WARRNAMBOOL motorists are being lured off nature strips and onto roadsides in a “cultural change” starting in the CBD and eventually sweeping through residential areas.
It’s seen as a solution to providing extra parking at minimal cost to council, slowing traffic speeds and improving safety for pedestrians and drivers.
According to city council infrastructure director Peter Robertson, the cultural change has been adopted by most other major regional centres with increasing success.
State road laws say it’s technically illegal to park on nature strips, but the city council has in the past mainly turned a blind eye to prosecution.
“Ultimately, in the long term we want everyone across the city to understand laws regarding nature strips and parking on roads,” Mr Robertson said.
“There is enough width on most streets to accommodate cars parked on the roadside and traffic flow.
“Some people see it as a nuisance and inconvenience because it means change. Warrnambool drivers are just used to having a clear run right through.
“Councils statewide are doing this — narrowing trafficways by putting parking areas and cycle lanes on the road.
“Is it safer? Of course it is. Is it slowing down traffic? Of course it is.”
In recent weeks the council has successfully moved motorists off grassed residential nature strips in Timor and Koroit streets by offering free or heavily discounted fees at all-day CBD parking zones.
CBD workers have also been persuaded to park on the roadside bitumen after infringement notices were placed on vehicles occupying nature strips.
Changes to parking ticket machines allowing eftpos payments, cheaper rates and transfer of tickets are also being considered.
The city council will soon consider a report on options for solving parking shortages around the base hospital, where local residents are angry at vehicles being parked on their nature strips and near driveways all day.
It is understood a key recommendation will be to put more parallel parking bays on Koroit Street and nearby streets with possibly a permit system for residents in some areas.
Motorists will also be encouraged to park along nearby Hyland Street, which usually has dozens of unoccupied bays.
Mr Robertson cited Jamieson Street between Princess and Mickle streets where parallel parking and bike lanes were painted on the bitumen.
“Before that people were saying traffic was too fast, now there are no complaints,” he said.
It was a similar story with centre-of-the-road parking at the southern end of Fairy and Kepler streets.
Mr Robertson said there had been a similar initial negative reaction when central roundabouts and streets were changed from double-lane to single-lane traffic.
“It’s been a better outcome. The other issue is whether there should be pedestrian-priority crossings at intersections.
“If everyone slows down and is patient, everyone — pedestrians and motorists — can have a good outcome.”
The changes could also trigger a new era for nature strips similar to the trend in some Melbourne precincts where residents are using them to grow fresh vegetables.
“There’s nothing wrong with planting things on nature strips as long as the council is consulted beforehand for advice,” Mr Robertson said.
“We want to create a streetscape that’s attractive.”