Fix “dysfunctional and unsafe road design”: residents call for action on Abbotsford St

Brendan Rees

North Melbourne residents have expressed growing alarm over the safety of new tram concrete separators along a busy road after reports of several near misses and one man being taken to hospital.

Since late 2022, the state government in partnership with the City of Melbourne and Yarra Trams have rolled out kerbed separators to address vehicle-to-tram collisions including on Abbotsford St between Flemington Rd and Molesworth St.

But residents say it has turned into a “planning nightmare” and was just a matter of time before someone was seriously injured or killed because of the separators, which had worsened since the introduction of the already installed bicycle lanes.

Incidents have included significant damage caused to parked cars (including one resident left with a more than $6000 damage bill), as well as pedestrians nearly being hit by traffic, and trucks “crossing or straddling the tram barriers for extended distances” on many occasions because of the narrower road lanes.

Residents have now launched a petition urging authorities to fix the “dysfunctional and unsafe road design”, with the separators and bike lanes having been installed without their consultation.

“I now feel constantly less safe in negotiating Abbotsford St either on foot or in a vehicle,” resident John O’Neill said.


The concrete dividers are particularly dangerous. This was previously a well-functioning road space. Even cyclists are now at greater risk of collisions with cars at intersections, because of their low visibility, as well as with pedestrians crossing their path.


Frank Rapattoni, an engineer and North Melbourne resident, said he had major concerns with the changed road design for Abbotsford St, which had “greatly increased the risk factors for all users”.

“Risks to pedestrians, especially residents, are now higher due to potential clashes with bikes and scooters in the bike lane, especially given the steep gradient in many parts of the street. Risks to cyclists and scooters are higher with the kerbside separated bike lanes, especially at the steep city-bound lane in Abbotsford St,” Mr Rapattoni said.



Residents have also described the “tight and weaving nature” along Abbotsford St as confusing and a potential hazard, with three major incidents reported, which, in one case on June 12 last year, morning traffic was stopped and redirected down Wood St for well over an hour.

A man was also taken to hospital with facial injuries after tripping on a concrete separator, which despite occurring in a nearby road, residents fear the same could happen in Abbotsford St.

In a case in Queensland in 2021, a pedestrian tripped over a bike lane concrete separator and broke both elbows, with the person now suing the council for $170,000.

Through the petition residents are calling for the tram separators to be replaced with yellow rubber rollover kerbing or painted continuous yellow lines and reflectors, and for the bike lane configuration to be corrected, replacing it with a preferable double chevron bike lane design.

A third action the petition seeks is to improve the design of key Abbotsford St intersections between Flemington Rd and Molesworth St to increase the safety of all residents and road users.

A Department of Transport and Planning spokesperson did not respond to questions of the petition. Instead, it said, “Raised kerbs are used at key crash hotspots to reduce the risk of collisions between vehicles and trams, improving safety and minimising delays for passengers”.

In a statement, the department said motorists were not permitted to enter a tramway, regardless of the type of separation, and that “many of the issues raised by the residents appear to have causal factors unrelated to the presence of the tram kerb separation”.

Abbotsford St is a local road managed by the City of Melbourne. The council confirmed protected bike lanes were installed in 2020 to improve safety and “there are no plans to make further changes”.

“It also connected an important route from Adderley St bike corridor near North Melbourne train station through to capital city trail in Royal Park – linking many bike routes along the way,” the statement said.

“A review of the intersections between Flemington Rd and Molesworth St/Canning St show they have generous sight lines between motor vehicles and bike riders.”

“Since 2020, we’ve delivered 12 riding lane upgrades – reducing bike-related incidents by 10 per cent, while increasing trips in riding lanes by 22 per cent on upgraded routes compared to other streets during the same period.”

Residents told North West City News that they acknowledge the tram separators may have value in certain “high intensity and demonstrably high-risk sectors” of the tram network, particularly in the CBD.


State Greens MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell holds a meeting with concern residents.


But they noted this must “be balanced against the fact that it is an extremely expensive and inflexible option, which redirects tram/vehicle interactions into major intersections, while reducing flexibility and increasing risk for all other users, and that it will not be appropriate in many suburban situations”.

Residents have raised all road safety issues with State Greens MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell who recently held a public meeting and also wrote a letter to the Minister for Roads and Roads Safety Melissa Horne outlining the community’s concerns.

In response, the Minister thanked Ms Sandell for sharing the petition in a letter dated in May but said “many of the issues raised appear to have causal factors unrelated to the presence of the tram kerb separation”. 

She also said, “it is council’s responsibility to assess and determine the most appropriate bike and traffic lane treatments for this road in response to the concerns raised by residents in this petition”. •

According to the petition’s organisers, neither the City of Melbourne nor Yarra Trams have responded to the petition, which attracted more than 200 signatures.

According to Yarra Tram’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Increase in Victoria’s Road Toll in 2020, a report prepared by Keolis Downer acknowledged not all parts of the tram system were at “high risk” for tram/vehicle collisions including Abbotsford St.

Residents want their concerns will be taken seriously and that a joint consultation from the council and state government was needed with residents to address the separators and the “wider range of issues raised in the petition is a vital step in this process”.

Safety concerns were initially reported in the December 2022 edition of North West City News with the council approving measures including painting the kerbing white, installing raised reflective pavement markers on top of the tram separation kerbs at 15 metre spacings, and installing keep left signs in front of the first section of kerbing.

North and West Melbourne Association’s secretary Kevin Chamberlin said, “The raised concrete kerbing is an overkill and a waste of money – they are actually creating a very dangerous situation. They should be removed immediately, and a more appropriate resolution determined”. •

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