RESPONSIVE ? – THE KOOYONG & ALMA ROAD INTERSECTION STORY

Following on from GERA’s recent (12/7/2012) Residents’ Traffic and Parking Forum and the numerous criticisms attendees made of this Council’s lack of responsiveness when it comes to residents raising issues of safety and parking in local streets, one of our members has drawn our attention to the Kooyong & Alma Roads Intersection reconfiguration for a bicycle safety trial.

GERA is raising this issue because

  • The trial has involved significant negative feedback from residents to both the Traffic Department and Councillors yet this feedback has met with little response from Council (Administration and Councillors)
  • Since the trial is to provide data to determine if the intersection reconfiguration should be rolled out to other intersections in the Municipality, many other intersections could experience a similar impact.

Background 

The Kooyong and Alma Road intersection is a residential intersection.  In November, 2011, Council advised residents of the intersection that the intersection lanes would be would be reconfigured to trial a design aimed at improving safety for bicyclists – the trial would last 6 months.  There was no consultation with residents on the reconfiguration – the reconfiguration work was completed on 22nd December, 2011.

The Trial

   Reconfigured Kooyong and Alma Roads Intersection              

From day one of the trial, the residents have been critical of the trial and have made numerous representations to the Traffic Department directly and to the Camden Ward Councillors (primarily Cr. Lipshutz) .  The residents concerns were that the reconfiguration

  • actually endangered cyclists and pedestrians (rather than improving safety) by enabling vehicles to increase speed through the intersection
  • created a “tight left hand” for vehicles which endangered all intersection users (cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles)
  • removed 13 on street car parking spaces in an area where on street parking is in high demand.
  • residents were not given the opportunity to participate in or comment on the redesign of the intersection prior to implementation

As a result of these concerns, at the 28th February, 2012 Council Meeting (Council Meeting Minutes, 20/2/12 – section 11.1 b), Councillors moved the following Request for a Report –

“That a report be prepared as to the progress of the trial at the intersection of Kooyong Road and Alma Road, such report to be provided at the April 10 Meeting or when data is available whichever shall be the earlier.” 

In the discussion, that arose from this Request, Councillors argued against suspending the trial to allow for consultation with residents and inclusion of residents proposed solutions in the trial intersection design.  Councillors voted to continue the trial.  Residents, while awaiting the Report, continued to voice concerns to both the Administration and Councillors.

Four months into the trial, the requested Report was presented at the 10th April, 2012, Council Meeting (Council Minutes, 10/4/2012 – Section 9.2) where again the decision was made to continue the trial regardless of residents’ negative feedback.

The Report, prepared by Jeff Akehurst, makes the following comments

  • Under Council’s “Road Safety Strategy 2007/08 – 2011/12”   the intersection of Kooyong Road / Alma Road has been identified as the equal worst intersection in terms of casualty crashes (under the care and management of Council).

GERA Note:  The RSS referred to above was written in 2006 and is based on 2005 data.  Refer to the below footnote*

  • The 6 month trial is due to conclude on 22 June 2012.
  • One of the comments received (via email) was from a cyclist who uses the intersection daily. The cyclist congratulated Council and advised that he is “very impressed” with the treatment and it “works very well.”
  • The remaining feedback did not support the treatment and the concerns can be summarised as follows:
    • Removal of parking – residents, visitors, delivery vehicles, carers, gardeners need to park further away;
    • Safety at the intersection may be impacted (left turns are perceived to be tighter);
    • Traffic flow along Kooyong Road and Alma Road has been adversely affected.
  • In the last 5 years of available data (1 January 2006 – 31 December 2010) six (6) casualty crashes have been reported at the intersection. … None of the crashes involved cyclists.
  • Residents were encouraged to provide feedback during the trial. 

In the discussion that led up to the decision to continue the trial, no mention was made of

  • the steps that would be taken to evaluate the data collected
  • how the community would be informed of the resultant recommendation
  • what opportunity the community would have for input into Council’s decision to implement/not to implement the intersection configuration throughout the Municipality.

The result of the tabling of the report and the ensuing Council discussion was not well received by the residents.  The minutes of the next Council Meeting, 22nd May, 2012 (Council Minutes, 22/5/2012 – Section 5) “RECEPTION AND READING OF PETITIONS AND JOINT LETTERS” records the following

“A Joint Letter signed by 243 persons and reading: “We oppose the removal of 13 car spaces in close proximity of the Kooyong Road/Alma Road intersection as well as the alteration to the intersection” was received. 

The motion put and carried unanimously was that the Joint Letter (although the document submitted to Council is titled a “Petition”) be “received and noted.”  Which can be taken to mean it is noted in the minutes, the standard letter will be sent, then Council will file the petition/joint letter.    The level of frustration experienced by the 243 (which in local government terms is a significant number) signatories is palpable.

The Kooyong and Alma Road Intersection Reconfiguration Petition outlines the reasons for the residents criticism of the reconfigured intersection (refer above) and adds that communication since the trial commenced has been weak”.

In the discussion that followed the presentation of the petition, in response to a Councillor question re when the trial commenced, the Administration (Director City Development – Jeff Akehurst) responded that he did not know.  Given that the petition was presented, in accordance with the rules ie 2 working days prior to the meeting, it is disconcerting to note that no Councillor or Senior Officer gave any consideration to the matter (i.e. looked at the file, asked a question, or remembered the previous meeting’s discussion) prior to this meeting.

The trial is now over (22/06/2012) and the residents are awaiting the results of the trial.  Details of data evaluation, recommendations and community consultation remain unknown.

As previously mentioned, GERA is raising this issue because

  • GERA is concerned that the Council (Administration and Councillors) have not been responsive to residents.  At no stage during this process, did Council provide an opportunity for Councillors, Residents and Traffic Management to openly discuss the issues raised and reach consensus.  Once again there is a significant gap between Council’s claims and actions.  The Council claim that “We work to develop a tolerant and caring community, where everyone can feel they belong and participate in the decision-making that leads to achieving the best possible options … We consult, listen, and take note of community views to determine its priorities and needs and then act through open, transparent processes …” (refer council’s website ) is not readily apparent in the above instance.
  • Since the trial is to provide data to determine if the intersection reconfiguration should be rolled out to other intersections in the Municipality, many other intersections could experience a similar impact.
  • Questions related to the evaluation (what criteria are used to evaluate the trial outcome), when the community will be advised of the results of the evaluation and when the community will be given the opportunity to participate in the decision are yet to be answered.

______________________

* The Road Safety Strategy is another instance where Council claims and action are not aligned.  The Glen Eira Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 + was written in late 2006 and is based on 2005 data.  Prior to 2007, the Road Safety Strategy (RSS) was reviewed and updated annually with a rolling 4 year horizon, however, this document has not been updated since 2007.  If

  • as Council claims in the 2012 Community/Council Plan – Theme 2 – Traffic, parking and transport) “The RSS is a ‘living’ strategy and prioritizes change with updated data” why hasn’t this document been updated regularly.  With less than 6 months to go before the document becomes obsolete, when is the new RSS to be presented for community consultation.
  • Council places, as it repeatedly states, a “ high priority on ensuring that the community is provided with a safe and efficient road network …” (Council’s website), why haven’t the safety issues in an intersection which was identified 7 years ago as the “the equal worst intersection” been previously addressed.

+ Council is currently updating it’s website and the new link to the Road Safety Strategy (RSS) document has yet to be added to the website.  This document was previously downloaded from Council’s website to GERA’s files and is therefore linked to this posting.  GERA will link to the RSS on Council’s website when it becomes available.

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