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Current location: Home > Issues > Transport > Pedestrian Safety In The Central Business District

Monday, 2 July 2007

The Hon John Watkins MP
Deputy Premier
Minister for Transport
Minister for Finance
Level 30, Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Pedestrian Safety in the Central Business District

Dear Minister

Further to our discussion on Friday 29 July 2007, I write to confirm my proposals to improve pedestrian safety and amenity in the Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), including Druitt Street.

The recent tragic accidents highlight dangers faced by pedestrians on a daily basis across the CBD. While short-term solutions such as temporary barriers are an immediate response to the particular problems on Druitt Street, we need a holistic and proactive approach for the CBD.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) reports that between 1 January 2001 and 30 June 2006 there were 170 accidents involving pedestrians and buses in the City of Sydney local government area. Six of these accidents were fatalities, with four of these in the CBD. During the same period, there were a total of 2183 reported pedestrian accidents involving vehicles in the Sydney LGA. Last year, 352 pedestrians were killed or injured on City streets.

Druitt Street precinct

Since the opening of the Cross City Tunnel, the State Government has directly made changes to roads in the Druitt Street precinct without consultation with the City of Sydney. These changes include bus lanes, traffic lane arrangements and direction, removal of a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Druitt and Clarence Streets, and loss of a red light camera on Druitt Street east of Kent Street.

I understand that the two recent serious accidents occurred at the intersections, where the City of Sydney has limited authority to implement improvements as bus lanes and traffic signals are under the authority of the RTA.

On 28 June 2007, the RTA installed water filled barriers mid-block on Druitt Street between Sussex and Kent Streets. This is a short-term solution that does not address the problem of accidents at intersections and barriers can encourage increased driver speed, trap pedestrian on roads (particularly with barriers on one side only), and reduce pedestrian amenity and the quality of the public domain.

The City of Sydney has also been approached by the State Transit Authority (STA) about installing “Look Left/Look Right” road markings. This signage is already provided at marked pedestrian crossing points along Druitt Street and City staff believe that the use of this signage mid-block is potentially dangerous as it can encourage pedestrians to cross where the markings are located.

Pedestrians crossing Druitt Street are also subject to significant delays while waiting for traffic signals to change, despite periods of time where there is limited traffic. This can result in significant numbers of pedestrians crossing against the lights, particularly during peak times for pedestrians entering and exiting Town Hall Train Station.

The City is currently undertaking an initial internal safety audit of the Druitt Street precinct and will engage an independent consultant to further look at pedestrian safety, lighting, sight distances, signs and markings.

Recommendation

  An independent safety audit be undertaken in the Druitt Street precinct, with commitment from the City, RTA and STA to cooperatively implement recommended changes. Key issues for investigation include:
— pedestrian barriers provided as a temporary solution with focus on improvements to the pedestrian environment;
— reduced delays for pedestrian crossing north-south along Druitt Street, particularly during peak periods;
— reinstallation of the pedestrian crossing over Druitt Street on the eastern side of Clarence Street or introduce scramble crossings which can increase safety;
— introduction of a 40 km/h speed limit for all vehicles;
— reinstallation of the red light camera in Druitt Street, with speed monitoring ability include
d.

40 kph Zone in High Pedestrian Areas

In order to improve pedestrian safety, the RTA developed a program enabling Councils to request 40km/h speed limits in high pedestrian activity areas. Vehicle speed greatly increases the adverse outcomes of a crash, especially where pedestrians are involved.

At peak times, there can be as many as 600,000 people in Central Sydney. In 2004, the City developed a 40 km/h proposal, recognising that significant proportions of the our LGA are highly pedestrianised. As some inner city areas are already designated as 40 km/h zones, the City sought to consolidate those areas into a single zone that could be clearly and consistently signposted and understood by drivers.

In late 2004, the City of Sydney endorsed a Central Sydney 40 km/h zone, subject to public exhibition and RTA approval. On 19 July 2005, the RTA rejected the proposal, but stated it would “investigate, develop and implement… countermeasures to address pedestrian safety in Central Sydney”.

Recommendation

  The City of Sydney and State Government revisit introduction of a 40 kph speed limit in Central Sydney.

Improved Pedestrian Environment

The City of Sydney is committed to improving the pedestrian environment in the CBD and surrounds. We have a major footpath upgraded program underway and have engaged world-renown Gehl Architects to conduct a Public Life and Public Spaces Survey. Professor Gehl’s work has helped reclaim for pedestrians diverse cities such as Copenhagen, London, Barcelona, Strasbourg and Melbourne.

The City’s pedestrian study aims to develop a shared vision for safety and amenity to enable us to work effectively with Government agencies, the private sector and our communities to achieve more accessible, useable and enjoyable city streets and public spaces.

Unfortunately, pedestrians in Sydney do not receive a high level of priority compared with other road users, as occurs in many cities internationally. Pedestrian delays result in frustration and provoke dangerous crossing against the lights.

Many cities provide longer crossing times and traffic signals with a visual "count down" timer to keep pedestrians and motorists informed of when the lights will change.

Recommendations

  Review phasing of pedestrian signals to increase crossing times, particularly during peak pedestrian periods.

  Introduce “count down” timers for pedestrian signals in the CBD, potentially trialling the usage in the Town Hall Train Station precinct.

Kerbside Bus Lanes

Central Sydney is at saturation point with buses, yet current State Government plans involve increasing bus movements in the CBD, extending clearways adjacent footpaths, and increasing clearway hours. Kerbside bus lanes have an inherent safety risk and decrease pedestrian amenity. Problems include increased pedestrian conflict, bus noise, pollution and wind, leading to dead zones near kerbs.

The City of Sydney supports the re-location of bus lanes away from the kerb to the second or centre lane where it is possible to improve pedestrian amenity and safety. The relocation of bus lanes to the centre lane also provides for future transition to higher volume mass transit services on key routes in central Sydney.

Recommendation

  In the short term, investigate and take advantage of all opportunities to relocate bus lanes to the centre of the road with loading platforms.

  In the medium term, extend light rail into the CBD to increase public transport provision, with improved amenity and safety for pedestrians.

Bus Layovers

Bus drivers have also reported concerns over circulating around the Clarence and Druitt Street precinct while waiting for their next scheduled service to begin. Over the past few months, the City has been working with the STA on bus space in Clarence Street, leading to the creation of extra lay over space in the street last weekend. This adds to the existing bus layover locations in the CBD, including Clarence Street, as well as outside the central CBD area.

To avoid bus parking dominating CBD streets, off-street and CBD-fringe bus layovers are vital. The City has lodged an expression of interest with the Royal Botanic Gardens for an upgrade of the Domain Car Park to include significant State Transit Bus and Tourist Coach layover facilities.

Recommendation

  The City and STA investigate further timetabling and lay-over options, noting the need to balance competing uses for City streets and pedestrian impacts.

Road Safety Education

The “look left/look right” painted signage was developed and implemented by the City of Sydney in 2000 as a pedestrian safety education strategy in the lead up to the Olympics. In the light of the positive response to the initiative, the signage has continued to be used and is installed at intersections in the Druitt Street precinct.

In November 2006, the STA requested “Look Right” signage to be painted on roads mid-block on Druitt Street. At a subsequent meeting, City staff explained that mid-block signs could encourage mid-block crossings. On 21 June 2007 the STA repeated its request and City staff have again raised concerns that the proposed safety education measure could be counter-productive and reduce safety in the precinct.

The City is now running a pedestrian safety campaign around train stations (Wynyard), in local newspapers and on buses. It is also running programs with RTA grants targeting pedestrians (“Watch out cars about”) in the vicinity of Town Hall Wynyard and Central railway stations and drivers (“Watch out people about”). The “Watch out people about” campaign currently underway uses advertising on the back of STA buses and advises drivers to slow down where there are pedestrians.

Recommendation

  Directional “Look Left/Look Right” safety signage be restricted to identified/marked pedestrian crossing.

  STA work with City to identify future options for safety education programs that could address any problems identified in the Druitt Street precinct safety audit.

I have asked the City’s Acting CEO, Mr Garry Harding, to contact your department to pursue these issues as a priority and will arrange for the City’s CEO, Ms Monica Barone, to follow up on her return from leave.

Yours sincerely

Clover Moore MP
Lord Mayor of Sydney

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