Manly’s controversial concrete lane dividers, which began appearing along the seafront and in the town centre in January, are likely to be permanently removed after a review in early March.
Cr Candy Bingham told Manly Observer on 8 February that after a meeting with Council’s Traffic Committee the previous day, she predicted that not only will the existing dividers be extracted, the Committee will rescind current plans for the installation of up to 40 of the divisive islands around the town centre.
The Traffic Committee’s next monthly meeting will take place in the first week of March.
“I’m of the opinion they don’t need to install dividers,” she said, “because they’ve already narrowed the road, they’ve already put double lines in and they’ve already put thirty kilometre limit zones every 150 metres. Surely that’s enough?”
Meanwhile, a petition on Change.org demanding Council “remove concrete traffic road slabs” is gaining popularity; it attracted 200 signatures in the first four days after its launch on 25 January.
Islands in the traffic stream
After they first appeared, a Council spokesperson explained the dividers’ purpose: “To further reduce speeding in busy pedestrian areas, Council is installing concrete median islands across the Manly CBD to reinforce the 30km/h speed limit by narrowing the travel lane.
“Prior to installing the 30km/h speed limit there were a number of pedestrian accidents along the beach front and within the CBD zone, due to the high pedestrian activity and other distractions experienced by drivers in the Manly area. Lowering the speed of the traffic will reduce the severity of any accidents that occur.”
However, the concrete islands themselves became a new hazard, with reports that not only were motorists colliding with them, but trucks – including buses and fire engines – were experiencing difficulty getting past the ones installed along the seafront, where the lanes are narrow either side.
The island on South Steyne at the southern end of Denison St reduces the size of the turning area for vehicles exiting Denison and going left (north). Manly Observer watched several trucks and longer vehicles having trouble driving around this tight turn.
This same traffic island is on a patch of road where stormwater builds up and floods the road during heavy rain. Several readers drew our attention to the island being completely submerged during a recent rainfall.
The seafront concrete dividers average four metres in length and 50cm in width, and protrude approximately 25cm from the road surface (although others in the town centre are larger and wide enough to be pedestrian refuges).
Installed in partnership with Transport for NSW, the dividers, 14 of them, began appearing on 11 January without advance notification, and immediately caused consternation.
The first ten were installed along the seafront along South Steyne and North Steyne, from Manly Corso north to Stuart Somerville Bridge in Queenscliff.
After multiple complaints from motorists that they were too low to the ground and difficult to see and therefore a safety risk to vehicles driving into them, Northern Beaches Council suspended their trial installation on 13 January – just 48 hours after their surprise introduction.
In a statement released on 17 January, Northern Beaches Council CEO Ray Brownlee said, “While these works are important safety measures, Council has received feedback from the community wanting more information.
“So, no further work, other than finishing line markings and signposting, will be taking place until a review of the effectiveness of the traffic calming measures is undertaken.”
Manly Observer has been contacted by a number of people complaining their vehicles were damaged after they collided with the dividers. Most claim the traffic regulators were difficult to see – at least during the first days of their installation (they’ve since been highlighted).
One woman, Raquel Genioli, was a passenger in a car when it sustained significant structural damage colliding with a concrete median island whilst manoeuvring out of a parking bay at the northern end of North Steyne.
Raquel explained to Manly Observer, “My partner was driving my car and I was in the passenger seat. He reversed from the parking spot to drive north. As he reversed, the back wheel didn’t touch the concrete but he was reversing and turning the steering wheel, so the concrete hit underneath the car, and the car got caught, and the bottom of the sign that faces south scratched the bottom of the door.
“The damage is on the left side of the car, front door and underneath the door. The cost to fix the damage is estimated as nearly $3000.00 from a repairer in Brookvale.
“It is nearly the price of the car, and I rely on this car for work as I need to drive to my clients. It is quite an expensive repair and I really hope the council helps me to fix this damage.
“I was planning to sell my car and now I am going to need to put the price down and lose money to be able to sell the car, if it doesn’t get fixed.
“I feel really frustrated as there is no sign or anything signaling these islands. I drove along the beachfront after my accident and I have already seen many of them damaged, probably because people can’t see them and hit them. It seems to me to be more a threat than something that helps the community.”
Highlights aren’t halting vehicles hitting islands
The median islands have, since their installation, been highlighted with improved markings, including a white coating and reflective metal signs. There are also bright orange squares on the road surface alongside each where the speed limit (30km/h) is being painted in bold white letters.
Until reflective signs were placed on the islands, they were particularly challenging to see in low light, leading to several of the islands themselves being damaged by vehicle tyres running over them.
Some of the new metal signs on the islands are bent, suggesting motorists are still experiencing difficulty negotiating a course around them.
Three of the islands along North Steyne continue to arouse the most ire because they hinder vehicles accessing or reversing out of the adjacent parking bays.
Council redesignated those bays for small cars only – painted with bold white lettering – although they continue to be used by larger vehicles due to intense competition for the limited parking facilities along Manly and Queenscliff seafront.
Furthermore, the parking bays beside those three islands were inaccessible to northbound traffic and forced cars leaving the bays to travel southward.
Cr Bingham revealed that Committee members visited these three islands and agreed they should be removed as soon as possible.
“I addressed the Traffic Committee and ran through everything with them,” she explained. “And basically, what they’ve agreed to do is immediately remove the traffic islands that are directly behind parking, where people are trying to back out. Quite a few of them have trees on the side of them, so they’re not blocking car parking, they’re blocking trees.
“But I think there’s three of them, at least, that if you’re trying to reverse out of them you hit these damn blocks; or you haven’t got access to the car park, if you’re travelling north.
“Staff are going to do a review and report back to the Traffic Committee next month. So, I expect that they will all go. It seems to me that there was general support from most of the Committee to remove them all completely.”
And the orange squares with the number 30 painted on them in white?
“They will remain with 30 on them, as I think that’s a good reminder to drive within the speed limit. And the streets are quite narrow now, so you really do have to concentrate as you go through there. I think that will achieve the goal, frankly.”
She continued, “Like a lot of these things, you don’t really know until they’re installed as to what’s going to happen. But I think the Traffic Committee got the message pretty quickly that the islands just weren’t appropriate in those locations.
“The good thing is, even though people were saying, ‘what a disaster, what a mistake’, the Committee did respond very quickly to the community’s feedback and I think it’s important that should be acknowledged.”