The Council’s controversial 40km/h speed limit in the CBD certainly created a lot of opposition when first mooted. Some opposition was ill-founded. Concern, for instance, that slowing traffic down by 10km/h would drive shoppers away from the CBD. On many of the streets like Armstrong, Lydiard and even Mair it could be argued the new limit was not only fast enough but as fast as the traffic reached anyway. The push highlighted a bigger "growing pains” issue which Ballarat has not quite come to terms with; CBD’s which were once no more than a main street could happily double as a major thoroughfare en route to other places. Time and history have moved on and the objective now is to divert more of this through traffic, which isn’t stopping anyway, away from the CBD in box or bypass movements. Behind this concept is the progressive idea that CBD’s are more and more places people want to spend their time, partly for shopping but also because of the unique ambience they provide. Whether it is heritage, tourism or café strips these city hearts offer a pedestrian or human scaled experience monstrous shopping centres cannot come close to matching. Part of this concept therefore includes infrastructure known as “traffic calming” streetscapes. So far so good.
But when a proportion of the population is not quite sold on the idea and wants more demonstrable proof of its benefits; it would seem the first thing worth doing is promoting the positives and not enhancing either the restrictions or their confusion. Unfortunately the infrastructure put in place to implement the 40km/h trial in the CBD has not always done this and in some cases could add confusion even danger. By contrast for instance in the busy carparks off Eastwood, Little Bridge and Curtis Streets, 40 km/h would seem excessive in such high pedestrian zones. This further applies for those little “no name” streets like Sherwood, Channel and parts of Davies Street because the shopping centres have effectively absorbed them into their precinct and pedestrians certainly feel as if they are in a carpark. The same would go for laneways like Sheppard Street not because they are carparks but simply the density of the environs demands a different speed. Some of the new roadway painting is no doubt are intended for traffic exiting carparks into adjoining streets but in this case too it has leant itself to confusion not clarity. The issue is not about the overall concept but how you communicate it to the people who most need to embrace the idea.
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