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Streets for People: Streets made for Walking

Making Brisbane a walkable city

Part of the Greens’ Public and Active Transport platform for the March 2024 Brisbane City Council election. If you're interested in some of the underlying philosophy and research behind this policy, you can read more at this link.

 

Under the LNP, Brisbane City Council has slashed funding for safe pedestrian crossings to fund their tax cuts for big developers. For years, the LNP have wasted money on ineffective road projects that put cars ahead of people. 

Before cars were seen as the main way to get around, streets were designed as public spaces for people to use, but since the mid-1900s they’ve been rebuilt around private cars, making everyone less safe. 

Pedestrian-focused streets make cities safer, quieter and more liveable. They are designed for people of all ages and needs, with trees for shade, benches for resting, and crossings for connection. They make space for verge gardens, street libraries, and community notice-boards.

Labor and LNP politicians have allowed private cars to dominate Brisbane’s streets at the expense of other modes of transport. Pedestrians are pushed onto narrower footpaths with less shade, while high speed traffic rushes by just metres away.

Dangerous streets mean more people choose to drive to work, school or the shops, and traffic keeps getting worse.

 

A Greens-led Brisbane City Council will:

 

  • Connect neighbourhoods by building 200 new pedestrian crossings.
  • Make walking safer by building 200 kilometres of footpath.
  • Calm down traffic with 100 new traffic-calming upgrades across the city.
  • Give residents a say by creating democratic processes to lower speed limits on smaller local residential streets.

 

 

Making streets safer

Our plan will make our city’s neighbourhoods safer and easier for everybody to walk around.

Quiet local streets should be safe for kids to walk to school or the park.

Getting to the bus, the shops or to work shouldn’t mean risking your safety. 

People should be able to walk around their city without being endangered by traffic.

 

Connecting neighbourhoods with 200 new safe crossings

We want to make it safe and easy for everybody to walk around their neighbourhoods. This includes people with disabilities, older residents, kids and families using prams.

That means that we need to make it safe and easy to cross the street.

So the Greens propose to build 200 new pedestrian crossings across the city over 4 years.

There are hundreds of places across Brisbane where there is no safe way to cross a street. Jaywalking across many roads is often the only way to walk to where you need to go, and for many people this is far too dangerous to risk.

Slip lanes are another example of pedestrian safety being sacrificed - even though vehicles are legally required to give way to pedestrians crossing slip lanes, the slip lanes are designed to let a car make a speedy turn, not to protect a pedestrian. Because of this choice, vehicles can speed through, and in practice, they take priority.

These dangerous situations, and the lack of action by the LNP to fix them,  are the reason that walking around can be so difficult for so many of us.

Depending on the local context, the 200 new crossings could be typical zebra crossings or raised “wombat crossings” which are built up to the level of the footpath. That means drivers will be obliged to slow down and pay attention.

 

Building 200 km of new footpaths

It is unacceptable that so many roads in Brisbane have no footpath. The Greens would build 200 kilometres of footpath across Brisbane in 4 years.

If there isn’t even a kerb protecting pedestrians from vehicles, then we shouldn’t be surprised that people don’t feel safe walking around. 

 

Calming traffic with 100 upgrades 

Many local streets in Brisbane are wider than they need to be. Flashing LED warning signs don’t change the fact that straight, wide open roads communicate that drivers can go fast and don’t need to pay attention to their environment.

If we change the shape of these streets and calm down traffic, quiet streets could return to being public spaces.

To do this, the Greens would install 100 new traffic calming upgrades across the city.

These devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes including:

  • Chicanes on quiet streets, which force vehicles to slow down for a narrow passage that doubles as a de facto pedestrian crossing point. These also create more space for a couple of street trees or garden beds. 
  • “Kerb extensions”, which widen the verge along a section of street leading up to an intersection to make the turn tighter and force vehicles to slow down.
  • Speed humps and changed road surface markings. 

There are traffic calming options for every situation, and if we build more across Brisbane, we can make our local streets safer and quieter, encouraging traffic to stick to main roads and discouraging rat-running.

 

The Greens’ track record 

The Brisbane City Council allows Councillors to choose projects that the existing Suburban Enhancement Fund pays for.

In the Gabba Ward, Greens Councillors Jonathan Sriranganathan and Trinna Massey have championed local, participatory democracy to choose how that money is spent. They have funded traffic calming projects chosen democratically by residents of The Gabba Ward via “participatory budgeting”. 

 

Giving locals a say on speed limits

At the moment, the Council mandates all speed limits under rules set by the State Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads.

But this approach has led to “neighbourhood streets” (the quietest, lowest-traffic roads) having a default speed limit of 50km/h regardless of local conditions. That doesn’t suit many quiet local streets.

We want to make it possible for a group of local residents to make their neighbourhood safer by lowering the speed limit on their “local” or “neighbourhood” street if they have very strong support.

 

To do this, the Greens would create a participatory democratic process to lower a local or neighbourhood street speed limit:

  1. If residents of 20% of households on a street sign a petition to lower the speed limit, it triggers a local deliberation process with residents along the street. This would involve community forums and discussions about what a more appropriate speed limit would be, and whether traffic-calming devices would need to be installed to make vehicles actually slow down.
  2. At the end of this consultation, the residents of the street take part in an optional vote on a new proposed speed limit. If the majority of residents agree to the new proposed speed limit, then the council will listen. The council would also prioritise traffic-calming devices identified during the deliberation process.

 

This would be limited to “local” and “neighbourhood” streets as designated by the Brisbane City Council road hierarchy, and would comply with the Queensland Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. District, Suburban, and Arterial Roads, which tend to be lumped together as ‘main roads’, would not be subject to this process because they serve a different function to these smaller streets, and have far greater through-traffic.

 

Funding for Streets Made for Walking

All of these new pedestrian crossings, footpaths and traffic-calming features would cost $35 million per year.

This is a tiny portion of Brisbane City Council’s $4.3 billion annual budget, and we would set it aside by reallocating money from wasteful road projects. For comparison, just three recent wasteful road widening projects have cost Council almost $1 billion:

 

Why is walking so important?

Changing who we prioritise on a street can completely change how we move around our neighbourhoods. Trips of a kilometre or less can easily be walked by most people, if the streets are designed for it.

If more people can live comfortably without a car, or households can live without two cars, everyone benefits. Residents save money, neighbourhoods are quieter and on-street parking space can be freed up for verge gardens, outdoor dining or more shade trees. 

Fewer car trips also means reduced vehicle emissions. This makes our streets safer and lowers our neighbourhoods’ overall impact on the climate.