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Renders for the new Bridge Mall design (via
The City of Ballarat's chosen design firm, Hassell, has come back with a preferred design option for the Bridge Mall. It's going before Council for approval tonight, so let's take a look.
Firstly, it is worth stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. The report in Council's meeting agenda includes the details of recent community consultation. which shows that 44 out of 146 respondents said they didn't want traffic returned to the Mall at all - more than double the next-highest response. (Also, 15 people said "Lack of traffic is not the problem", though there may be some overlap between them and the 44).
The feedback against reopening was quite strong (via City of Ballarat)
To paraphrase, the report basically says "we had to ignore this feedback because our design brief specified opening it to traffic" - which is of course fair enough for the council officers and for the design firm they contracted, who must do as directed. But the longer this project goes on, the more opposition seems to be arising to it - and the elected councillors who ultimately have the power to direct the project should be paying attention.
Anyway. Hassell have determined that reopening the Mall to two-way traffic is basically unworkable, and that of the one-way options, eastbound is their preference - and I agree. They've done some more detailed design work on this option (as well as the westbound option, just in case) and are presenting this to council for approval before taking it further.
The video render of Grenville St (via
Notably absent from the
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIOl82w3W7w are cyclists - there are a few cars, and a bunch of people, but not a bike to be seen. However that doesn't mean cyclists have been forgotten. The video shows that a huge amount of space on the western edge of the Mall has been reclaimed for pedestrians - cars will no longer be able to travel south along this section of Grenville St, and the former car lane will be repurposed for a wide path and additional street trees. The video only shows people walking on this path, but the diagrams in the council report label this as a "separated cycle path" - which matches both council and state strategic cycling networks. Given the pedestrians in the video, it seems like they might be intending for it to be a shared-use path - however given that this is a high pedestrian-traffic area, this would be one case where it's best to separate walkers and cyclists.
The separated cycling infrastructure is clearly labelled on the diagram (via CoB)
When it comes to the Mall itself, it seems like the designs are much more provisional. The video shows the cars rolling along at walking pace, and pedestrians wandering among them - essentially an
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlXNVnftaNs. I'm probably comfortable with this from a safety perspective - for bikes travelling eastbound, it should be ok to mix with a small volume of cars travelling that slowly. But it does raise the question of what will happen to westbound cyclists.
I raised this question with council officers, and they were adamant that safe cycling through here was a key design requirement - but said that the exact details for how this was to be implemented are yet to be determined. Essentially I think the idea is to get council to sign off on the high-level details - ie one-way instead of two-way, eastbound instead of westbound, and reclaiming the space on surrounding streets - before they work through the finer details. This aspect is certainly worth keeping an eye on as things progress, but I'm feeling pretty good about it for now.
The design for Little Bridge Street (via CoB)
The project also looks to reclaim some space on Little Bridge Street, reducing some parts to a single lane of traffic, increasing space for trees, street dining, and similar uses. Some of this comes at the expense of space at the bus interchange, which would be reduced from six bays to three - I'm told that this worked fine when it was the temporary arrangement during some recent construction works, so it should be okay on a permanent basis. It allows for the pedestrian crossing to be moved west to align with Time Lane, making for a smoother trip for pedestrians (both those heading for the buses and those heading to the supermarkets).
The plan for Curtis Street (via CoB)
Curtis Street looks to have fewer changes, although what's there is positive - small increases in pedestrian space, and more trees.
Curtis does look a lot greener and friendlier (via
I am still not too keen on the return of cars to the Bridge Mall. But the other aspects of the project are really genuinely good - they do a lot to reclaim space for people from cars, and becalm the cars that will remain. The idea seems to be that the area between Mair and Eastwood Streets will change from "no cars in the Mall and way too many cars around it" to "low traffic in the whole area". Which is good.
I don't really buy into the idea that we have to give up the pedestrian space in the Mall in order to get the other good aspects - we don't need to package them together, we can have the good without the bad. But at the end of the day, if this is the tradeoff on the table, it's not such a bad one.
This article first appeared on the-iron-road.blogspot.com
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