Monday, 28 January 2013

Perth Stadium bicycle travel zone

I have written about the transport issues for the proposed Perth Stadium recently, here and here.

Since that time, I have learnt some news from the Perth Stadium people.  The new bridge between East Perth and Burswood will be ten metres wide and cyclists will be permitted to ride across. There are not any other details available at this stage because the bridge has not yet been designed. At ten metres wide, it seems that pedestrians and cyclists could have there own space and conflict could be avoided.

I do wonder about this piece of infrastructure. It will be in quite a prominent position at the eastern end of the city, the part that most visitors see first. There is potential to make this bridge something wonderful. Not only an important link for bicycle riding and walking, but a stimulating and interesting structure that could add to the culture of our city. There is potential to create a bridge that is both functional and artistic.

The movement of people on game days has been the major focus of the Perth Stadium transport plans, but we need to remember that for the rest of the week, any infrastructure built to accommodate those peak times will become part of Perth's transport network. Hopefully, there would be some significant additions to the bicycle network. Unfortunately, apart from the new bridge, the Perth Stadium planners are not showing much interest in bicycles.

The research to date has determined that bicycle use will be insignificant and as such, it has not been included on any publicly-available documents. I know that bicycle use on game days will be a low percentage of modal share but I am not satisfied that the research has been done correctly. It would be good to find out how the research was conducted and a more detailed explanation of the results.

There was a 'walkability' map shown in the Master Plan document last August. It got me thinking about what a 'bikeability' map might look like. There is nothing available from the Perth Stadium planners, so I thought I would do a quick map myself.

My idea was to show the potential catchment area for people who might travel by bicycle to attend the stadium. The area does not show the catchment for seasoned commuters or the enthusiasts, it shows the much smaller area for people who know how to ride but are not confident in traffic. People who have basic skills and prefer to relax and enjoy the ride.

The first step was to decide on the journey time. For this, I took a guess at 45 minutes from home to stadium. That seemed to be a reasonable period of travel for the total journey in comparison with a the various combinations of the alternatives such as 'drive-walk-train-walk'. At an average speed of 15 kilometres per hour, the furthest point from the stadium would have to be within a radius of 10 kilometres.

The various routes to the stadium would have to be on bicycle paths or shared paths that are separated from motorised traffic. I imagined that riders would probably be OK with travelling for approximately one kilometre through quieter suburban streets to reach the paths.

It is interesting once you examine the position of the stadium. There are a number of good paths that already feed into the Burswood area. Most of Perth's best bicycle infrastructure has been built along routes that have been easy to secure. Routes on public land without too many conflicting interests such as railway reserves and following the banks of the Swan River. The stadium site is in a great position to take advantage of this existing infrastructure. You can see examples of these paths in the photographs below.

Shared path Burswood, 1.5 km from stadium site

Shared path East Perth, 2 km from stadium site

Shared path East Perth, 2 km from stadium site

Shared path Bayswater, 5 km from stadium site

Shared path Perth 7 km from stadium site

Here is how the 'bikeability' map looks. I have shown all the existing separated paths that radiate from the stadium site in red. The shaded blue area is the zone that fits all of the criteria. The people who live or work in the blue zone would be able to reach the stadium by bicycle with a 45 minute ride.

The stadium site is shown with a blue 'S' near the centre of the map. The new bridge will extend the catchment area for bicycle riders in the areas west of the stadium. My rough estimate is the bridge would reduce the distance by one kilometre which will help extend the range of the 45 minute travel zone further into the suburbs of Crawley, Nedlands, Subiaco, Shenton Park and Leederville.

Conversely, if the proposed Elizabeth Quay and Riverside developments restrict the movement of bicycles by severing the paths to the west of stadium, much of the advantage of the new bridge will be lost.

Elizabeth Quay and Riverside are being controlled by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority and the Perth Stadium is being handled by the Department of Treasury with the Department of Sport and Recreation. All parts of the Western Australian state government. My question is: are they talking to each other?

Riverside development

The map is based on the following:
  • Fully separated cycle paths or bicycle/pedestrian shared paths for 90% of the journey. The remaining 10% quiet streets.
  • A travel time of 45 minutes, door-to-door (house to stadium).
  • An average speed of 15 kilometres per hour.
  • Maximum distance 9 kilometres on a separated path plus up to 1 kilometre on the road.
  • The area around the Perth central business district and Northbridge shows a smaller radius  to allow for walking with bicycles for 500 metres to reach the paths instead of riding on the roads
  • Distance calculations have included the proposed new bridge between Burswood and East Perth.

Monday, 14 January 2013

A child dies

On Friday, 13 year-old Max Ward was killed when he stepped into the path of an oncoming truck.

He was walking across Gnangara Road with his 14 year-old sister when one of his thongs slipped off. He turned back to get the footwear and was hit by an earthmoving truck towing a trailer.

This is a tragic loss and I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

One of the first reports came from ABC News. This report included the police opinion that the driver of the truck was travelling at the speed limit and also included a statement from Senior Constable Graham Daisley who said
“Obviously this was not something that was waiting to happen – it was just a tragic incident that’s occurred, that’s lost the life of a very young boy and that will have a major impact on the family, especially his young sister.”
I think it is wrong to accept that Max Ward’s death is just a tragic “accident”. As a community, we need to protect our children. The way we design our urban environment needs to be carefully considered. The speed of vehicles and the lack of provision for pedestrians in this area should be examined.

The speed limit on Gnangara Road near the corner of Losino Boulevard is 70 km/h and it has a high volume of traffic. There are quiet residential suburbs on each side of Gnangara Road. The road severs Henley Brook on the southern side, from Ellenbrook on the northern side. It is a difficult road to cross either on foot or using a bicycle. The timing, speed and volume of traffic make it difficult even for a fit, agile adult with fully developed cognitive skills.

Children do not have the same decision making abilities as adults and we can expect them to make an occasional error in judgement. This is predictable and normal behaviour. It should not be life threatening.

It is wrong to create a community where children are prevented from being able to move freely. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement. Not just people who are able to own and drive cars.

A minor attempt has been made to connect these two suburbs for pedestrians and cyclists by the provision of a bridge (shown on the Google view below). The bridge crosses Gnangara Road in the central area, and there are two other designated pedestrian and cyclist crossing points at grade. However, these latter two are not crosswalks, they are simply places where two paths meet the road and motorists have some advance warning that people may cross. 

There is no speed reduction at these designated crossing points. It was at the western crossing where Max died.

For people who are not travelling by car, the footbridge is the only safe place to cross Gnangara Road in the three kilometre stretch alongside the Ellenbrook community. There are a few roundabouts to slow the motorised traffic, but as I explained in my previous post, these are not safe places for a pedestrian.

The western crossing point, near Losino Boulevard, is 600 metres from the bridge. It is unfair to expect any pedestrian to add 1.2 kilometres to a simple journey in order to maintain basic personal safety. One safe crossing between these two suburbs is not enough. The speed limit of 70 km/h is too fast. This is a residential area.

Why do our speed limits just protect children on school days? Why do we protect them near school but not near their homes?

This quote from the UNICEF website sums it up
"The actions, or inactions, of government impact children more strongly than any other group in society. Practically every area of government policy (for example, education, public health and so on) affects children to some degree. Short-sighted policymaking that fails to take children into account has a negative impact on the future of all members of society…"

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Roundabouts - An Australian perspective

I had been thinking about doing a blog post on roundabouts for some time. James D. Schwartz on his blog The Urban Country recently posted about them and his opinion was mostly favourable. Unlike mine. 

I am not happy at the thought of having more roundabouts and decided I had better put my opinion forward.

James was writing about Canada where they seem to be relatively new. In Western Australia, we have had them for a long time. I remember roundabouts being used at each end of the Causeway bridges in the early 1970's. 

Roundabouts are one of my least preferred traffic calming devices. They have become increasing popular with our road designers and are spreading like a disease throughout Perth.

Why am I against roundabouts? The Urban Country presents a logical argument and backs it up with facts from the website of the Town of Collingwood, Ontario. I do not dispute them, however there is a problem with how roundabouts are designed in Western Australia. The roundabouts shown in Ontario have pedestrian crossings. This is possible in Western Australia but extremely rare. Our roundabouts create conditions that are worse for pedestrians and cyclists.

At a standard intersection, pedestrians in Western Australia have priority (right-of-way) over turning vehicles. If that same intersection is changed to a roundabout, pedestrians lose that right. All turning vehicles then have priority. 

A few months ago I tried to check this law by telephoning the state government Office of Road Safety. It took some time to get an answer. The person who took my call did not know what the laws were but tried to be helpful and explained that I should not attempt to cross the road near a roundabout. I should walk somewhere else and attempt to cross. As amazing as this sounds, this response was not totally unexpected. The Office of Road Safety is part of the department of Main Roads. Apart from building major infrastructure, one of their major goals is to reduce deaths on the roads to zero. Unfortunately this is often being done at the expense of pedestrian and cyclist amenity. Safety is everything. Sometimes it seems they would prefer there to be no pedestrians or cyclists on the roads. That way, their figures would be a lot better.

The only way for pedestrians to regain this loss of priority is for a crosswalk to be installed. There are hundreds of roundabouts throughout Western Australia. The City of Fremantle is the only local area, that I am aware of, that has provided them.

Cantonment Street and Queen Street Fremantle

Bicycle riders also have a difficult time at Western Australian roundabouts. Here is an example of what happens. Even with a good on-road cycle lane, at the point where the road meets a roundabout, the lane  disappears and a dangerous pinch-point is created.

Centennial Place Midland

The example below is on Carrington Street in Palmyra. At this location, the bicyclists are meant to ride up onto the footpath where it technically becomes a "shared path". In Western Australia is it illegal for adults to ride on a footpath. The shared path is not a good option on rubbish removal day.
Carrington Street Palmyra

And there is a cafe on the corner which also means bicycle riders would need to weave around the tables and be careful of pedestrians.
Carrington Street Palmyra

Roundabouts increase the travel distance for pedestrians. The designated routes for crossing the road are shifted away from the desire lines. The dropped-kerbs are moved away from the intersection so that people in wheel-chairs or those people with prams have to go off-course. If people travelling this extra distance were rewarded by having priority over motor vehicles it might be worth the detour, but that is not the case with Western Australia's current laws.

Here are two examples in Subiaco that show 'before' and 'after'. The first is Hamersley Road. The red and yellow lines show the pedestrian path. In April 2009, before a roundabout was installed we had a very straight, logical path to cross the road.

'Before' - April 2009

Once a roundabout was built at the intersection, the pedestrian crossing paths became much less direct. Also note how the radius of the corners has been changed to allow the vehicles to corner at higher speed.

'After' - February 2011

The second example is Churchill Avenue. The yellow east-west crossing path has not changed a great deal but the red north-south has been moved several metres to the east. You can also see that the radius has been has again been changed for faster vehicle cornering. There is no need to slow down for pedestrians!

'Before' - July 2009

'After' - September 2011

Here are photographs of the Churchill Avenue intersection. The majority of younger pedestrians ignore these new paths and cross illegally through the roundabout.  It is only those who need to use the dropped-kerb who travel the extra distance. People such as the elderly or those with babies in prams.

Churchill Avenue Subiaco

Churchill Avenue Subiaco

I think Australian road designers and local governments have read the statistics about how roundabouts are efficient and safe for motorists. Also safe for pedestrians and cyclists, if built correctly. The trouble is, the Australia roundabout is usually built in a way that allows for the fast flow of motor vehicles. Pedestrians have no priority and cyclists are pushed into the motor vehicle lane or have to retreat to the footpath with the pedestrians. Our roundabouts are not the same as the rest of the world. There are important issues such as local laws and design elements that need to be considered when comparing their effectiveness.

Roundabouts look a lot different in The Netherlands as you can see below. Three modes of travel, separated, and with priority given to bicycles and pedestrians. 

The Netherlands
I can't remember where I found this photograph. I don't like to use images without permission, if it is yours and you don't want me to use it, just let me know.

If you want to read more about how roundabouts work in The Netherlands, Bicycle Dutch has lots of examples including this video.