Toxic Custard newsletter transport

You shall not pass

I know it’s been around for a while, but I was quite struck the other day by these traffic lights on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston Streets, facing southbound traffic coming down Swanston.

The left and right arrows are for motor vehicles (which can go left or right, but not straight ahead). The middle two are for cyclists (which have their own “Copenhagen”-style lanes) and trams. They go when all vehicles are stopped (which is also when pedestrians cross La Trobe Street north-to-south).

Traffic lights, corner Latrobe and Swanston Streets, Melbourne

I wonder if these are a little bewildering to novice drivers, having all the lights in a bunch like this? Finding and obeying the individual light(s) that apply to you would be a good challenge for learner drivers (and you’d hope the rest of us can get it).

Any good examples of other complex sets of lights, including in other cities?

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.

7 replies on “You shall not pass”

Actually Jon, you could argue that learner drivers absolutely should be driving down Swanston St (the part with cars, and under competent supervision!) – because learners need to gain experience with complex traffic situations.

The lights here have gone through a few iterations. A decade ago they were similar to this but only had the one light for straight-ahead traffic (from when taxis and then private cars were permitted under some conditions). But IIRC the lights from the early 1990s, when the street was first closed to cars, just had a straight-ahead light for bicycles and a separate T lamp that came on for that phase only (like the one you can see on the top in the current photo).

Actually yes, I just saw Ben’s comment – the full set of stop-go lights for trams were indeed present a decade ago as well. I don’t precisely recall, but I presume the straight-ahead traffic light would have just stayed red in the daytime as cars were only permitted at night – hence the need for the separate green bicycle.

Everyone with a drivers license knows that T is for trams and the bike symbol is fr bikes only.

So that only leaves the two arrows for all other traffic.

@Ben & Tony – Alternatively, you could argue no cars or trucks should be driving down Swanston Street except emergency vehicles and trams. It is now pretty clear that the pedestrianised sections of the street have been a huge success. Time for the whole street from Franklin Street to Flinders Street to get the same treatment.

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