Green light for Unley Rd speed limit cut

The state government will support a push to cut part of Unley Road’s speed limit to 50km/h, with the local council now pushing for a median strip upgrade of the city thoroughfare.

May 13, 2024, updated May 13, 2024
Unley Road. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Unley Road. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The speed limit cut will apply to a 1.5km stretch of Unley Road between Greenhill Road and the Park Street/Wattle Street intersection. The remaining 1km stretch down to Cross Road will stay at 60km/h.

The date for the change is yet to be determined.

Unley Road section

The section of Unley Road targeted for a 50km/h speed limit extends from Greenhill to the Park Street/Wattle Street intersection. Image: Google Maps

It comes after Unley councillors passed a motion in December to request the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) lower the speed limit to improve pedestrian safety and encourage more outdoor dining on Unley Road.

The request was supported by the local traders association.

DIT chief executive Jon Whelan wrote to Unley Council in March to indicate the Department would support the speed limit change and “will consult with Council regarding implementation and timing”.

Between 26,000 and 28,000 vehicles pass through Unley Road each day, according to government data, making it one of Adelaide’s key arterial roads feeding traffic into the CBD from the southern suburbs at peak hour.

But the state-owned road is also a growing residential precinct with dozens of shops, restaurants and cafes, particularly in the area where council requested the lower speed limit.

Pedestrian traffic along the road is also set to increase, with a seven-storey apartment complex approved for 108 Unley Road and a $150 million “Unley Central” apartment, office and shopping precinct slated for the Target store and car park near Unley Shopping Centre.

Unley Mayor Michael Hewitson told InDaily the speed limit cut was a “no-brainer”.

“We need to get our thinking straight on roads and road safety,” he said.

“The speed is not there (on Unley Road) anyway… and I think the businesses are going to benefit.”

Unley Road

Unley Road. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Between 2018 and 2022, there have been 115 crashes on the stretch of Unley Road where the speed will be reduced, according to government crash data.

A DIT spokesperson said: “We are supportive of a speed limit reduction at this location, considering the high pedestrian traffic and significant roadside development, including busy retail shops.”

University of South Australia senior lecturer Dr Andrew Allan said a 50km/h speed limit would reduce the chance of fatal accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

“Anything over 50km/h is usually going to be a serious traffic accident, particularly if you’re talking about vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.

“A problem with Unley Road is they also have kerbside parking.

“Having that sort of potential conflict on a road with a 60 kilometre an hour speed limit is not very sensible.”

Allan, an expert in urban planning and transport, said there were many competing demands on Unley Road and 50km/h would probably still be too high to allow outdoor dining to flourish in the precinct.

“It’s one of those wicked planning problems… because they want that street to do so much,” he said.

“It functions as a shopping street, it provides parking, cyclists want to use that because it’s reasonably direct, and then it’s also serving as a major arterial road as part of the metropolitan road network.

“So it’s got to cater to heavy vehicles, has to cater to buses going up and down and of course your commuter motorists. So it’s expected to carry a lot.”

Unley Council also in January asked for a speed limit cut to 50km/h on a 1km section of Glen Osmond Road between Greenhill and Fullarton Road.

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The DIT spokesperson said further investigations were needed before approving a speed limit change on Glen Osmond Road.

“Glen Osmond Road is an important route to move large traffic volumes every day, particularly between the city and South Eastern Freeway,” the spokesperson said.

“Further investigations, including considering the potential impacts on public transport and traffic flows will be required prior to any speed limit changes.”

Unley Road median strip plan floated

Meanwhile, Unley Council is also pushing to improve traffic flow on Unley Road with a median strip.

Hewitson wrote to Mitcham Mayor Heather Holmes-Ross on April 29 seeking the council’s support for an upgrade of Unley Road “to enable a better flow of traffic from Mitcham to the CBD”.

“A common issue is found when cars are turning right from Unley Road,” Hewitson wrote.

“This causes the right-hand lane of traffic to be blocked, while the left-hand lane is also frequently blocked by parked cars and stationary buses.”

Hewitson cited a Department plan from 2001 to build a median to allow right hand turns in both directions between Cross Road and Greenhill Road.

Unley Road median strip plan

A drawing of the Department’s 2001 plan for a median on Unley Road.

“The construction of a median along this section of Unley Road would not only enable right-hand turns; the planting of trees and landscaping, but it would also highly compliment the lowering of the speed limit which would support the flow of traffic,” he wrote.

Hewitson said the construction of a median was “well received by the Department when they met with our staff”.

“Whilst the point of which roads would be restricted to left-in and left-out only because of a median obviously need to be considered, Council is very supportive of this initiative,” he said.

In his letter dated March 20, Whelan, the Department CEO, said widening Unley Road would not be supported due to the “relatively limited pedestrian space along the corridor”.

But he indicated the Department may be open to the median idea, adding: “The Department notes Council’s intent to consider medians and that approach may facilitate sheltered right run lanes at key intersections, which may require localised adjustments.”

“The Department looks forward to working with Council through the planning and design process to support functional alignment with the broader network.”

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