In off-peak hours the traffic on Sydney Road crawls at an average speed of 9km/h, the slowest arterial road in the state in 2015, with Google Maps at times diverting drivers about a kilometre east to Nicholson Street to sidestep the slog from Bell Street to Brunswick Road.
According to VicRoads, traffic moved faster in the morning and afternoon peaks, at 17km/h and 14km/h respectively, when clearways prohibit on-street parking. But wasted time is just part of the Sydney Road story.
A five-year study to December 2014 recorded two pedestrian fatalities, 79 serious injuries and 235 other injuries. Pedestrians were involved in 131 crashes, cyclists in 66. In 2015 a cyclist was killed.
And competition for the use of Sydney Road is not about to decline. Bicycle Network reports that the Upfield bike path, which runs parallel, is reaching capacity. And 11.4 million tram trips a year along Sydney Road’s Route 19 make it Melbourne’s fifth-busiest tram route.
Something must be done to reduce the conflict between pedestrians, riders and vehicles, to speed up trams and provide a street environment that will enable Sydney Road to thrive as a shopping precinct.
A vision for Sydney Road
A different Sydney Road would have wider footpaths for pedestrians, footpath trading for cafes and restaurants, street art and shady trees. Cyclists would have a separated lane on the road to reduce conflict with vehicles and pedestrians. Platform stops would enable the tram to be accessible, as required by the Disability Discrimination Act, and with less congestion they could be faster and more reliable.
Community surveys have found many empty spaces in car parks near Sydney Road. This provides an opportunity to relocate on-street parking to off-street car parks and side streets.
We think the state government and Moreland City Council needs to engage with traders and residents, and undertake a traffic and parking study to review Sydney Road, with a view to removing on-street parking and changing how road and footpath space is used. We believe a trial section should be constructed before the 2018 state election, incorporating the proposed changes and an accessible platform tram stop.