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Shortly before they released the Sturt Street path plans, Regional Roads Victoria released the designs for a number of revamped intersections around Ballarat. Most of these are currently roundabouts, and all of them are very dangerous for pedestrians to cross - and signalising them should increase walkability across the board. But most of them are on key routes in the City of Ballarat's proposed cycling network as well - so let's take a look at how well the designs fit into those plans, and whether they fit world's best practice.
Those who read my post on redesigning the cycling network map may remember I wanted to reorganise and renumber a bunch of routes. To avoid confusion, I will be using the existing City of Ballarat route system throughout these posts, not my proposed route system. If you really want to take a deep dive into City of Ballarat's recommendations for how individual sections of each route should be treated, the (extremely detailed) full technical report is here. Also, if you want a closer look at the intersections, click "Source" under the images and it'll take you through to the RRV website where there are much higher-res versions.
Hertford Street and Albert Street
The intersection at Hertford and Albert. Note that north is to the right of this image (Source)
Albert Street is the border where Sayle Street turns into Hertford Street, and it's also where City of Ballarat's proposed Route 10 becomes Route 11. The cycling infrastructure approaching and crossing Albert Street is therefore quite strategically important.
Immediately west of the crossing, there is currently a fairly standard footpath - it's too narrow for a shared-use path (SUP) and not marked as such, so it's currently not legal or suitable for cyclists. City of Ballarat proposed to widen this path and turn it into an SUP, for cyclists travelling in both directions. RRV's concept images do seem to show a much wider path than currently exists, but it's not clearly marked as an SUP so it's hard to be sure - if they are planning to do this then that's great.
Even if it will be an SUP, it stops very abruptly at Beverin Street - which seems intended to retain the very large corner radius it currently has. This wide, sweeping bend means further for cyclists and pedestrians to travel to get to the other side of the road, and also encourages left-turning drivers to take the corner faster - a double-whammy for unsafe design. The addition of a median refuge island is good, but they should really build the curb out to be squarer and to bottleneck the corner more, to make it much safer for all.
There are painted lanes on both sides of Hertford Street itself, but paint is not infrastructure - these lanes provide no protection from cars travelling at high speeds alongside them. There are also many scenarios where cars need to cross the bike lanes - pulling into the angle parking, pulling into and out of McDonald's or Woolworths, or making a left turn onto Albert Street. This creates opportunities for conflict...and of course "conflict" here is a euphemism for drivers hitting cyclists with their cars. The idea is that the green paint will remind drivers of cyclist priority, but Australia is behind the curve on this - a lot of jurisdictions have stopped doing it because they've realised it doesn't work. This is not the kind of safe, segregated infrastructure that will encourage nervous riders onto their bikes - it's very much designed for riders who are already very confident negotiating traffic.
RRV's design for Sayle Street has zero cycle infrastructure whatsoever. This aligns with what City of Ballarat recommended in the plan - they consider Sayle Street a low-traffic street where it's acceptable for cyclists to share roadspace with drivers, though they note that the southern footpath could be widened and turned into an SUP later when funds are available. Relative to Albert and Hertford Streets, I agree Sayle is relatively low-traffic for most of its length, but the last section before the intersection is the worst part, because of people coming out of the Aldi carpark. It may be beyond the scope of this project, but I'd like to see the footpath widened sooner rather than later.
The crossing itself looks pretty high-quality, at least on the south side. There seems to be a signalled bike crossing right next to the pedestrian crossing on the south side - exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to see on Buitenveldertselaan in Amsterdam. The north side seems to just be a pedestrian crossing, though, so it seems the intention is very much for cyclists to use the SUP along the southern side of Hertford, then this southern crossing, before joining Sayle Street. My big concern with this crossing is the transition to Sayle Street - if you're riding east, and apparently expected to ride on the road surface (on the left-hand side of the road) then do you need to dismount and use the pedestrian crossing? Stray into the car lanes mid-intersection? Or just illegally ride on the footpath? To my mind this underlines the case for a proper treatment on this section of Sayle, so that the transition can be made much smoother.
Albert Street itself is not along a strategic cycling corridor, so I won't look at it in depth, but it's still frustrating to see that it's just relatively narrow painted cycle lanes amongst the seven - SEVEN - lanes for cars.
Wiltshire Lane and Glenelg Highway
Wiltshire Lane and Smythes Road, aka the Glenelg Highway (Source)
This intersection is right where Route 8B meets Route 11, at Delacombe Town Centre. It's therefore a crucial intersection to give people safe access to their local shops, and while there's not a great deal south or west of the intersection today, pretty soon there will be a lot of housing around here - so it'll form a key link for people cycling to work, or for kids to get to schools in Delacombe and Redan.
City of Ballarat's plans only look at the north and east arms of this intersection, and they suggest that the existing two-way service road to the north of the Glenelg Highway is acceptable in the short term due to its low traffic volumes, but in the longer term suggests creating a 2.5m-wide SUP to the north of the service road (currently there is no footpath at all). They suggest basically the same thing for Wiltshire Lane - use the two-way service road for now, and consider widening the existing footpath and turning it into an SUP down the track. Currently, the two service roads join onto each other at the corner, so cyclists can easily ride down one and turn onto the other without having to enter a high-traffic roadway, or having to dismount.
RRV's plans would throw a real spanner in City of Ballarat's plans, because they would disconnect the two service roads - seemingly because they want to widen the main carriageway on Wiltshire. They seem to be proposing to keep the existing footpath along Wiltshire, but not widen it; nor to add a new path along the highway. They're proposing to add green-painted lanes on the main carriageway, but again, these do basically nothing to improve safety so they are not an adequate substitute for the quiet service roads - so this would effectively cut off Route 8B from Route 11, and both from DTC and the communities beyond.
Northbound on the north side of the intersection, there seems to be a short section of bike-only path which links the on-road path to what looks like an SUP (although again the diagram doesn't confirm that it's an SUP). So it's possible the intention is for cyclists to use this path on the west side of Wiltshire, instead of the service road on the east. This could be quite workable but it does raise questions about connectivity further north, and it doesn't solve the question of connecting to Route 11, or more broadly how cyclists can safely navigate the intersection itself. It's quite frustrating that riders are expected to go through the intersection - likely to be the most dangerous part - on the road with no protection, before they can get to the SUP.
Similarly, there seems to be a very wide path on the south side of Glenelg Hwy between the intersection and the Bupa Aged Care facility, so it's possible this is an SUP and cyclists are intended to use this instead of the service road. In the long term an SUP on the southern side may be a good solution, but the diagram shows the path narrowing out the front of Bupa and then stopping entirely straight after it - so it sort of sets things up for the future but would not be usable straight away. Unless and until an SUP can be built for a much longer distance, it's not a workable substitute for the service roads they plan to close off.
City of Ballarat's plans only cover the north and east arms of this intersection; their proposed cycling network does not cover the south and west arms, though I'd argue that it definitely should, given the growth along these axes. The south arm appears to have very wide paths on both sides, which again may be intended for SUPs, but it's hard to be sure. The west arm only has very narrow footpaths which are quite clearly not intended for cyclists - and it only has floating green painted lanes on the road. Again these introduce a number of potential conflicts with turning vehicles, and will not be safe enough for most potential riders.
Broadly speaking I'm not opposed to tweaking City of Ballarat's plans for these two routes, to go for more of an SUP-centric model than their service road-centric model. But the solution RRV has put forth here seems half-baked at best. What I'd really like to see RRV do here is:
- close the service roads to cars at the points they indicate
- keep a narrower strip of bitumen open to cyclists to maintain connectivity
- add some more bitumen to allow cyclists to approach the intersection and cross, if need be
By all means do the stuff with the SUPs with an eye to future expansions, but unless you're going to fund and build those extensions now, don't break what's currently there.
Part 2, looking at Wiltshire/La Trobe and Gillies/Gregory, coming soon.
This article first appeared on the-iron-road.blogspot.com
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