Walking the Talk

Last week the BDA Committee for Brisbane held a breakfast forum on the topic “Talking the Walk”, with expert panelists discussing the walkability of our city. They asked:

BDAforum

What is it like for visitors to Brisbane and the residents trying to walk around our city from home to work or from city place to city place? How can we ensure that walking this city in a sub-tropical climate is a world class experience for all?

Sitting inside talking about walkability over an expensive breakfast is nice, but how does that translate on the ground? Let’s consider Brisbane City Council’s approach to walkability in the context a project currently underway to “upgrade” of the intersection of Julliette Street and Ipswich Road in Annerley.

IpswichRd

BCC pride themselves on their consultation process, so when the preliminary design for this intersection was first announced, a number of us went along to speak to the project team at their information sessions in early March 2018. Council officers made it quite clear they weren’t interested in people using the intersection by bike, but we also took the opportunity point out how the area could be improved for walking.

Council responded to these submissions in a project newsletter published in April 2018:

Community:
Request for pedestrian crossing on Ipswich Road, on the northern side of the intersection
Council response: 

A pedestrian crossing on the northern side of the intersection would adversely affect the overall efficiency of the intersection and significantly impact the safety and operation of the transport network.

Council must balance the needs and consider the travel times for all users wishing to travel through the intersection. The current design provides treatments for both pedestrians and motorists which are appropriate to the current and predicted future demands for both modes.

Community:
Request for improvements to the intersection of Ipswich Road and Young Street
Council response:

The project scope is to improve congestion and safety at the Juliette Street and Ipswich Road intersection. Improvements to Young Street are outside the scope of this project.*

Feedback relating to this intersection has been listed for future consideration against other city wide priorities and included in future planning of the road network in the local area.

*Yet their next paragraph was “Traffic analysis indicates it is necessary to provide the separate through lane from Juliette Street to Young Street to enable the efficient operation of the intersection.” So Young St is in scope when talking about motor vehicle traffic, but out of scope when talking about walking?

MrsJones

So how well will this newly upgraded intersection work for walking?

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Mrs Jones, who lives near the corner of Young St and Ipswich Road. Let’s imagine Mrs Jones wants to cross Ipswich Road just north of the intersection – where Council has declined to put a pedestrian crossing. Perhaps Mrs Jones is meeting a friend at the local cafe, or she has an appointment at the medical centre, or she needs something from the supermarket or one of the specialty shops just across the road. Maybe she just wants to walk to the bus stop across the street. Perhaps on Sunday Mrs Jones would like to walk to church.

MrsJonesNeighbourhood

If she wants to cross Ipswich Rd, Mrs Jones must:

  • First cross traffic coming down the hill from Young St to turn into Ipswich Rd. Vehicles waiting here block the crossing, so Mrs Jones will have to wait for traffic to clear if she is to use the pram ramp – if she has, for example, a pram. Or a shopping cart, or a walking frame, or if she just struggles to step up and down the kerb.
  • Next, she must cross the high-speed slip lane for traffic turning from Ipswich Rd and Juliette St into Young St. We can only hope Mrs Jones is good at judging traffic speed, and is quick enough to scramble across without being hit on this wide-radius corner. Legally of course, traffic should give way to a person crossing the street they are turning into, but we know that’s not how it works in reality.
  • Now it’s time to wait for her turn to cross Ipswich Rd. There’s a beg-button but pressing it won’t give Mrs Jones her turn any faster; it will simply activate the pedestrian signal when cars from Juliette St get a turn. Let’s hope she pushed the button in time so she doesn’t have to wait another full sequence.
  • Finally it’s time to scramble across 5.5 lanes of Ipswich Rd. Let’s hope Mrs Jones is spritely, because there’s no centre refuge and and no beg-button in the middle if she doesn’t make it all the way across.
  • Now she needs to wait again on the small island in the middle of Juliette St, before she can finally complete the crossing and walk 30m or so to the point directly across the road from where she started.

Conclusion: Brisbane City Council does not want you to walk Mrs Jones!

Where to from here?

One of our recommendations to the Committee for Brisbane “Talking the Walk” panel was that Brisbane City Council (and/or the Queensland Government) needs an active transport champion similar to the Walking and Cycling Commissioners in London and Manchester. The person in that role should required to sign off on all future infrastructure projects to ensure they improve conditions for people walking and cycling. Projects like Ipswich Rd / Juliette St at Annerley should be sent back to the drawing board until they comply.

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