A Peculiar Crossing

A Peculiar Crossings

There is a pedestrian crossing just to the north of Bonbeach Railway Station. On one end it opens directly onto Station Street and likewise on the other side onto the very busy Nepean Highway. One assumes it was put there to make it easier for the residents of the adjacent Broadway to access the beach and the (historically busy) shopping strip. However, it seems to see a great deal more use for other destinations than the beach. The shopping strip in Bonbeach is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Thus, people walk primarily not directly across to the beach which is attractive only seasonally, but north to the thriving shopping strip in Chelsea, or south to the train station to access the city-bound platform.

A strong desire-path has formed as a result of foot traffic coming from the crossing down to the station entrance. The path itself is somewhat precarious as the line of shrubbery pushes the pedestrian very close to the road. Caution is required. This lack of facilitation for foot traffic is constituted not only to the south where no planned footpath lay;1 there is no signalised crossing, nor under- or over-pass, to facilitate crossing to the shopping strip to the north. One must simply rely on one’s wits to cross the road. This is not too challenging for most people, but it definitely reduces accessibility and walk-ability in the suburb for the elderly, children, and people with a disability, who are restricted not by wits but by physical capability. For example, children lack the necessary peripheral vision and developed pre-frontal cortex to judge car speed and the timing of a safe crossing in-between traffic.2

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

This may have been adequate once-upon-a-time when Bonbeach was a rural bayside village, but the densifying of the suburb and the urban sprawl surrounding Frankston have meant a great increase in transiting and locally-generated traffic making use of Nepean Highway. At this tapered end of the Highway, it is only four lanes at this time, but a lack of a median strip, a speed limit of 60, and the sheer density of peak hour traffic make for long waits to safely cross with a certain risk always at play, especially for the above-mentioned groups of people.

The listing of Bonbeach station for reconstruction as part of the state-run level-crossing removal project has provided an opportunity for renewed walkability in this particular part of the suburb, and even at this particular pedestrian crossing. In its initial proposal to the local community, the government put forward elevated rail as the preferred solution. It’s cheaper, it doesn’t cause potential damage to the nearby wetlands, and it preserves all existing points of crossing whilst also opening up additional points of crossing where-so-ever the rail is sufficiently elevated. This was something better, not ideal, but better. The Nepean Highway Problem would remain, but at least the railway would no longer form a double-whammy for foot traffic; people would more ably access the station from underneath the viaduct, rather than using the precarious desire-path that they do now.

Sadly, the loud and short-sighted shouted down the proposal as “ugly” and destructive of their view of the beach. This in spite of the fact that the majority of residences on the western side of the rail reserve do not have a view of the beach owing to their mostly single-story mix and the view-obstructing trees and shrubbery planted along the rail reservation. In any case, the local electorate was extremely marginal at the time3 and so the government caved and agreed to a rail trench instead. The consequence has meant that the money saved by elevating and otherwise expended on additional amenities will instead be flushed into a more-expensive trench which will prohibit the amenities and development options that may have made the suburb more walkable. In particular, the government has declined to retain the pedestrian crossing at Broadway and will not be replacing it with an overpass. It will disappear altogether. The further-north pedestrian crossing at Golden Avenue will be reconstituted as an overpass, which will sadly not extend over the Highway, only the railway. Pedestrians will be dumped off on the other side of the track and will then have to negotiate traffic for themselves.

At least, that’s where things apparently stand as of today. These plans were put forward before the nearby crossings at Argyle Avenue and Chelsea Road were added to the list to be removed. The plans will need to be revised, and so perhaps this crossing may survive and may indeed be reincarnated in a more foot-friendly manifestation. I have hope, but also doubt. The government has already ruled out elevated rail for the entire section between Bonbeach and Aspendale, and so that obstruction remains. One barrier (a railway) will simply be replaced with another (a trench), and so the possibility of the Broadway crossing surviving seems slim. However, I’ll wait until the final overarching designs for the section of railway are released before passing final judgement as to whether this opportunity for revitalisation has been met or squandered.

  1. Though there are some parking spaces that were added over the last few years. No adjoining footpaths were concurrently laid. This is a strong example of building for cars instead of people. ↩︎

  2. They’re also short-legged. ↩︎

  3. Carrum district was within 500 votes (a less than 1% margin) of being retained by the then-incumbent Liberal in 2014. Since then, at the 2018 election, the margin has blown out considerably with the seat now considered ‘safe.’ ↩︎