A troublesome stretch of state-managed road through Melbourne's inner north is set to become safer for bike riders and pedestrians.
Following years of campaigning by residents and local politicians, the Victorian government has announced plans to lower speed limits in Brunswick Street and St Georges Road in Fitzroy North, between Alexandra Parade and Eunson Avenue.
What was a 60km/h zone will now become a 40km/h zone between 7am and 10pm daily. The original speed limit will apply outside of those times.
Signs will be installed this month and the speed limit will be legally enforceable once they are in place. Electronic signs will also be installed along the route to remind drivers of the new limit, and will be activated later in the year. See map.
Minister for Roads and Road Safety Melissa Horne says a safer speed limit is an important step towards saving lives and improving safety.
"This key inner-city road attracts thousands of road users and pedestrians every day, including local children travelling to and from school," she says.
The road is also home to cafes, shops, a bowls club, pubs, restaurants, and the bustling Edinburgh Gardens, which experiences strong foot and bike traffic, particularly in the warmer months.
The road is also a busy commuter route for bike riders north of the CBD. Despite a separated path through Edinburgh Gardens and connection to the quieter Napier Street in Fitzroy, many city-bound riders opt for the more direct route and travel alongside cars in the painted bike lanes on St Georges Road and Brunswick Street.
The road also intersects with the popular Capital City Trail, where there is a signalised crossing. But the trail's connection with the southbound path through Edinburgh Gardens peels off ahead of these traffic lights and many riders make the busy road crossing on their own to the south.
All of this makes for a trouble spot for vulnerable road users. A pedestrian was struck and killed in the area in June and in another incident in April, a bike rider was left with serious injuries by a driver who left the scene.
Sixty-six crashes were recorded by VicRoads along St Georges Road and Brunswick Street in Fitzroy North in the five-year period ending June 2022.
The local community has for years expressed concerns to local members and councillors, and this groundswell of support for slower speeds on the state-managed road has culminated in the speed limit changes.
"This shows us that one of the things local communities can do, when something has a lot of evidence and policy support behind it, is to make their personal support for the change known to make sure it happens," says Councillor at the Yarra City Council, Sophie Wade.
Lower speeds and traffic calming measures have an important part to play in making all streets a safe space for all road users.
St Georges Road is a main road through North Fitzroy and the reduced speed limit shapes it as a forerunner for similar changes on local government streets.
Bicycle Network has long campaigned for 30 km/h speed limits on local streets to make them safer places to ride bikes. Someone has a 45% chance of surviving if hit by a car travelling at 45 km/h, but at 30 km/h, the chance of survival increases to 90%.
The OECD recommends 30km/h as the gold standard for speeds on local streets, and the evidence continues to support its case.
Last year, researchers at Edinburgh University led what they described as the UK's most extensive evaluation of 20mph (32 km/h) speed limits.
The City of Edinburgh Council implemented these speed limits across 80% of its streets in 2016 to improve safety, create more pleasant neighborhoods and encourage more walking and bike riding.
The research shows that the number of collisions fell by 40% in one year. Fatalities dropped by 39% and serious injuries dropped by 33%.
Recent data from Transport for London, meanwhile, shows that the introduction of 20mph speed limits in March 2020 led to a 36% decrease in in collisions with vulnerable road users at monitored sites. It also led to a 25% reduction in collisions causing death or serious injury.
Yarra City Council became the first Victorian council to trial 30 km/h speed limits for its council-owned local streets in 2017.
Plans are afoot to expand this trial to cover a larger patch of Fitzroy and Collingwood. The council announced a pre-trial study in May, but noted the change would need both council and Victorian government endorsement.
An update on the City of Yarra's 30km/h pre-trial study is due back to council in the final quarter of 2023.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.