Brunswick Street redesign

Intersection of Brunswick St and Victoria Parade, Southbound.

This is the worst part of the entire length of Brunswick St for cycling. The roadway is narrow, and the footpath carries a great deal of pedestrian traffic for Australian Catholic University. There are also a high number of tram, cycle and car movements in the morning peak hour.

Cars in the left lane are often stopped so close to the kerb that cyclists are unable to safely pass on the left. This places cyclists in conflict with cars on the road, and pedestrians on the footpath. Since it is clear that cycle traffic from the North into the city is steadily increasing, it makes sense to accommodate that growth with infrastructure.

I don’t have access to data for here, it would be good to do some actual counting; but my casual observations made currently as a commuter, and from my vantage point overlooking the intersection when I was working at ACU a few years ago, indicate there is at least as much cycle traffic as cars going South into the City during the peak hours, and also quite a bit of cycle traffic through the day.

Whilst it may be possible to re-align the footpath into the new ACU open space, I am generally opposed to losing local footpath space and open space in the service of what is mostly through traffic.

My suggestion for this intersection is to apply the same kind of treatment as the City of Melbourne has for Princes Bridge Inbound. That is to convert one car lane into a lane for cyclists.

I think the separation should begin somewhere between the Metropole and Central Hall, but that would be better determined by the engineers. Separation from South of Central Hall would probably work, but then you are leaving the merge area for the two lanes of traffic quite late, and this may cause congestion in the area. Some on-street parking might have to go as part of that process as well.

Then you have one lane for the tram, one for cars, one for cyclists, and the footpath for pedestrians. Provision would have to be made for car traffic turning left into Victoria Parade, possibly by extending the current bike ahead light sequence, or adding in a left turn filter light. It may be necessary to provide a low concrete barrier to separate cars from bikes and prevent cars from cutting across to the left.

Like this:

pb

Intersection of Brunswick St and Victoria Parade, Northbound.

There seems to be much less conflict between cars and bikes in this direction, and much less congestion.

The main changes I suggest here would be to improve the lane marking and lights sequences for cyclists coming North along Macarthur St from the City, making the S-bend turn into Victoria Pde and then the left into Brunswick. I don’t think this side really needs much structural work at all.

The use of sharrows, green road paint and signage might improve awareness of all users that this is a shared space for cars and bikes.

Intersection of Brunswick St and Victoria Parade, general comment.

This whole area however, is a hotchpotch of poles, street furniture, and signage. There is a huge amount of pedestrian, tram, bike and car traffic going in all directions across a large and confusing space.

Given that St. Vincent’s, ACU, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Eye and Ear Hospital, St. Vincent’s tram terminus and the main entry into Fitzroy’s biggest tourist area are all attracting more and more people into the area, it really needs a cohesive design “language” so that all users are able to negotiate the area safely.

 

Re-imagining Brunswick St – hidden in plain sight:

Along the length of Brunswick St from Victoria Parade to Alexandra Avenue there is a huge amount of public space which is under-used, poorly used, or simply wasted. The pavements are narrow and congested, with ~ 30 cm x ~1.5 kilometres – the length of the street, = ~450 square metres made unavailable between the gutter to the many poles and obstacles. A great deal of this space could be re-purposed in a number of possible ways.

At every intersection there is a redundant “No Standing” zone taking up between 15 and 19 square metres that is used occasionally by a left turning vehicle, and that could be better used in a number of more practical ways that reflect the majority of street users – the pedestrians.

There are numerous opportunities to convert on-street car-parking to on-street bicycle parking. Each such conversion gains 10 spaces for visitors by bicycle for the loss of ~1.5 spaces for visitors by car.

I’d like to refer you to this excellent TED talk by Janette Sadik-Khan reflecting on her time as Transport Commissioner in New York City (14 minutes):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LujWrkYsl64#t=76

Currently there are clearways along parts of both sides of Brunswick St which limit possibilities for widening parts of the pavement, or utilizing car parking spaces. My understanding is that these clearways are needed to maintain the flow of trams more than cars, and this is desirable.

However the clearways do not extend the full length of the street and in those places there are opportunities to implement elements such as parklets and on-street bicycle parking. In the sections limited by clearways, there are also opportunities to streamline the streetscape for pedestrian movement and to include gardens, public seating and better bike parking.

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Parklets

One of the problems for the café area on Brunswick St is the amount of pedestrian congestion, due partly to high visitor numbers, but also to entanglements with streetside tables and chairs, poles and other street furniture.

Portland OR: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZVvgzyRPco

San Francisco (1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR-y1gwRSMQ

San Francisco (2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyUP7glqHVo

However there are many opportunities for parklets as well as bike parking along the strip, and these may alleviate some of the pedestrian congestion at peak times by shifting street tables and chairs into what is now car-parking space.

Bike parking

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This is the current on-road bicycle parking outside the Fitzroy pool, showing a depth of 200mm, and room for 10 bikes in 620mm width.

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This one in Rose St allows for more pedestrian permeability by leaving a space in the middle and at the ends. Parking for 16 bikes 900mm x 200mm.

East side of Brunswick St. Alexandra Pde. – Johnston St.

This side is limited because of restrictions enforced by the morning clearway. Examples of demand for bicycle parking, informal use of street furniture and spaces that could be redeveloped into parklets or bike parking.

P1020364 P1020360P1020361

Shows clash of space between car door area and bike parking, but also how useful the pole “vaults” are.

Casual use of street poles still takes up less space than sandwich boards

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Degraded public space could be used for parklet and/or bike parking corral (Kerr St, East side).

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Informal use of poles and garden for bike parking.

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Significant intrusion into pedestrian space, could be shifted to the left 80mm?

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West side of Brunswick St, Alexandra Pde. – Johnston St.

On this side, the clearway does not begin until around number 367 (continuing Northwards), and offers a number of possibilities for improvements and more efficient use of the space between there and Johnston St. The most significant of these is the wasted space at the corners of intersections.

P1020383

These are available at the intersections of Johnston, Argyle, and Kerr. (The opposite side is shorter @ 6400mm). And could be used as parklets, extended pedestrian spaces, tables and chairs for the cafes, or bike parking, or a combination of the above.

These kinds of road extensions are typical of the bloated intersections designed by engineers in the past in service of the motor vehicle. But they are used so little as to hardly justify that usage at all.

As there is no clearway, this also provides an excellent opportunity to convert carparking into bicycle parking. Most of the cars parked on Brunswick St will carry one or two people, and each one takes up 6100mm – almost enough for 5 bike racks or parking space for 10 people.

I suggest converting 2 car spaces into 9 bike hoops – similar to the Rose St setup (above) that allows for pedestrian permeability. The tables form the cafes could also be moved across a little into this space, providing better flow at peak times. In addition, there could be plantings, art works and other beautification measures as part of these facilities.

Opportunities exist in the blocks between Johnston and Argyle, the Mario’s area; between Argyle and Kerr the 349 – 343 area; and Kerr to Rose – the 363 – 367 area around Viet Rose, before the clearway begins at Madame K / Basil Garden.

East side of Brunswick St, Johnston St. – Gertrude St.

The treatments outlined above could also be applied to a number of sites between Johnston and Gertrude.

There is no clearway along the Johnston St end, East side, and there are a number of opportunities to develop parklets and bike parking there in the “No Standing” zones, as pictured above at the corner of Greeves St (Black Cat) as well as possible carparking conversions.

West side of Brunswick St, Johnston St. – Gertrude St.

There is a great opportunity to redevelop the area opposite the Connie Benn Centre as an onstreet parklet servicing the many locals who frequent the area, utilising the various services. Seating, and even a water fountain would be of great benefit there. This could also make the pedestrian crossing safer.

Other points exist at around 157 (Slowpoke) and 213 opposite Little Creatures for a bike parking conversion.

Thanks for your time and consideration of my ideas, I hope they are useful, and I look forward to the final result. I haven’t mentioned the graffiti – what can be done to clean this up? As I did my research, the 2 conversations I had with people, they both complained about graffiti.

Brunswick Street is one of Melbourne’s iconic places, and it deserves to be treated as such.

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