News / Road Safety

Council rejects Pearson Street road closure plan 

The street is a well-known north-south ‘rat run’

An average of about 6000 cars pass through the intersection every day.

Mark Phillips

A PLAN to close part of a key north-south road in Brunswick West as a “traffic diversion experiment” has been killed off by Merri-bek Council following concerns that it would funnel large volumes of motor vehicles into side streets not equipped to handle them. 

The proposal to close the intersection of Albion and Pearson streets, outside North Brunswick Primary School, for a 12-month trial was defeated in a tight vote at the council meeting last Wednesday night.

The three Greens and one former Greens councillors who backed the closure said it would encourage increased pedestrian and cycling use of Pearson Street by directing cars and trucks to Melville Road and Sydney Road. 

The proposal was to have been a 12-month trial, beginning with community consultation before the closure went ahead in the second half of this year. 

Cycling and pedestrian advocates have criticised the decision not to go ahead with the trial as being inconsistent with the council’s freshly minted transport strategy, which was also adopted at the same meeting. 

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A report prepared for the council meeting had recommended erecting temporary barriers from Albion Street to a point eight metres south to block the passage of all vehicles apart from bikes “for the purpose of a genuine traffic diversion experiment”. 

A similar trial was planned for the intersection of Barrow and Harding streets in Coburg. 

The report said Pearson Street was classified as a local road between Albion Street and Hope Street and as a collector road between Hope Street and Dawson Street. 

Adjacent to the primary school, Pearson Street is a popular route for drivers wanting to avoid Melville Road and Sydney Road, but is also a recommended cycling route as part of the a “shimmy” from Albion Street to the Capital City Trail. 

It is a dual carriageway with a central median strip, and has markings on the road for cycling. 

“The trial road closures will reduce rat-running through these local roads, support school active travel and improve existing bicycle routes while maintaining local access for residents within the sections of road closures,” the report said. 

“The closures will create a safer road environment for the most vulnerable road users including pedestrians and cyclists by reducing vehicle volumes and speeds.” 

Despite its designation as a local road, traffic counts in the northern end of Pearson Street are more consistent with those of a collector road. A count in August 2022 found it was used by about 6000 vehicles a day travelling at average speeds of between 32 kmh and 36 kmh. 

Council staff proposed beginning consultation about the closures for a final decision on whether to proceed with the trial to be made in July. 

But during the council meeting it emerged that the views of residents in the neighbourhood had not been sought before a proposal was prepared for councillors to approve. 

Councillor Mark Riley, an enthusiastic supporter of the trial, said the partial street closures would put into action the new transport strategy adopted by the council which has a focus on encouraing forms of transport other than motor vehicles. 

“I have had residents who have been writing to me for years … about the safety issues [around Pearson Street],” he said. “This is a really good thing for us to be trying to do.” 

But Councillor Lambros Tapinos, who lives nearby, said the result of closing part of Pearson Street would be to force motorists into narrow side streets, making them more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists and causing traffic chaos for residents in the area.  

“It is actually in my view nonsensical, will not work, should not be trialled, and really I struggle to come to terms with consulting the community on an idea that is just not feasible,” he said. “I think it’s crazy going down this path.” 

Councillor Annalivia Carli-Hannan also spoke against the trial, arguing the views of nearby residents should have been sought before any recommendation was made to the council. 

Despite admitting that he sometimes used Pearson Street as a rat run himself, Mayor Adam Pulford supported the plan, but cautioned against actually closing the road if it did not have community support. 

The proposal was narrowly defeated in a vote with the three Greens and independent Councillor James Conlan voting for it. 



Faith Hunter from the Merri-bek Bicycle Users Group said it was disappointing that councillors had voted against going ahead with the plan.  

She said there were regular complaints from cyclists about rat running on both Pearson Street and Barrow Street. 

“It is very clear that some councillors are happy to vote for active transport and road safety initiatives while they exist as words on paper, in policies and strategies, but are reluctant to implement those when it comes to changing the streetscapes we are all trying to safely move around in,” she said. 

Andrea Bunting from Walk On Merri-bek said road closures to create low traffic neighbourhoods had proven to be popular overseas so the defeat of the Pearson Street closure was a missed opportunity. 

“People are crying out for safer streets and here was an opportunity to do that but it was badly handled,” she said. “They’ve let down the community because this is a really what people want, to be able to walk and cycle safely. 

“Council staff and councillors need to get their act together to ensure the wishes for safer streets are pursued.” 

It is understood that talks have begun with some councillors keen to resurrect the Barrow-Harding streets closure trial at the next council meeting in April. 

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