COMPLETING OUR STREETS "Good cities know that streets move people, not just cars. Great cities know that streets are places to linger and enjoy.â€? Brent Toderian
REIMAGINING TRANSPORT IN BRISBANE
JONATHAN SRI Councillor for the Gabba Ward 1
another brisbane is possible Where you can get all your basic essentials within a short walk from home, and children can move freely and safely around their neighbourhoods.
Imagine a city where getting around is cheap, convenient, sustainable and healthy for everyone.
Imagine a slower, more relaxed city, where main streets are not just thoroughfares for cars, but vibrant public spaces full of art and music and people connecting with each other - where youâ€™re not choking on car fumes or drowned out by the roar of engines. Imagine neighbourhoods where quiet back-streets are lined with flower gardens, shade trees and fruit trees, and those that do have to drive never worry about finding that parking spot.
PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT
We don’t have to live our lives bumper-to-bumper, driving an hour each way just to get to work. We don’t have to waste billions of dollars a year widening and maintaining roads. We don’t have to burn huge volumes of fossil fuels, accelerating catastrophic climate change just by moving around our neighbourhoods.
We can have a city where reliable, affordable public transport connects us to one another, even if we’re travelling late at night or early in the morning. We can have a city where people with limited mobility aren’t trapped at home, unable to move around their community.
Such a city is possible. We already have the technology And know-how to make it happen. All we lack is the political will... That's where you come in. 3
yuggera & turrbal country under settler-colonial occupation
This place we now call Brisbane is built on and around the floodplains of Maiwar (Brisbane River) on the country of the Yuggera and Turrbal Peoples.
Many of Brisbane’s busiest No matter how much transport roads started out as walking “development” or ecological Imagine a city where troubles tracks which were created and destruction occurs here, this getting around is cheap, maintained over thousands always was and always will be convenient, sustainable of years by the Aboriginal Yuggera and Turrbal land and and healthy for everyone... custodians of these lands. water. Sovereignty has never been ceded.
D r R ay K e r k h o v e
Aboriginal Campsites of Greater Brisbane
- transport trou bles -
welcome to brisbane traffic congestion H OW I N N E R - CIT Y RE SI D E N T S T R A V E L T O WO R K.
PT (Public Transport)
Active Transport (walking + cycling)
Census data shows that even in the inner-city, residents are abandoning public and active transport in favour of cars. This means more cars on the road and traffic congestion that’s far worse than it needs to be. During peak hours, vehicles using key arterial routes such as Stanley St and Coronation Dr crawl along at barely 20 km/hr. This is despite them already operating as de facto 4-lane highways. Every approach to the CBD is heavily congested. This is not only frustrating and stressful for people travelling in cars, it also means these roads range from unpleasant to downright dangerous for people travelling by foot, wheelchair, or bike. Public transport (‘PT’) could be an option, but it’s expensive, often slow, irregular, unreliable, and confusing. Brisbane PT is mainly designed for single trips into the city rather than multi-destination or cross-suburb travel.
Not only is our current approach to transport planing not working, it's actually making traffic congestion worse. 5
forced into car dependence Successive Brisbane City Council (BCC) administrations and State Governments have over-invested in road widening by prioritising private car travel at the expense of public and active transport.
This is why driving is still the only practical option for most people even though we have a congested road network. Some of us have no choice but to travel by car, but most can be flexible and tend to use the most convenient transport options available. Itâ€™s not that car travel is particularly convenient (think congestion, parking, etc), but rather that our city has been designed so we often donâ€™t have any other choice. We are forced into car-dependence.
...of all journeys in South East QLD under 5km are made using a private vehicle.
- t ra n s po r t t ro u b l es -
1KM 5KM Trips under 1 km are ideal for walking, but Brisbane’s narrow footpaths, long waits to cross traffic lights, and wide busy roads with few shady street trees aren’t particularly appealing to would-be pedestrians.
Trips under 5 km are ideal for cycling, but only the most confident riders brave busy Brisbane roads with no protected bike lanes.
If you wouldn’t walk it, don’t expect people to cycle it.
It should be no surprise that driving is still the only practical option for most people.
widening roads destroys neighbourhoods
The population of innercity Brisbane is projected to almost double over the next two decades.
Unless we radically shift our approach to transport planning, most of these new residents will be forced to drive to work. Traffic chaos will ensue. Roads that were widened only ten to twenty years ago will be expanded once again. Long- term residents will be forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for expanded six, eight, and ten-lane arterial roads. These hot expanses of bitumen will divide our neighbourhoods and destroy the soul of our town centres and main commercial streets. Finding a car park near Boundary St in West End, Park Rd in Milton, and James St in Fortitude Valley is already difficult â€“ can you imagine what it would be like after twenty more years of road widening?!
- understand ing congestion -
Our unique patchwork of character town centres and quaint commercial strips are part of what makes Brisbane such a special place to live. However between extortionate rents and competition from corporate mega-malls, our neighbour-hood centres and local small businesses are struggling. BCC is essentially subsidising mega-malls like Westfield. Without spending billions of dollars on road widening, these mega-malls wouldnâ€™t be viable and our town centres and small businesses might flourish instead. Road widening projects are corporate handouts in disguise.
Even if we somehow found the space to build multi-storey carparks near every neighbourhood centre, there would still never be enough parking to compete with mega-malls for convenience. Trying to win back motorists is a losing battle. The inner-city simply does not have enough space for everyone to get around by car. Instead of fighting an unwinnable war over parking convenience, town centres need to play to their strengths â€“ their greater proximity to inner city residential populations and vibrant, cosmopolitan street life. This could also help counteract the effects of online shopping.
widening roads creates congestion Road widening creates congestion because widening roads increases the attractiveness of car travel while making active and public transport less attractive. This pushes people to drive where they once might have walked, cycled, or caught public transport.
For example, in the not-toodistant past, children could walk or cycle and generally get around by themselves. However, after several decades of road widening, Brisbane streets have been made too dangerous for unsupervised children. This is why many parents are now forced to become their childâ€™s personal taxi driver â€“ ferrying the kids from school to sports to music practice.
- understand ing congestion -
transport usage follows investment
Over-investment in roads – falsely marketed as “congestion busting” – is why so many people drive as their main mode of transport. However investment in active transport is often questioned because only a handful of people currently get around by biking or walking.
"Observing that few people bike in a place without a good bike network is like saying that you don't need a bridge because nobody is swimming the river." Jeff Speck People tend to use the most convenient transport options available – and convenience comes from investment. If we begin seriously investing in walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure, then more people will start to leave their cars at home and use these much more efficient transport options instead. Quality transport infrastructure requires a holistic approach – no single project will be a cure-all.
The Bicentennial Bikeway 11
brisbane streets are incomplete
Motorists currently have complete access. There are no “missing links” in our road network – you can drive anywhere to anywhere with congestion and parking posing the only real barriers. The same is not true for people travelling via bike, foot/wheelchair, or public transport. While most inner city streets have footpaths, these are often narrow, cluttered with signage and utilities, not always wheelchair accessible, rarely well shaded, and pedestrian crossings often either don’t exist or are de-prioritised. Aside from a few small sections of world class cycleways (e.g. Bicentennial Bikeway), most Brisbane streets are simply too dangerous for all but the most confident and experienced cyclists.
BARRIE R S F OR P E D E S T R IA N S + C YLI ST S
Narrow, cluttered footpaths
limited pedestrian crossings
limited wheelchair accessibilty
lack of shade or coverings
- understand ing congestion -
lack of protection from cars
As the Queensland Division of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia explains:
â€œComplete streets...encourage good design where pedestrians, cyclists and public transport patrons have equality of access in and around their communities and are not disadvantaged to motorists.â€?
What a complete street might look like.
paving paradise Congestion busting projects prioritise space-efficient modes of transport and seek to make walking, cycling, and public transport more convenient than driving â€“ especially for travel over short distances and in the inner-city. Roads and pavement already make up some 30% to 40% of Brisbaneâ€™s urban area. Moving and storing large private transport vehicles is an incredibly inefficient use of valuable and contested inner-city land.
The core problem is that cars are actually quite big; it makes little difference whether they are powered by electricity or fossil fuels, are autonomous or human controlled. We simply do not have enough space to continue widening roads and encouraging more people to drive â€“ especially with an extra 120,000 residents moving into the inner-city over the next two decades.
- understand ing congestion -
walkable neighbourhoods Building walkable neighbourhoods is an important part of designing away congestion. This means ensuring most people live within walking distance of schools, shops, cafes, parks, offices, and community facilities. Completing our streets by investing in public and active transport infrastructure would allow more people to leave their cars at home for quick errands and local trips. Walking, cycling, and high frequency public transport would become more convenient than driving.
40% of cars on the road between 8am-9am and 3pm-4pm are because of school traffic.
For example, more than 60% of students travel to school by car. As anyone who drives to work in the school holidays already knows, shifting these trips out of cars would eliminate a significant chunk of peak hour congestion.
West End and New Farm are local examples of walkable neighbourhoods. 15
(simple) solutions BE NIFITS OF N A R R OWER L A N ES Reduced car running costs Similar travel times Reduced crashes Lower emissions Minimises noise pollution
Building narrower car lanes is an easy way to make space to complete our streets. The standard vehicle lane width for a major Brisbane road is 3.3m to 3.5m. By narrowing the width of these lanes we could make our roads safer and create space for protected bike lanes, wider footpaths, or even street trees. Best of all, travel times would remain relatively constant even with narrower lanes and lower speed limits. This is because intersections are the biggest factor in overall travel time, and lower speeds allow for better traffic flow (e.g. safer merging). Narrower lanes require people to stay focussed and pay more attention when driving. This tends to make people drive slower, which reduces the number and severity of crashes, cuts car running costs, lowers emissions, minimises noise pollution, makes driving less stressful, and the city a generally nicer place to be.
- solutions -
10% chance of survival
70% chance of survival
90% chance of survival
30 kms/hr residential streets would be safe enough for children to play in.
lane width fatalities /100000
prioritising spaceefficient transport
Repurposing existing road space to prioritise active and public transport (e.g. converting a general traffic lane to a bus lane, removing street parking to create protected bike lanes).
Option B is usually politically challenging and often prohibitively expensive – projects tend not to get past the proposal. Those that do go ahead generally result in oceans of bitumen carving up our neighbourhoods. This is not how you design pleasant walkable streets. Not only is Option A cheaper and faster, it’s also a much more effective way to actually shift people out of their cars and into other modes of transport. Delivering new bus, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure doesn’t have to be expensive. You just have to be willing to take space away from cars.
On top of lower speed limits and narrower vehicle lanes, investing in complete streets will require either:
Taking land that’s being used for other purposes in order to create new bike paths, bus lanes etc. (e.g. removing street trees for bike lanes, resuming homes to build a busway).
- solutions -
making space for cycling
Making cycling safe and convenient is relatively easy; a bit of green paint simply doesnâ€™t cut it. Safe cycling infrastructure requires barrier protection. Protected bike lanes make cycling a safe and pleasurable way to get around. But protection is essential if you want to encourage non-cyclists to give cycling a go especially women, children, and elderly people. Best of all, by making separate space for bikes and cars, protected bike lanes actually make motorists safer too. Everybody wins!
Safe cycling infrastructure requires barrier protection.
Protected bike lanes would make it safe enough for children to ride to school like they used to. This would eliminate a significant chunk of peak hour traffic.
G N I S I T I PRIOR
public transport where you can “rock up & go”
When active transport isn’t an option we need a public transport system that caters to cross-suburb travel, not just trips to the CBD. What we have now is a collection of uncoordinated routes into the city. What we need is a grid-like network of routes that allows people to travel from anywhere to anywhere.
BRISBANE'S TRAM LINES WERE BUILT FOR A GOLD COAST SIZED POPULATION. QUAILITY PT INFRASTRUCTURE DOES NOT REQUIRE HYPER DENSITY. Such a network would be high frequency meaning you can just turn up and go. Bus lanes would allow speed, consistency, and reliability for minimal investment. Often trips would require one transfer, but more of these transfers would occur at suburban hubs rather than the city. The network would be easy to understand with colour-coded subway style maps. Ideally, fares would be very cheap (e.g. $1 per trip) or even free.
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Carried on high frequency routes
High frequency routes 8% Total Routes
*High frequency routes = public transport that comes at least every 15 minutes.
prioritising pedestrians Internationally pro ven ways to m ake walking e as ier include: Building more prioritised pedestrian crossings
Cross block pedestrians laneways
Designing interesting streetscapes
- solutions -
In a subtropical city like Brisbane, protecting pedestrians from the elements is key to encouraging walking.
Building more awnings over sidewalks
Planting more street trees
Kerb extensions which make streets shorter to cross
Removing slip lanes
Lowering speed limits
Converting one-way arterial roads to two-way streets
Medium density mixed-use developments (not suburban or vertical sprawl)
refe re n ces and further read i ng
credits: Words: Taylor Redwood + Jonathan Sri Design: Megan Keene Cover art: Mama See
Dr Natalie Osborne, Dr Dorina Pojani, Dr Marcus Foth, Dr Ray Kerkhove, space4cycling, Chris Loader(chartingtransport.com),
John Mongard, Quinn Thomson.