Who's in the right

A couple of months ago I was headed to work from Domain Interchange. While crossing the road, some volunteers dressed up in City of Melbourne gear handed me a small card that turned out to be part of Council's 'Share Our Streets' campaign. I had a quick scan of it but didn't really pay much attention if I'm being honest. That was, at least, until last week when I hopped on a tram and picked up one of their flyers that also covered road safety. A quick comparison of their language and scope reveals what appear to be vastly different priorities.

Firstly, I had a deeper look at Share Our Streets. City of Melbourne aims their message at pedestrians and cyclists. For example, they have instructions on how to ride your bicycle 'at a slow speed', how to walk 'stay left', and how to cross the street 'remember to look up and around you'. All pretty self-explanatory, and, one would expect, common knowledge for most functioning adults. Crucially though, only one component targets car drivers: Tips to avoid car-dooring 'Always use your mirrors'. There is no suggestion that city driving could be made safer by, perhaps, respecting speed limits, or not texting while driving, or always indicating and checking blind spots when changing lanes. These rules are often flaunted and lead to critical incidences. What I take from this is the following: Everyone watch out for cars; cars, carry on as usual except when you're parked.

Conversely, Yarra Trams adopts a more rounded view. Their instructional flyer considers the safety of alighting passengers (cars don't always slow down), how cars can consider them (please slow down!), and how both should consider the stopping distances of lorries and trams when pulling sudden movements. The overall impression I get is: Everybody, be nice to one another and the city will just work a little bit smoother, a little bit better, and most importantly, a little bit safer.

Source: City of Melbourne

Perhaps City of Melbourne considers driver education to be the responsibility of VicRoads (which it is), and enforcement of road rules to be the responsibility of the police (which it is). Cars and car drivers are least at risk from other kinds of traffic in the city, and yet they have the potential to cause some of the most damaging collisions. Should the responsibility of safely sharing roads be shouldered by those most at risk, as suggested by the City of Melbourne? Or should all of us be more careful like Yarra Trams suggests?

I know which one I'd pick.

By Sean Hua – Urban Designer/Urban Graphics


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