driving walking

Pedestrians in the car park – often there’s no choice

I sometimes wonder if motorists driving in and out of car parks get irritated by pedestrians walking through.

Often the pedestrians have no choice.

These pictures are from Caulfield Plaza – with the major drawcard inside being the Coles supermarket.

There is obvious pedestrian traffic from the railway station and the university campus to the southern entrance of the Plaza. There are no footpaths on this side, so of course people walk through the car park. There is a pedestrianised entrance from Dandenong Road, and another from Derby Road, but few people are likely to go the long way around.

Caulfield Plaza car park

In my suburb, Bentleigh, despite generally being very walkable, it’s a similar story at the big supermarkets:

  • Safeway Woolworths is on the corner of Jasper and Centre Roads, but provides no pedestrian access at all, so anybody coming on foot has to cut through the car park.
  • Aldi is on Centre Road, inside a bigger building, and has a dedicated pedestrian entrance to the street, as well as a car park around the back.
  • Coles has a well-placed pedestrian entrance from the eastern side, but from the western side there’s only a gap in the car spaces with some bollards (see below), and this is located well away from the desire lines, so nobody uses it.

Coles Bentleigh, pointless pedestrian path

These types of layouts are poor design, for both pedestrians and motorists.

And I guess until it’s fixed we just have to live with it. Motorists need to watch out, and consider that every pedestrian is one less car on the road and taking up car spaces.

And pedestrians need to watch out for inattentive drivers. Often visibility isn’t ideal, especially for cars pulling out of or backing into parking spaces.

I wonder though, is making pedestrians walk through a car park subtly discouraging them from walking? Particularly those who are, or are with, vulnerable walkers such as young children or those with mobility problems.

Would supermarkets and other businesses with their own car parks get more customers if they provided safe convenient paths to their doors?

Are newer car parks and shopping centres any better? How do we get this fixed?

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.

9 replies on “Pedestrians in the car park – often there’s no choice”

Presumably people who park in the car park become pedestrians as soon as they get out of their car (they have to get inside the shop somehow). What’s the difference between someone who arrives on foot and someone who parks in the furthest corner of the carpark? Drivers need to be careful either way.

I avoid woolworths bentleigh for this very reason. With 2 little kids it’s just too dangerous to navigate through the car park on foot. There is no way of getting out without fearing being knocked by a reversing car.

Sometimes I’ll walk to a prominent shopping centre in South Yarra from the east, and you can either cut through the car park with prominent ‘no pedestrian’ signs, or walk a few hundred metres around to Chapel St. No thanks.

Well considered commentary. I regard both of the Bentleigh supermarkets as hostile environments but never actively considered why.

In comparison Coles Balaclava and the Safeway/Red S/Fosseys/ Balaclava Fresh/ Safeway/Woolworths Balaclava store both have excellent and safe pedestrian access. For that matter the two GlenHuntly Rd versions of the same shops also have great and safe pedestrian access.

Maybe Bentleigh is the innermost edge of Melbourne’s sprawl, where the car is King. Just up the road is the huge Glen Eira pool complex, on a site essentially inaccessable to most residents unless they drive there. So we go to Malvern’s pool which also has safe pedestrian access.

You’re opening a can of worms here and speaks to the inability of councils to think beyond “retail box plonked in the centre of a car park” which blights so much of Melbourne.

To their credit, some parts of Southland car park has seen barriers installed along roadways to funnel foot traffic onto pedestrian crossings.

I always find it odd how pedestrian and public-transport unfriendly many suburban shopping centres in Melbourne are. And how few of the large shopping centres are build next to train stations. This is one of the very few things that Sydney does better than Melbourne.

Roger #5, although I have no knowledge of Southland, I am extremely doubtful that “funneling pedestrians” is to anyone’s “credit”!!

What I wrote does conjure up something weird.
Forcing foot traffic onto the footpath and off the road is what I mean.

I’ll take a counter view, provided that the car park is designed better – eg as a shared use zone.

You want to kill off the motorists’ concept of the ‘open road’ and its accompanying sense of territoriality and entitlement. A way to do this is to minimise the space exclusively for them. Driving at slow to moderate speeds where non-motorists are expected (and not considered to be ‘in the way’) should be the default.

Though not a car park, Docklands is an example of the road user segregation doctrine at work. Over-engineered roads for the car traffic volumes with wide turning radii and long lights cycles at intersections where zebra crossings should be. Cycleways that cross footpaths at inopportune moments. Long tram stops. Although on paper pedestrians too have been planned for with space, in practice all it does is produce dead streets with long walks between attractions and a need to be constantly on the lookout.

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