Blinkered Thinking

More than 2 months since initially contacting VicRoads about their dangerously timed traffic lights at the eastern terminus of Lorimer Street, and having to invoke the Victorian Ombudsman just to get this far, a response has finally been committed to paper (email, etc). In full minus the formal headers and footers:

Further to previous discussion, this is to advise that we are considering options to manage the safe movement for bicycles through the intersection.

One option that we are considering is to have a separate bicycle phase. However, the Montague Street / WGF / Lorimer Street / Wurundjeri Way intersection is very complex and the number of signal groups that the current signal controller can handle has already reached the maximum limit . Signal controllers (grey box at the corner of intersections) that can handle more signal groups are not available in the market yet. It is understood that such controllers are being tested and could be released later in the year.

Nevertheless, we will develop a proposal to improve bicycle safety (including upgrade of the controller) and submit for funding consideration to address the issues that you raised.

2 Months, and they come up with one option, that might be possible in the future, if they can also secure funding for a project to implement it. A lot of ifs/conditions to help dismiss any changes, yet right off the top of my head I can see at least 4 possible solutions all able to be implemented within current guidelines. The problem remains that this is an existent and continuing danger to the public yet Vicroads see no need to implement any changes immediately.

To illustrate the timing problems, just one of the 12 possible directions of travel is animated with 2 bicycles travelling at 20km/h and one bicycle travelling at 30km/h, starting the animation as the northbound lights turn from green to yellow.

traffic light phasing of intersection

The car continuing at 60km/h through the yellow light easily clears the entering traffic before they are given a green signal, initially measured at 6.5 seconds the timing varies significantly from cycle to cycle and periods of less than 5 seconds have been measured from the yellow signal to the entering green. This places cyclists already in the intersection when the yellow signal appears directly in the path of the entering traffic, with the 30km/h (lighter green) cyclist only just clearing the first cars and the 20km/h cyclist being blocked by any following traffic, cyclists travelling between these two speeds would be confronted with a car travelling into their side despite having entered the intersection in a green light.

Considering then the safe stopping distance of a bicycle (conveniently provided by Austroads guides) is 35m at 30km/h, this would put the light green cyclist a further 35m back from their position in the animation and into a collision path of the entering vehicles. Similarly the 20km/h cyclist already at the furthest traffic lights as they change would, once subtracting the stopping distance, be unable to avoid conflict with the entering traffic. These are not a small group of corner cases, but a wide range of realistic circumstances in which cyclists are left abandoned in the middle of the intersection without warning. Similar issues exist with the other directions of travel through the intersection as the distances have been timed for a design speed of 60km/h (the speed limit here).

Would drivers accept a railway crossing that left them in the path of an oncoming train? would the train drivers accept such a situation? Yet Vicroads sees no problem in leaving this situation between bicycles and other road users.

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