17 September 2018

What can be done about the Parkway car trap?

| Ian Bushnell
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The Tuggeranong Parkway near the Arboretum. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Driving home the other night came the now familiar traffic report of chaos on the Tuggeranong Parkway after a peak-hour pileup near the Arboretum.

A four-car crash between the Arboretum and Glenloch Interchange had turned the Parkway into a car park, with northbound traffic backed up to Hindmarsh Drive. Avoid the Parkway and find an alternative route if you can, drivers were advised.

It’s a scenario that’s been repeated again and again this year morning and night, and the culprit is generally that same stretch of road where traffic merges and Belconnen-bound vehicles look to veer left.

It’s got to the point where the reliability of the parkway at certain times of the day is being seriously questioned.

Off to the city one night for a concert date, I was just about to turn of the Cotter on to the Parkway when I noticed the queue of cars and kept going. A trail of concert-goers straggled in late after the first performance, victims of the Parkway car trap.

The same thing happened to Raiders fans going to a Friday night game at Bruce.

These days if I have to be somewhere by a certain time, I’ll avoid the Parkway like the plague.

If you are going to Canberra Stadium, a city date or the airport to catch a plane, taking the Parkway can be a risky business.

So what’s going on?

Roads ACT and the Minister has been approached but to date, no answers have been forthcoming.

The Emergency Services Agency says ACT Fire & Rescue has attended 13 motor vehicle incidents on the Tuggeranong Parkway between the Glenloch Interchange and the Cotter Road since the beginning of the year and 23 August. Three of these were located near the Arboretum intersection.

But the number of actual accidents must be a lot more.

It seems only a minor bingle can bring the Parkway to a standstill because there is no where to go once cars collide.

Other arterials such as Adelaide Avenue have median strips that offer some space to clear cars and debris but the Parkway, particularly at that crunch point near the Arboretum, is tarmac and concrete.

It poses the question whether there are design flaws in the road or whether something could be done to make it safer to merge and veer.

It could also mean Canberra drivers are just rubbish at both.

Whatever, the Parkway seems seriously compromised as a reliable thoroughfare to the north, the city, and the airport.

If nothing else, Roads ACT should be looking at what could be done to make it safer and more reliable.

Have you been caught in the Tuggeranong Parkway car trap? What do you think could be done to make it less vulnerable to accidents?

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Queanbeyanite5:27 pm 21 Sep 18

Tailgating is normalised in Canberra, virtually everyone does it, and if you’re the 1% who doesn’t, you get ‘leapfrogged’. One mistake and there’s a pileup.

Part of the problem is that the current Glenloch interchange was built to a price point, not to the needs of the large and ever growing traffic volumes. Driving north to Civic requires some quick lane changes and you get the impression that the designers were trying to discourage traffic to civic in favour of traffic heading for the northern suburbs. Combine an el cheapo interchange, an ever growing population and generally poor driver behaviour and you get the current mess.

All of our roads are being built to a price point. The “let’s put traffic lights on a roundabout on National Highway” abomination made that perfectly clear. The bean counters run the circus and everything is farmed out to consultants and contractors. Infrastructure forward planning is almost non existent. Our elected muppets wait until an arterial road is at capacity, then effectively close most of it down while they take 2-3 years to add a couple of lanes.

Obviously there is a disproportionate number of ex Victorian and Queensland drivers allowed loose on the Canberra road system, the best in the country. When Yarra Glen first opened there was a great mixing of ‘cultures’, but they soon learned and by the time I left town I considered Canberra drivers the best in the country.

Trouble is that a number of motorist believe that the rules around ‘merging’ and ‘form one lane’ are the same. Not according to the road rules.

If your merging from a terminating lane, i.e. on-ramp, then you must give way to the car that is already in the lane your merging into, even if your ahead of that vehicle. If you are, then you need to slow down and tuck in behind that vehicle. Those dashes on the road mean ‘Give Way’.

The bit about being in front and having right-of-way only applies in the ‘form one lane’ scenario.

Whilst your understanding of the rules is 100% spot on, merging is a combination of rules and courtesy especially at on ramps. Whilst a vehicle by law needs to give way and stop if needed in these situations doing so especially in heavy traffic would cause untold problems. So needs a combination in heavy traffic in particular of vehicles on the non merging lane assisting in making space and of course those merging to bloody well take a space of left for them.

But to the intersection at hand I don’t use it often so was scratching my head about the issues.

Since the rebuild a number of years back the amount of traffic coming up from Lady Denman drive heading towards the city should be minimal. Traffic heading to Gungahlin can stay in the lane (though yes many try to get into the through lanes). So leaves tuggers traffic to Belco needing to move across to the turn lane which should be easy and city bound they have a second turn that is empty.

What I put the issues down to is people driving like d&@s trying to get that one car in front and doing silly things. Par for the course really.

Yes courtesy does play a part in heavy traffic. However my comment was about some drivers not knowing the road rules, not about courtesy. The road rules are fundamental to safety on our roads.

As many others are highlighting, it seems an awful lot of locals have no clue on how to merge – at anything above 40km/hr.
The “this is MY lane, and NO one is moving over, so I’ll extreme tail-gate” mentality is not helping.
I see it most days. Congestion ahead – Thru traffic all shifts right and speeds up! On-ramp traffic crawls along with absolutely no space between cars. Muppets jumping across multiple lanes, squeezing into non-existent gaps! Cars going from 100+ to almost stopped within a hundred meters. I’m only surprised there are not more major pile ups in that area.
If a few more people just tried to match speeds, and allowed a few car spaces between, everything would just work. But no. Me, me, me.

Matthew McKenzie1:56 pm 25 Sep 18

Coming from WA and NSW, it is very reassuring to see ACT drivers indicating to remind people behind of the merge. This does not happen in Sydney. Worse, the RMS puts up signs that don’t match the road, “form one lane” instead of left lane ends. Bizarre results are seen where the merge was re-engineered 20 odd years ago but the oldies did not notice, and also did not notice the rules change twice since then. It’s common to hear “that was 20 years ago mate” at these bingles.

I used to commute on that road most days by motorcycle and usually had an interesting story involving another bad Canberra driver at the end of the trip. It is quite dated and probably carrying more traffic than it was ever designed to carry, but driven sensibly it does not present too many challenges. The trouble is many users just do not really understand the concept of driving to the conditions, and quite a number of the others respond to the adversarial behaviour on display.

The Glenloch Interchange design seems reasonable and would probably work well if people would set themselves up for the intersection early and travel in the correct lane. The absurdity of the last minute change from the right lane across the front of a vehicle going straight ahead in order to exit is what probably results in a lot of the mishaps, and I imagine a few more are caused by vehicles entering from the Arboretum direction. A lowering of the speed limit is unlikely to resolve the issues because much of the traffic will just ignore the speed limit anyway, as occurs now. A better solution may be to construct solid concrete walls to reduce the opportunity to change lanes at inappropriate points. Some of the other bad driving would benefit from some policing attention if they were interested.

I’m one of those “pesky motorists” who travel at 80km/h on the Parkway. I just feel that 80 is fast enough for me, I’m in no great hurry. If you want to travel at 100, get into the right lane and don’t bother getting behind me flashing your lights and beeping your horn.

Last summer that happened and we pulled over and the other guy got out thinking he could abuse a little old lady in a Barina. I was wearing no shirt and when he came to the window and saw me he said “Oh sorry mate”, walked back to his car and drove off.

Problem is not with you John sitting in the left lane, though I’d question if you’re incapable of driving to the conditions then why are you driving, it’s the idiot in the right lane doing 90. Very frustrating.

As much as I hate lower speed limits, that is one road that should have variable limits that depend on vehicle density. For every few people driving well, there always seems to be a tailgating weaving fool on that road. It makes no sense when it is busy because as much as you weave and tailgate you don’t get any closer to your destination when there is a vehicle in front.

The short version: close off the second exit (the City exit which has no slip lane) and have all exiting traffic use the long slipway. Also put concrete dividers between lanes for the 200m before the gore to prevent drivers darting across the left lane of traffic to get to the exit.

The long version: humans are shitty drivers, and some of them do stupid stuff like speed up in the right hand lane to overtake exiting traffic (who are slowing down) and entering traffic (who are speeding up) in the left lane, then they jump on the brakes and dive left across a lane of traffic to get to the Belconnen/City exit.

The design of the Glenloch interchange is compromised by the presence of the entry ramp from Arboretum/Lady Denman Drive into the northbound lanes of the Parkway which means that entering traffic is using the same sliplane as exiting traffic.

So you have drivers speeding up to 90km/h to merge into the Parkway and drivers travelling at 90km/h or faster trying to merge into the slip lane.

So options to remedy the situation include:

1. Canberrans learn to drive and plan their exits, and pace themselves to existing traffic

2. Close the second exit lane to encourage use of the slip lane

3. Close the entry ramp from Forest Drive onto Tuggeranong Parkway northbound (route traffic left for Belconnen, southbound on Tuggeranong Parkway to use Cotter Road to turn around for Gungahlin/Civic

4. Concrete dividers between lanes from before the Forest Road exit till after the Parkes Way exit to prevent lane darters causing accidents

5. Install light rail connecting Tuggeranong, Woden, Belconnen and Civic to reduce commuter load on Tuggeranong Parkway.

The problem isn’t the road, it is the idiots driving on it.
Every day you see people trying to merge into a 90 or 100 zone doing 50, being unable to match speed with traffic and find a spot to safely merge, or worst of all stopping at on ramps or merge points because they failed at driving.

I can’t understand why so many people are so terrible at getting up to speed, picking a safe spot to merge and moving across. Will be the same people who sit in the right hand lane doing 80 in 90 and 100 zones.

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