BARGARA CBD ‘SHARED ZONE’ DISCUSSION

A number of comments have been posted on Bargara Facebookers regarding pedestrian and motorist responsibilities in the area surrounding the Bauer Street/Esplanade intersection including the gazetted ‘Shared Zone’. Rather than take up space on a social media page, I thought that I’d post my response here:

The overriding factor here is the State Government’s (Dept. of Transport & Main Roads) document called the Manual of Unified Traffic Control Devices (MOUTCD) which is basically the ‘Bible’ for traffic engineers. It sets the standards for what speed limits, signs, speed humps, etc can be used in certain areas based on the general amenity (commercial/residential/etc), sight distances, traffic counts, distances from intersections, etc, etc. If any signs or road treatments are implemented by a Council which are contrary to the manual then it could well be held liable if an accident was to occur.

Now to the issue….

The MOUTCD does not permit the placement of ‘zebra’ crossings in this location which is why Council sometimes reverts to installing ‘Shared Zones’. Bundaberg City’s CBD area is a different kettle of fish where they meet the guidelines and basically adorn every intersection.

The raised section of roadway at the intersection of Bauer Street & The Esplanade used to be “open slather” with pedestrians having to give way to motor vehicles. As the area became more popular I began to receive numerous reports of “near misses”. As a result, I asked for it to be designated as a “Shared Zone’ so that pedestrians as the most vulnerable users have right of way. Some of the factors that I considered were:

1.  It’s a common understanding across the world that pedestrians come off second best when hit by a vehicle and that the international default rule is for motorists to give way to them.

2.  The former situation had small yellow signs screwed to bollards less than a metre off the ground (and in English only & without any internationally recognised symbol) advising that motorists have right of way. These signs were often missed by locals and/or unclear for non-English speaking visitors.

3.  The location in question is the most popular family recreational area on our coast with significant pedestrian interaction between the beach, parkland, playground & the CBD with its restaurant, cafes, ice creamery and other shops.

4.  There is no ‘sidelane’ on the roadway which means that as soon as a pedestrian steps off the kerb he/she is directly in the line of traffic. In other words there is no “forgiveance” or safety margin which is a particular concern when considering the actions of impetuous children who are keen to dash across the road to either grab an ice cream or get back to the Turtle Playground. One step off the kerb and they immediately become a potential victim.

5.  The 10 km/h Shared Zone and 40 km/h approaches now advise motorists that they’re entering a busy pedestrian precinct where pedestrians have right of way. Is 10 km/h a realistic speed for most motorists? Propobably not, but it does emphasise the need for special caution and hopefully has the desired effect of slowing vehicles to a safe speed.

6.  I do however have a serious issue with the other crossings points in Bauer Street which are not in the shared zone and have a completely different and in my view confusing set of rules where pedestrians have to give way to motorists. Remember that these sectors and their different crossing rules are within metres of each other. It’s a ludicrous situation.

I’ve raised my concern a number of times with Council’s engineers and have given them a heads-up that I’ll be pushing to have the section of Bauer Street between See Street & The Esplanade included in the Shared Zone early next year. I believe that they now support  my view and hopefully my elected colleagues will concur.

Not only will this remove the confusion but it will also assist pedestrians crossing between the Hotel/Kacy’s area to the shopping centre. Additionally, it will help motorists when reversing from the angled car parks on the southern alignment. Frankly, I can see no reason why anyone would want to travel any faster over that section of roadway which is becoming busier & busier for both motorists and pedestrians alike.

I’m sure that the option of a mall will get raised in the discussion so I’ll address it now. Over the years there have been the occasional suggestion of closing Bauer Street and turning it into a mall however studies in similar areas have shown that these simply don’t work with many being removed to resume traffic flows. Apart from the loss of 19 car spaces in a parking-challenged area and the loss of vehicular access to local shops and services, a mall would ‘block’ the sense of arrival at a coastal destination by diverting visitors up side streets just as they arrive at the coast.

When this section of the streetscape was designed circa 2000, the option of a mall was overwhelmingly opposed  by the community. It was however decided to reduce the (then) two-way street to a single lane to allow for a broader expanse of a pedestrian area (semi-mall?) adjacent to the shopping centre. The build-outs and road treatment outside the pub and Bargara Real Estate at the See Street intersection were designed as an attractive gateway so that motorists knew that they were entering a densely populated/trafficked area. What we didn’t do at the time, remembering that traffic movements were far less then (before Bargara was “discovered”), was to slow the traffic right down.

Hopefully, this will explain some of the background and methodology involved/required when considering various traffic-calming options. At the end of the day though, it’s the issue of safety (and especially that of young children) that needs to take precedence.

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