic is backed up to the intersection and across the raised threshold at Sydney Rd, creating a hazard for pedestrians.
  • Vehicles exiting Barkly St onto Sydney Rd can block the raised threshold for some time as they wait for a break in the traffic. Pedestrians are then forced to walk behind them and are often not visible to a right-turning vehicle from Sydney Rd. (See Figure 1, where the vehicle turning from Sydney Rd turned before seeing the pedestrians emerging from behind the white van.)
  • Many large trucks use Barkly St for delivering to Barkly Square. Because of their height, they may not see the pedestrians, particularly those crossing in front of them.
  • Vehicles turning right from Sydney Rd into Barkly St sometimes see pedestrians too late and hence block the other lane of Sydney Rd. (This is also shown in Figure 1.) This leads to riskier behaviour, with vehicles often trying to proceed in between pedestrians. Impatient southbound traffic honking their horns exacerbates this.
Figure 1: Pedestrians emerge from behind turning van

3.    Barkly St has become a rat run possibly due to navigation apps.

Too much through traffic is using Barkly St as a rat run, to avoid congested main roads. This is particularly so for southbound traffic in the morning, and northbound traffic in the afternoon / early evening. Apart from the first 100m, Barkly St is a residential zone and high volumes of traffic are not appropriate. Ewing St, which forms part of the rat run, is also mainly residential and is a narrow congested street

We conducted an informal count of the number of northbound vehicles turning right into Barkly St from Sydney Rd during mid-afternoon, and estimated 230 right-turning vehicles per hour. Evening peak figures increased to about 265 per hour. We estimated about one-third were turning into Barkly Square shopping centre. This did not include the considerable number of southbound vehicles turning left into Barkly St.

We then counted vehicles turning right from Sydney Rd into Weston St – the next intersection north of Barkly St, which is a signalised intersection that provide access to Barkly Square shopping centre. Here we estimated only 50 right-turning vehicles per hour. Clearly there is a preference for turning at Barkly St.

We also counted vehicles travelling along Barkly St between the shopping centre carpark entrance and Ewing St. This included both southbound and northbound vehicles turning from Sydney Rd plus vehicles exiting the Barkly Square carpark.  We estimated there were 650 vehicles per hour during the evening peak and 400 per hour in the middle of the day. This suggests that the total number of vehicles per day would greatly exceed Moreland’s preferred maximum volume of 3000 vehicles. Note that Barkly St also has high vehicle movements on weekends due to the shopping centre.

Figure 2: Google Maps recommending vehicles use Barkly St rather than main roads. In the first case, vehicles travelling along Sydney Rd are directed to turn right at Barkly St, left into Ewing St and then right into Glenlyon. In the second case, vehicles directed to turn right at Barkly St, and proceed until St Georges Rd

We believe that navigation apps are encouraging vehicles to use Barkly St rather than the main roads (Glenlyon Rd and Brunswick Rd) or Weston St, which is signalised. (See Figure 2, which is a Google Maps representation of vehicles being directed along Barkly St from Sydney Rd through to St Georges Rd, or along Barkly and Ewing St, then turning right into Glenlyon Rd.)

4.    Previous Moreland Council considerations

Decreasing traffic on Ewing Street

In September 2016, the Moreland City Council considered a trial road closure on Ewing St, which was rejected. It noted instead: “it is recommended that Council officers engage with VicRoads to assess network improvements to improve traffic flows on the arterial network to provide more desirable alternatives to using the local network.” (Minutes of 14/9/16 Council meeting.) This has clearly not worked.

In 2016, the annual average daily traffic in Ewing St was a little under 4000 – which is greater than the preferred limit of 3000 vehicles. Our brief traffic count suggests that it is much higher today.

It is clear that navigation apps still consider Barkly St and Ewing St to be more desirable than the arterial roads. We suggest that Moreland City Council revisit this decision and implement a trial closure in Ewing St.

Improving pedestrian safety at Barkly St

In 2013, the Brunswick Integrated Transport Strategy proposed a right-turn ban for northbound traffic on Sydney Rd into Barkly St. We have no further information on why this was rejected.

5.    Recommendations

Many of our recommendations are aimed at reducing the amount of through traffic using Barkly St and the associated rat run of Ewing St.

Suggestions for the Department of Transport

  • Ban right turns from Sydney Rd into Barkly St by northbound traffic. Given that Barkly Square delivery trucks use this intersection, exemptions could apply. Alternatively, right turns could be banned during peak hours, as is currently done at Edward St, which would otherwise be used by through traffic. We would prefer a complete ban, as our observations show that vehicles turn right into Barkly St frequently throughout the day.
  • Encourage Sydney Rd drivers heading to Barkly Square to turn right at the Weston St signalised intersection rather than Barkly St. Weston St is an industrial 3 zone between Sydney Rd and Ewing St, unlike Barkly St, which is mainly residential. There is an existing right-hand turn arrow, but our observations indicated this is rarely used even in peak hour, other than when trams are approaching. This would need to be done in conjunction with other measures to reduce through traffic, otherwise Weston St could become the new rat run.
  • Install flashing “Give way to Pedestrians” signs on Sydney Rd and Barkly St east corner.
  • Install a low profile pedestrian refuge in the centre of the crossing at Barkly St so that pedestrians do not need to travel the whole intersection in one go. Alternatively, make the crossing narrower. We understand that delivery trucks use this intersection, so their turning requirements will need to be a consideration.

Suggestions for Moreland City Council:

  • Count vehicles in Barkly St between Barkly Square and Ewing St, and in Ewing St along each section.
  • Implement partial road closures in both Barkly and Ewing Streets. In Barkly St, this could be between the entrance to Barkly Square shopping centre and Ewing St. In Ewing St, a road closure could be considered that does not shift the traffic to Weston St or Edwards St.
  • Ban right-hand turns from Ewing St into Glenlyon Rd (cyclists excepted). This would also increase the safety for pedestrians and cyclists crossing Glenlyon Rd at this location. The pedestrian refuge at this location has been hit by vehicles many times in the past few years.
  • Deter traffic travelling from Sydney Rd to Lygon St by making the Barkly / Lygon St narrower on the west side. Currently two lanes of traffic can fit into the intersection, meaning it is an attractive intersection for vehicles turning left and travelling straight ahead.
  • Discourage rat running through Barkly, Weston, Edwards and Ewing Streets by using signs saying “Local Traffic Only”.
  • Negotiate with Barkly Square supermarkets to limit the number of delivery trucks during peak times.
  • Install pedestrian crossings at the roundabouts in Ewing St. This would slow the traffic, thereby deterring rat running, and improve safety for pedestrians in Ewing St.
  • Implement 30 km/h in the residential streets between Glenlyon Rd, Lygon St, Brunswick Rd and Sydney Rd. This would make these streets less attractive for rat running and improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.
  • Run a local campaign about road rules on turning vehicles giving way to pedestrians.
  • Partner with the Department of Transport to re-educate drivers/ pedestrians and cyclists on give way rules. A suggestion is advertising on tram and bus stop shelters.
  • Partner with Google Maps and other navigation systems on safer routes throughout the municipality.