Thursday, 10 December 2015


This is a small suburban shopping centre. It is on North East Road at Collinswood on the way out of the city. There are small groups of shops like this all over the place. The bulk of the land is taken up with car parking and there are usually a relatively small number of shops. Generally they consist of a small supermarket, a chemist, a chicken shop and some others.

The second shop along has been empty and available for lease for years:

I highlight it only to make a point.

Back in 2008, Prospect Council proposed a local area traffic management plan for the area to the east of Main North Road:

It involved some smaller streets being closed to through traffic and traffic-calming in other areas. The idea was to limit rat-running by motorists who did not live in the area but used the streets as a rat-run in the morning and afternoon rush hours.

You can see the logic behind that. A large part of council expenditure is for maintenance of local roads (the bulk of our road network). Allowing unlimited rat-running means that local residents are subsidising the convenience of people who don't live in the area and don't conduct their business there.

The plan would have made the area a lot like the area of Prospect to the west of Main North Road. That has various little chicanes and other traffic calming measures and the odd road blocked to motorised traffic as well. Another area with similar treatments is around Unley. It was one of the first to introduce a 40km/h speed limit on residential streets and to incorporate filtering - particularly for people on bikes:

This is Porter Street not far from Greenhill Road

Unsurprisingly, it is the area in South Australia with the highest number of children who ride to school.

If you drive or ride or walk through the area to the east of Main North Road you will see that nothing ever came of the plan. Council received various petitions opposing the plan, signed mainly by people who did not live in the area. The complaints and objections were fairly typical. It would destroy local businesses, create congestion and just move traffic on to adjoining streets. That last one seems to rest on the common misconception that traffic is a fixed volume that must somehow be accommodated rather than something that is a function of the road layout itself.

One of the petitions came from the then lessees of the empty shop in the picture above. It sat on the counter and invited customers to sign the petition against the traffic management plan because it would harm local businesses like that one. That "local business" was a BWS, a chain of liquor stores owned by Woolworths. There are 1200 of them across Australia.

The loud complainers won the day and the traffic management plan was never to be seen again. Because as we all know from recent history, "impossible! You cannot ever close a street! Out of the question!":

A still from this film:

It is such a great documentary. Mark Wagenbuur, the author of the Bicycle Dutch blog, shortened it and added subtitles. Please do read the accompanying blogpost.

Now when you go to the group of shops, you will see people arriving and leaving in their car (with the odd bicycle seen leaned up against a shop wall because there is still not a single bike stand after decades), often dressed in ugg boots and tracky-dacks as if they've just got out of bed. Many will waddle the short distance from their car to the chemist to get their medication for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Anyway, not long after the plan was aborted, just down the road, another new shopping centre was built in Walkerville:

This was a shiny new one with an underground car park and a great big new Woolworths inside. The BWS shifted down there pretty soon afterwards. To be fair though, they put a nice friendly message on their counter to all the people who signed their petition inviting them to drive down and see them at the new shiny shopping centre.

And nothing has changed since that day. Not proceeding with the local area traffic management plan protected local businesses so well that the shop has remained empty and dormant since the day that BWS buggered off.

PS: a good test would be to propose a new Unley traffic plan that gets rid of the traffic calming, 40km/h speed limits and filtering. I wonder what the local residents would think of that one.