I don’t understand

This is the corner of Whitehall and Wingfield Streets in Footscray.

Whitehall and Wingfield Sts, Footscray
Whitehall and Wingfield Sts, Footscray

(Aerial view in Google Maps)

The traffic lights closest to the camera in these photos are basically for the pedestrian crossing, on the northern side of the intersection. But the southern side of the intersection includes a stop line, so that’s where the cars are meant to stop, well back from the traffic lights themselves. Potentially confusing, especially given the “Stop here on red signal” signs over on the lights.

But what’s really weird is that the lights for northbound traffic periodically switch to red, even when there are no pedestrians and no conflicting traffic around. I’ll be driving up there with M and a hatch full of fruit and vegetables from her weekly shop and we’ll have to stop, for no apparent reason.

This will be accompanied by mock cries of protest from me of “I don’t understand!” because I don’t.

It may be linked to cars turning right into Whitehall Street from Dynon Road, but that doesn’t really make any sense either, as there’s no reason to stop this traffic because of them.

Can anybody who’s seen this intersection explain how and why it works like this?

(If you’re wondering, I did enquire with VicRoads about the Bentleigh intersection that illogically starts the cars before the peds. At first they misinterpreted my email and thought I was referring to the right turn arrows. I clarified that, but haven’t heard back.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

8 replies on “I don’t understand”

The solid line south of the intersection is not a stop line, it’s the southern edge of the Keep Clear marking. So you have to stop before it if there is no room for you to exit the Keep Clear area, but to stop at the lights you just have to stop at the stop line north of the intersection. The stop line is wider than the line at the start of the Keep Clear.

Realistically, only one car can fit between the stop line and the western leg of the intersection, so most people stopping at these lights (the people who are second in the queue) will have to stop before the Keep Clear marking. It would have been better to put the pedestrian crossing about 5 m further north but it doesn’t fit because of the driveways.

In fact a more easily understood solution would be to signalise the intersection instead of just the crossing or at least put the lights and the ‘stop here on red signal’ sign south of the intersection as well as north of it. That would cost quite a bit of money, but it would eliminate the confusion over the Keep Clear markings.

Thanks Phillip, but I don’t see two distinct lines for the Stop Line and the northern edge of the Keep Clear area — look at the aerial view closely or Streetview. They appear to be one and the same.

Agree the logical layout would be a completely signalised intersection. They do appear to be putting more lights further south, at Bunbury St, though I don’t recall the layout.

Ah, ex-local councillor Janet Rice left a msg on Facebook:

“I agree daniel. The really annoying and confusing bit is when the lights are red, there are no pedestrians and you want to turn left using the slip lane into hopkins st where you don’t have to wait for a red light. My understanding is that the intersection is going to get a compete makeover including the signalisation of wingfield st once the saltwater river apartments being built a block away in moreland st are completed.”

In other traffic signal related issues, has anyone else noticed the pedestrian crossing in Collins Street half way between Elizabeth and Swanston seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to change lately? I think it was modified when Australia on Collins started having some work done on it. Bloody annoying and crowds very quickly build here if they don’t change often enough.

Yeah there’s no northern line for the Keep Clear – it only has a southern line. The northern line is the stop line for the lights. So technically you’re still inside the Keep Clear if you stop at that stop line, but in practice you’re out of the way of traffic trying to turn right from west to south, so it’s not a problem (unless you get booked by a cop who doesn’t understand the point of the Keep Clear).

In my experience (and I have used that particular road 100’s of times), it doesn’t make any difference what is marked there because cars travelling on the inside (i.e. nearest to the kerb heading towards the city) will simply go around and park themselves in the turning right lanes whether or not there is space for them (but heck that’s what the keep clear space is for isn’t it?) whilst you are left sitting (legally I might add) behind the “keep clear” designated area. The lane which I am talking about is clearly marked for turning “left” in your photo. Must be the sight impaired who cannot see that as I am sure that all other drivers wouldn’t so flagrantly break the road laws.

I did remark to a taxi driver about something similar and he said that sometimes lights turn red in case the car-detecting device is broken. Perhaps that’s happening there or they’re compensating for the pedestrian crossing request button possibly being broken.

Jen: It’s a beautiful old church.

Colin: I don’t think it has anything to do with the pedestrian lights. When these go off, north and southbound traffic all stops. The weird behaviour is when just northbound traffic stops.

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