I guess I am still reflecting on the Liardet Street and Bay Street intersection because people are still negotiating it

The Liardet Street and Bay Street intersection never seems to leave the Port Melbourne policy agenda. The commentary in Port Melbourne on this intersection seems to express fatigue and/or surprise that what to do about this intersection is still being negotiated. It was even noteworthy that there was not a clear record of the number of times this issue has been reported to council, as this message from the current local councillor for the area expresses.  Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.48.49 PM

One night in December 2014, I found myself reflecting on the sheer volume of conversations (and blog posts) that have been turned towards this intersection when I happened to be riding my bicycle along Bay Street. Suddenly my reflection and cadence were brought to an abrupt stop as I slammed on my breaks to avoid being run over by a car that had shot through the intersection in violation of the road rules.

I myself have reflected on this intersection before on this blog. In way of summary, during my field work, the council installed pedestrian crossing on Liardet Street. While pedestrians already had right of way when it came to the cars turning into Liardet Street from Bay Street, the pedestrian crossing made more visible this right, and also extended it so that cars travelling along Liardet Street would also be required to give way. Negotiation amongst individuals and was set aside in favour of making visible clearer rules for travelling through the area. However, just like human rights only need to be evoked when people do not have the rights they are supposed to already have (see Rancière 2004), this shows that the fact that pedestrians already had right of way was not adequate. In other words, the written rules were not necessarily the taken for granted order through which people negotiated the intersection.

As I said in my other post, as somebody who crossed Liardet Street frequently, I was impressed with the amount of time I saved as a result of the pedestrian crossing. However, not everybody found the white lines painted on the road as helpful. After the pedestrian crossing was installed I started to hear people complain about trying to walk across the intersection. Perhaps the intersection became visible as an object of reflection when it had been altered and signs were erected? There were difficulties with negotiating movement through the space. I observed the occasional car still failing to give way to pedestrians, but I also saw many pedestrians waiting for a gap in the traffic to cross. This did not demonstrate ignorance of the rules. Many people, including people who do not own cars, spoke about how they tried to minimise the inconvenience the pedestrian crossing caused for cars as they made their way across Liardet Street. In other words, the intersection was still being negotiated.

There seemed to be frustration that the space still needs to be negotiated, both in planning and in passing through the space.

Rancière, J., 2004. Who Is the Subject of the Rights of Man? South Atlantic Quarterly, 103(2/3), pp.297–310.

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