Station Street Fairfield Shared Space Proposal
The general area of Station Street shops and the Fairfield railway station carries a great deal of mixed mode people movements. The area is mostly medium density housing, but the local population is set to grow very rapidly in the near future with the re-development of the AMCOR site to house approximately 6,000 residents. Access to Heidelberg Road and Chandler Highway; and Station Street and Ivanhoe shops, will come under duress and planning will need to take that into account.
I live locally, in Station Street, close to the railway line. I walk, cycle, and drive in the area, and I believe there is an ideal opportunity to do something very exciting in redeveloping the street.
Rather than following “traditional” methods of urban design, I am suggesting that a “Shared Space” or “Complete Streets” approach is more appropriate for this area. The area already operates in this way to some extent, with cars giving way to pedestrians, who respond with a wave – one of the classic signs of shared space design – see the video on Poynton attached.
My inspiration comes from trying to cross from Wingrove Street into Station on my bike in peak hour. This is a very awkward and dangerous crossing, with poor sightlines due to the raised profile of the rail line, and many stressed drivers trying to manage the intersection, the trains, the pedestrians, bikes and cars. Rear-end collisions are not uncommon here.
Initially I thought “we should put traffic lights here”. But these are expensive and intrusive. There’s a better way. When I thought of applying Shared Space ideas here my initial reaction was: “This can’t work in Australia”! But I suspect it can. Here’s my suggestion for Station Street Fairfield, my local streetscape.
Cars and trucks
Station St is a major thoroughfare for car and truck traffic North-South between Plenty Road Preston and Heidelberg Road.
Some of this traffic is diverted at Darebin Road to Grange Road to link with Chandler Highway and avoid the shopping strip. Some traffic, particularly at peak hour turns West at Heidelberg and continues into town, and some (smaller amount) goes East to Ivanhoe or to the Chandler.
The shopping strip also attracts local and through traffic as well as delivery vans for the various businesses.
Pedestrian traffic consists of:
Train travelers at Fairfield Station and bus travelers on the 567 route to Northland and Reservoir.
Some groups of disabled people accessing ROYTAL in Kew, and some students, on the 609 bus service.
Local shoppers and casual or recreational walkers.
School children, particularly from the Fairfield Primary School, and St Anthony’s Primary School, as well as secondary school students accessing the Rail system.
Pedestrian profiles in the area range from elderly people, and some with disabilities, down to young families with children, and the children are often on scooters, run-bikes or small bicycles.
There is a lot of cycle traffic through the Station Street area.
Station Street itself carries commuting and recreational cyclists, many of whom also access the Yarra Bend Park trails either via Station Street (South) or via Chandler. Heidelberg Road is a heavily used cycling commuter route, even though the facilities along there vary from very good to very dangerous for cyclists.
There is also a considerable amount of East-West cycling traffic along Wingrove Street (the so-called “Hurstbridge Line Shimmy”). This consists of locals accessing the shops, recreational riders and commuting cyclists who prefer to avoid Heidelberg Road. East-West cyclists also utilise Railway Place to access Victoria Road and Westgarth Street.
Some of the Primary School students are on various 2 wheeled options, usually accompanied by a parent, and some of the Secondary students also have bikes. This sector is assisted by the monitored school crossing (lollipop man) South of the rail line, during school hours.
Shared Space proposal
Shared Space or Complete Streets philosophy of urban design has been applied in many cities and towns around the world. These include Poynton (Cheshire, England – I have included a Youtube video for this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0 ), Bendigo, Auckland, London, West Palm Beach FL, Savannah GA.
Auckland has provided an excellent comprehensive report on its use of Shared Space here: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/en/planspoliciesprojects/councilprojects/sharedspaces/Pages/home.aspx
There is also an excellent recent discussion from Monash University available.
The guiding principle of Shared Space is that people have the priority in the space, and that all users take responsibility for their own behaviour.
Shared space is an urban design approach which seeks to minimise demarcations between vehicle traffic and pedestrians, often by removing features such as curbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, and regulations. Typically used on narrower streets within the urban core and as part of living streets within residential areas, the approach has also been applied to busier roads, including Exhibition Road in Kensington, London. (Wikipedia)
Shared Space in Station Street
Some of the elements that have been used in Poynton could work very well here.
Reducing the traffic lanes to one (plus bike lanes) further back from Station St. The double lane just South of the rail line causes a great deal of confusion and congestion, and is extremely dangerous during school crossing times, as cars try to slip past on the left and do not see the lollipop man. (I believe Vicroads and Darebin Council are already aware of this problem).
Reducing traffic to one lane only here would be a considerable improvement on safety. I would keep the monitored crossing for school children active, and for a longer period, to assist in rail pedestrian traffic as well.
Narrowing lanes and signage to indicate the change from a “car space” to shared space.
The concept of ROUNDELS – like a roundabout, but using texture rather than a specific raised area, at the intersections of Station and Railway, Wingrove, Duncan and Mitchell, to slow traffic and indicate a shared zone.
Increased road furniture such as indented seating and garden or café areas along the shopping strip.
One element that is generally not included in Shared Space designs is car parking. In the case of Station Street shops, I cannot see that removing car parking is an option (although some reduction might be needed) as this would impact too much on the businesses here. There is just not enough local foot and cycle traffic or public transport access to maintain current levels of activity, and not enough space to build offstreet parking.
I have been unable to find an example of a working Shared Space that includes car parking, so this is one problem that may require some even more innovative thinking through by your engineers and designers.
However, as I stated above, there are many elements of Shared Space already occurring naturally in Station Street. This augurs well for re-designing the road and footpath to reflect already extant behaviours.
Thank you for your time in reading my suggestion. I look forward to your response.