Letting Sydney Road drown in a traffic sewer is not an option, it's time to revitalise the strip

A year after the tragic death of Alberto Pualon, local State MP Jane Garrett announced last week that she will do nothing more to make sure another person isn’t doored to death on Sydney Road. Revitalise Sydney Road has a plan to fix this dangerous strip and make it a shopping destination that attracts people from throughout Melbourne.

How do you fit more people into Sydney Road?

Moreland’s population is set to climb by 40,000 in the next twenty years. Every one of those residents will increase the traffic burden on Sydney Road, slowing trams to a standstill. Sydney Road will need to carry far more people in the future, and the only way to do this is to through faster trams, cycling and better pedestrian access.

Trams need to go faster if they are going to carry more people. But how do you stop trams getting stuck in traffic? Public transport advocates have argued they should be given their own lane.

Labor tried that in 2008, extending clearways and losing the seat of Prahran as a result. Clearways destroy the vibrancy of a street because they place pedestrians next to fast moving cars. Noise and pollution makes walking unpleasant and so many avoid shopping altogether.

Both political parties have learnt their lesson from 2010 and clearway extensions are unlikely to happen again.

Render provided by OCULUS of Sydney Road in Coburg

Traffic gating

Revitalise Sydney Road is in discussions with Yarra Trams and VicRoads about implementing a revolutionary traffic gating plan to get trams moving.

Traffic signals will be changed to limit the number of cars that can enter Sydney Road at any one time. Cars will no longer queue at Barkley Square blocking trams and instead they will queue on the roads that enter Sydney Road like Blythe and Bell Street.

Similar to a freeway onramp, lights will prevent too many cars entering from side streets so that trams will always have a clear road ahead.

This solution needs no extra infrastructure and no change in legislation. All that is required is for VicRoads to optimise the timing of the lights on streets entering Sydney Road to make sure that there is never too many cars blocking trams. Signal timing could be changed slowly over many years to prevent the sudden ‘sticker shock’ of motorists who are currently used to getting straight onto Sydney Road.

Faster trams will provide a direct link from the new Melbourne Metro Station in Parkville to all of Sydney Road’s fantastic shops and services.

On street parking

Even with traffic gating, one car attempting to do a reverse park can slow down a tram filled with 150 people. People on bikes who use Sydney Road to get to the shops will still be forced to ride near parked cars. Pedestrians will be crowded on some of the narrowest footpaths of any shopping strip in Melbourne.

Revitalise Sydney Road’s plan will solve all of this, removing on street parking and widening the footpath to make room for trees, pedestrians, dining and displays. Protected bicycle lanes will be introduced allowing more people on bikes to shop Sydney Road. Most importantly, parking demand will be catered for off street.

Sydney Road parking capacity

Parking capacity on selected high streets around Melbourne

There is more parking on Sydney Road than any major shopping precinct in inner Melbourne. Revitalise Sydney Road completed a comprehensive survey of parking capacity on Sydney Road in Brunswick, counting the vacancy of every single car park during peak time.

We found that customers avoid the paid council parking off street in order to park in the free 1P street locations. Customers then get their cars fined and towed while council car parks sit empty. The congestion levy means that council now loses money on every park wasted.

Percentage of car parks that would remain empty with no on-street parking

While there is generally ample parking, our survey found that parking is nearing capacity near Hope Street. To solve this problem we engaged SALT parking consultants, who were able to create 27 more angled car parks on Staley Street just behind Sydney Road near Blythe Street.

There are many more streets near Sydney Road where more space for car parks could be found. If these car parks were added and 400 paid council car parks unlocked, there would be more than enough capacity for everybody.

Render provided by OCULUS of Sydney Road in Brunswick

Where to from here?

Revitalise Sydney Road started life as a road safety organisation, but our plan is about so much more. We now have support of not just Bicycle Network but also Moreland Council, The PTUA and the Brunswick Resident’s Network.

The traders association in Brunswick struggles to understand the proposal we have put forward, confusing it with the implementation of clearway maintaining tram stops on Bridge Road.

Unfortunately they are refusing to meet with Revitalise Sydney Road to better understand the opportunity for businesses. Many traders do understand though, with our poll showing that a majority see the good sense in attracting customers with trees, outdoor dining and longer stay off street parking. Many have joined our campaign and are being featured on our Facebook page.

Sydney Road is under constant threat from competitors like Lygon Street, Highpoint and new shopping precincts that are planned North of Bell Street. This road is a part of Melbourne’s history and cannot be ignored by the member for Brunswick any longer.

The only options are to let Sydney Road die off, or to take action to revitalise the strip.

Revitalise Sydney Road will be attending Albi’s ride to commemorate those lost cycling on our roads and push for action on road safety. Friday February 26th at 5:30pm on Sydney Road.


Ken Bride's picture

To have cars queue in Bell street is crazy. Bell Street is the main east west arterial road in the northern suburbs. Cars should not be allowed to turn into Sydney Road any time. When John Cain was Premier there was proposal to redirect all Sydney Road traffic over the Upfield Train Line.
This would clean up Sydney Road and leave it to local traffic only.
It should also be noted that Sydney Road was a great "shopping strip" once. There are still some good shops left, but unfortunately it cant compete with the Northland, Westfield and Highpoint Shopping Centres.

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elev8's picture

I never hear of any discussions consider the role of delivery drivers within all these plans. As I deliver my goods to many locations across melbourne in my van, and mostly around the northern suburbs and especially Sydney Road, it is vital that I get a spot within reasonable distance for proficiency's sake (the trip to the stores takes long enough as it is). Happy to lose on-street parking for main roads but there needs to be three or four loading zone parks at the beginning of EACH side street around shopping districts - and this isn't just exclusive to Sydney Road. Unless all the consumers are happy to wait an extra day or two for their treasured goodies.

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elev8's picture

Ken, give it another decade and the street shopping strips will be the place to hang out. Already, High Street in Thornbury and Northcote and recently on Sydney Road, there are many funky and hip new eateries and fashion stores and other interesting concept stores popping up all over the place. The shopping centres will always have their fans but the ever growing hip crowd will revitalise 'High Street' in the coming years.

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