Six of the controversial concrete median traffic islands that were installed along the Steyne parallel to Manly Beach, and surrounds, earlier this year will finally be removed in coming weeks.
The islands and street-painted speed limit markings are known as the North Steyne Rd / South Steyne Rd, Manly Beach – High Pedestrian Activity Area Infrastructure Package 2. They were overseen by the Northern Beaches Council Local Traffic Committee to slow down traffic along the now 30kmh strip.
Installed in partnership with Transport for NSW (TfNSW), an initial 15 of the planned 69 raised concrete dividers (islands) began appearing on 11 January 2023 in the vicinity of the seafront. Ten were placed along North Steyne, from Stuart Somerville Bridge in Queenscliff south to Manly Corso, and the remainder in the adjacent Collingwood and Raglan streets.
However, just a few days later, after a barrage of complaints from motorists, Northern Beaches Council implemented a temporary halt to the installation of the remaining 54. Those already in place were left and monitored for their effectiveness in reducing traffic speeds.
Chair of the Northern Beaches Council Local Traffic Committee that oversaw the installation, Councillor Jose Menano-Pires, confirmed to Manly Observer that there were an enormous number of public objections.
“Since its installation, Council and Councillors have received emails / complaints from the community numbered in the hundreds, not counting the comments on social media,” he said. “So far, I think only, literally, a couple of the comments received are supportive of the islands.”
The councillor explained that the intention of the controversial islands was not disruption, but safety.
“The objective of this project is to lower the speed limit in certain areas of Manly, especially in North Steyne, to a safe speed (30kmh) allowing for the fact that it’s a pedestrian intensive area. This includes several initiatives, such as raised pedestrian crossings, new signage, and the high-visibility on-road signage.”
However, he conceded the islands have not achieved their objective.
“While the original implementation of the above reduced the effective speed of the vast majority of vehicles to 39Km/Hr, TfNSW was not satisfied and sought to achieve further reductions by installing the concrete islands. Traffic counts since obtained show that in specific areas, at certain times the 85% percentile speed has reduced 2km/h to 37km/h!”
“Traffic counts also show that during periods of low traffic volumes, i.e. late at night / early morning, speeds increase to over 40Km/Hr. To me this indicates that the islands are ineffective in forcing speed reductions, because we don’t roll them up and take them out at night! It’s obvious that other factors have contributed to the speed reduction, e.g. high-visibility signs, traffic volume.”
The Northern Beaches Council Local Traffic Committee, which originally approved the installation of the concrete islands at their 5 April 2022 meeting, met again on 7 March 2023 and discussed the controversial dividers.
The Committee opted to continue the traffic calming scheme, retaining the first 15 islands, albeit without approving installation of the remaining 54 concrete dividers.
Then just prior to the Committee’s monthly meeting on 2 May, Sergeant Nino Jelovic of Northern Beaches Police Command, Dee Why, emailed Phil Devon, the Manager of the Transport Network, stating: “I have inspected the structures and found that many have already been damaged, which appears to be from passing traffic.”
As Manly Observer noted during an inspection of the 15 islands in February, not only were most of them chipped along the edges due to wheels colliding with them, in many cases the ‘keep left’ signs upon them were buckled or their support poles completely snapped off.
Cr Menano-Pires admitted to Manly Observer that the traffic islands were a mistake.
“We got it wrong – without going through the reasons why (and no excuses), which are briefly documented in the February minutes, we got it wrong, and I apologise to the community. I assure you that lessons were learnt.”
He continued, “The concrete islands should not have been installed at all. The plan was to install another 54 or so in various places, but this was immediately stopped following serious community backlash as soon as the ones in North Steyne were installed. At this stage, I have no intention at all of supporting installation of any further concrete islands.”
However, Sgt Jelovic was recorded as proposing to “keep the median islands, as the data reflects the traffic calming devices have slowed the traffic down…”
Cr Menano-Pires confirmed the proposal.
“In my view, the ones already installed in North Steyne should be removed without delay, and I proposed exactly that, at both the February and March meetings. Unfortunately, while this proposal was supported by the representative of the local MP, The Hon James Griffin, this was not supported by the representative of the Department of Transport and the NSW Police.”
On Tuesday 2 May, the Local Traffic Committee determined, “that some devices can remain, and some be considered for removal/modification.”
The Committee heard: “Council has undertaken a review of the locations and issues and proposes to remove the median islands at the following locations, to address the issues raised with access to the 90° parking along the beachfront: · North Steyne, north of Denison Street · Outside No.84 North Steyne · Outside No.91 North Steyne · Outside No.105-107 North Steyne · Outside No.112-113 North Steyne · North Steyne, north of Ceramic Lane.”
The Committee received a recommendation that it “Endorses the removal of the medians at the 6 locations,” and furthermore “Endorses the modification of the median island outside No.140 North Steyne.”
Cr Menano-Pires summed up the reasons why the islands have proved ineffective.
“The implementation of the current concrete islands, although it may contribute to a slight reduction in speed is not desirable because, apart from ineffective and dangerous:
- a) Concrete islands in the middle of an already fairly narrow road are a distraction to drivers, and as such dangerous. As easily observed, they are constantly hit by vehicles, including breaking / bending the “keep left” poles, causing thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles.
- b) They are mistakenly used by pedestrian as “refuge islands” leaving pedestrian in a dangerous situation in the middle of the road.
- c) They are ineffective in reducing vehicle speeds in any significant way.
“Visually and amenity-wise they are a blot in an iconic world top 25 beach / promenade such as Manly.”
Update: six certainly scrapped
In an update on 11 May 2023, Cr Menano-Pires told Manly Observer, “In summary, TfNSW has withdrawn their objections and agreed to remove six of the concrete islands, replacing them with centre “rumble lines”, which is what is used as outside lane delineation on motorways.
“Its effect will be monitored, and if successful, the remaining 9 islands will also be removed. Honeycomb treatment will also be evaluated as a possible replacement for the islands.”
The councillor added, “Although personally I would prefer that all the islands be removed immediately, I’m reasonably happy with this conclusion. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Remaining islands are still being discussed and significant further detail can be found, for those seeking it, in the traffic committee minutes, and future agendas: