News / Road Safety

Residents’ groups want drivers to slow it down

Two of Brunswick’s busiest east-west streets are coming under increased scrutiny

Three people standing on the footpath as a car speeds past behind them.
Craig Fernandes, Kenna Morrison and Michael Santhanam-Martin are behind the new Hope Street road safety campaign.

Mark Phillips

WITH Brunswick’s traffic network set to be transformed in coming years by the level crossing removal project, two new campaigns have begun to make local roads safer now.

In and around Hope Street, residents are being asked to complete a short survey to build the case for a lower speed limit and other safety measures, while a similar campaign has begun in Albion Street with the formation of a Facebook group.

Both Hope and Albion streets are major east-west connecting routes between Sydney Road and Brunswick West and are used by thousands of cars, trucks, and buses every day. Both are narrow streets made even narrower in parts by on-street car parking.

The two campaigns have won an important supporter in South ward councillor Lambros Tapinos, who believes the time may have come to lower speed limits as part of a package of measures to improve road safety in Brunswick’s residential streets.

“Traffic is becoming a problem right across the city but particularly in Brunswick as a lot of these streets are being used as rat runs and there are increased volumes of traffic numbers and we need to start addressing it a bit more,” he said.

“There are a number of traffic measures we could take from reconfiguring roads to closing certain side streets to utilising other measures to slow down traffic.

“The first step is to identify what concerns there are and then letting the traffic engineers come up with solutions.”

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Kenna Morrison, Michael Santhanam-Martin and Craig Fernandes were until recently strangers to each other who were brought together by their shared concerns about safety on Hope Street.

Mr Santhanam-Martin’s interest goes back more than three years, when he first contacted Merri-bek Councillor Mark Riley about the issue. Cr Riley connected him with Ms Morrison, who lives in Fraser Street, and Mr Fernandes, who lives in the section of Hope Street west of Melville Road.

Hope Street is used by up to 4500 vehicles a day and has a speed limit of 50kmh, but council traffic monitoring records at least one vehicle every hour travelling at more than 60kmh.

The group says this speed limit – which is higher than Sydney Road’s 40kmh – creates a myriad of safety issues.

Mr Santhanam-Martin, who has lived in Hope Street for 12 years, said the only thing preventing more vehicles from speeding on Hope Street was the number of cars parked on the side of the road which meant two vehicles can often not safely pass each other in opposite directions without one pulling over to let the other one through.

“I use my bike for all transport and I have noticed the volume of traffic steadily increasing over the years and cars having to do more and more ducking and weaving and queuing because of the parked cars on both sides,” he said.

“It just seemed to me that the intensity of the traffic seems to be building.”

Ms Morrison is a car owner and said turning into Hope Street from her own street can be a nightmare because of poor visibility caused by parked cars on the side of the road.

Mr Fernandes is a more recent resident, having moved to Hope Street last year.

“The first week that we were there, someone actually drove into the side of our car and damaged the mirror and that happened to my partner’s mum’s car as well in the same week,” he said.

Traffic in Hope Street. Photo: Kenna Morrison

The online survey seeks to gauge residents’ views about what safety measures they would like to see introduced into Hope Street. These will then be presented to Merri-bek Council later this year.

The survey proposes six safety options: lowering the speed limit to 40kmh or 30kmh, installing speed humps, more trees, more signage, and a pedestrian crossing.

Mr Santhanam-Martin said a raised pedestrian crossing similar to the one that connects Gilpin Park and Clifton Park in Albert Street would make a major difference to driver behaviour.

Hope Street is the responsibility of Merri-bek Council, however consultation would be required with the Victorian Government before any significant changes could be made, such as lowering the speed limit.

The group stresses it is not anti-car but wants to make Hope Street safe for all users.

“It is a road for cars but it should be a road for everyone, really,” said Mr Fernandes.

Albion Street ‘needs a rethink’

Meanwhile, a new Facebook group has been launched this month to campaign for improvements to Albion Street and wants pedestrians to be given priority over cars.

Albion Street is even busier than Hope Street because it traverses almost the entire width of Brunswick and continues across City Link to Moonee Ponds.

The Facebook group has been started by Robert Lechte, who has lived in the area west of the Upfield line for the past five years.

He said the objective of the Facebook group was to start a conversation about safety in Albion Street and to develop proposals to take to the council.

“[Albion Street] has never been pleasant and always been dangerous, but it does seem to have gotten worse,” he said.

“I have talked to people who have lived in the area for a long time, and they said it did seem to be a lot less busy in the past … It’s really not fit for purpose as a major arterial, it’s so narrow in particular around the station and the apartments. It needs a rethink and needs to be designed so it’s safer for pedestrians and bikes and everyone to use.”

Skyrail ‘could actually make it worse’

Mr Lechte said the urgency of improving Albion Street was greater now because of the looming level crossing removal project, which has the potential of increasing vehicle traffic in roads like Albion and Hope streets.

“Without some changes now, the level crossing removal project could actually make it worse,” he said. “At the moment the only safe time to cross is when a train is going through which forces cars to stop … I hope the level crossing removal will promote active transport but that may be over-ridden and it may get worse.”

Mr Santhanam-Martin said the next few years will be the best opportunity to have changes made because of the major works planned for the level crossing removal project.

“[The] council’s really keen to leverage as much local, good outcome stuff as they can from the level crossing removal project … so it’s kind of good timing for all these little local groups in that sense,” Mr Santhanam-Martin said.

Cr Tapinos, who is also pushing for a reduced speed limit in Melville Road after a pedestrian was killed at the corner of Hope Street earlier this year, conceded it may be difficult to enforce lower speeds in side streets.

“There’s mixed views [about lowering the speed limit] but what information we have is that going even five kilometres slower could save a life in the instance of an accident,” he said.

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