By David Schout
Melbourne has its first pedestrian timers, with a 17-second countdown clock installed at the Spencer and Collins streets intersection.
The timers, regular fixtures in many cities interstate and overseas, count down from 17 seconds after the green man has turned red.
This gives pedestrians a better idea of how long they have to cross the road, with the aim of increasing safety and preventing jaywalking.
The intersection outside Southern Cross Station is one of the city’s busiest and most dangerous, and Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the new timers could be a sign of things to come.
“With our populationa growing, more people are waiting and crossing at lights around our major intersections and we need to do everything we can to improve safety on our roads,” Cr Capp said.
“I’ve been a campaigner for pedestrian countdown timers because they can help make our city safer and more walkable for Melburnians and visitors.”
The new timers were installed by VicRoads (rather than the City of Melbourne) as Spencer St’s classification as an “arterial road” meant it was managed by the state body.
Cr Capp said the council, however, would monitor its progress before deciding whether to install more throughout the Hoddle Grid.
“I’d love to see more countdown timers installed but I’ll be guided by the experts, and City of Melbourne officers will be talking to VicRoads about the new initiative.”
The area outside Southern Cross Station has been a safety concern for some time.
In the last five years on Spencer St alone, 31 pedestrians have been injured.
On the adjacent intersection to the one featuring the new timers, a woman was killed crossing the road in 2015.
The area has also been marked as a congestion hot-spot.
Transport portfolio chair Nicolas Frances Gilley said in April that about 15,000 pedestrians crossed the Spencer and Collins streets intersection every hour during the morning peak – a discrepancy that needed to be addressed.
“[There] is five times the number of people in cars, yet cars are given twice the amount of time as pedestrians to pass through.”
VicRoads confirmed, however, that the new timers were exactly the same as the previous lights (37 seconds, made up of a 17-second timer and 20 seconds on the green man).
After visiting the intersection, CBD News can reveal that times allocated for cars ranged from 41 to 75 seconds (between 11.30am and midday) – considerably more than that allocated for pedestrians.
VicRoads director of the Safe System Road Infrastructure Program Bryan Sherritt said the intersection was also widened and raised, boosting the visibility of pedestrians to drivers.
The intersection was upgraded as part of the $1.4 billion Towards Zero strategy to improve road safety across Victoria, delivered by VicRoads and funded by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).
By David Schout