I love the shared spaces and have absolutely no problems walking down the middle of them even when cars are around but I can understand why others don’t feel that way and get nervous about the interaction between cars and pedestrians. This is especially the case when there are too many cars using the space, even if those numbers have reduced significantly from before the upgrades and admins post the other day about needing to ensure we get the right balance made me decide to post my thoughts on how we could solve the problem.
I do think that that the long term solution is to pedestrianise Queen St with perhaps the exception of using it for some form of PT however it is going to be a number of years before we can get to that stage so my solution focuses on what we can do today to further reduce traffic which will help to make pedestrians feel safer in these areas.
My main concern with traffic is the ability of the streets to be used as rat runs due to how they were traditionally used and both the Elliott /Darby St and Fort St suffer from this as the diagrams below show. The solution is to simply change the direction through which traffic travels, this would would negate these streets as rat runs while still preserving vehicle access for vehicles that really need to use them i.e. delivery vehicles.
In the case of Elliott/Darby St traffic wanting to get from Wellesley St to Victoria St or even just wanting to bypass the Queen St and Victoria St intersection, which has a lot of pedestrian phases, can use these streets to do so. Elliot St is also the only way to access the car park in the currently empty site at the northern end and vehicles have to travel use it and possibly Darby St to access that car park (of course ideally that site would be developed but who knows when that will happen).
Simply changing the direction of these streets and only allowing left turns on and off of them would remove that rat run and mean that anyone using them will result in a vehicle going around in a circle which means that only cars that had to use it would do so. In this case it would also mean that cars accessing the car park wouldn’t need to travel the length of the road but only one end of it.
The second example is Fort St which is probably even more of a rat run based on the number of vehicles I see using it. For anyone coming from Beech Rd and wanting to get to Queen St it is probably far easier to use Fort St than get through the three intersections along Customs St East. I think what makes it even worse is the straight section between Gore St and Commerce St allows people to accelerate and they don’t slow down as much which means they travel faster through the shared space section.
Again changing the direction of the traffic would remove that rat run, also as cars would need to turn off Queen St to access the shared space they would be more likely to travel slower through the area. It is also worth noting that the section between Gore St and Beech Rd is also eventually meant to be a shared space, I am undecided about the best direction for this but have opted to leave it the same to avoid creating more confusion/phasing at the intersection. Commerce St, Gore St and the middle part of Fort St will remain a normal road but the footpaths are being upgraded and widened as well.
The thing I think is best about these changes are they are simple ones that could be done fairly quickly and easily as they only require a few changes to signs and a bit of education but they have the ability to remove a lot of traffic from these areas in which pedestrians have been given far more priority.