Push to make shopping strips safer

The Sunday Age

Sunday 21 July 2000
By Elizabeth Gooch

VicRoads will examine ways of improving road safety along busy shopping strips, identified by researchers as posing particular hazards for pedestrians.

Monash University's Accident Research Centre and the RACV are both calling for improved pedestrian safety, and say road designs need to be modified to make shopping precincts safer for pedestrians.

Accident Research Centre director Ian Johnston said improvements could be made to strip shopping centres such as Chapel Street, Toorak Road and Glenferrie Road.

"These are some of the older areas where it is really important to create a low-speed environment . . . As people come into those areas, you can make it so that they know they're entering an area where there is a much higher probability of someone coming out from behind a parked car," he told The Sunday Age.

Pedestrians are more than three times as likely to be killed on the road as other road users. Last year, 81 pedestrians died in Victoria.

In a bid to reduce the toll, VicRoads will conduct a trial in which speed limits through some of Melbourne's strip shopping areas will be reduced to 40kmh during busy periods. In country Victoria, some shopping strips will become permanent 50kmh zones.

But the RACV says more needs to be done to educate pedestrianse.

"We would certainly call on local government to consider giving (safety at strip shopping centres) a higher priority than it has been given in the past," said Ken Ogden, the RACV's manager of public policy.

But Dr Ogden said the problem of pedestrians affected by alcohol needed to be considered. "About 30 per cent of pedestrians (killed last year) were affected by alcohol . . . Education and if necessary, enforcement (needs to be) directed towards alcohol-affected pedestrians, not just drivers," he said.

Dr Ogden also called for more pedestrian refuges (such as concrete islands in the middle of roads) so that pedestrians had to cross only one direction of traffic at a time.

Extending the footpath in between parked cars to the roadside would also help pedestrians gauge when to cross, Dr Ogden said.

Mr Johnston said increasing signage, reducing roadside parking and changing the shape of roads could also improve safety for pedestrians. "In Sweden, they've created areas as you enter (where) they actually narrow the entrance by bringing the roadsides in at the ends," he said.

While VicRoads will consider aspects of road design in the trial, Mr Johnston said the behaviour of pedestrians was still a problem.
"There's plenty of evidence that pedestrians will, given half a chance, wander across the road wherever they are . . . that's much harder to change," he said.

Mr Johnston said while fencing footpaths might be an option, it posed another problem by preventing those parked on the roadside from getting to the footpath.

"At the end of the day, there is no perfect solution. But there are lots of things we can do to create a low-speed environment, an environment of care . . . and that's likely to be more successful than just urging people to slow down or urging pedestrians to cross only at certain places," he said.