Brunswick Street North is a residential street in the Local Area Place Making (LAPM) precinct of Scotchmer.

Location of Brunswick Street North. Image background: Apple Maps.
Looking north on Brunswick Street North. Image credit: Google Maps.

Rat running

Local residents suffer from a lot of rat running, i.e. through traffic that is attempting to avoid congestion on nearby arterials. This increases noise, pollution and risk for local residents, such as children walking or cycling to school. Rat running occurs when drivers turn right from Holden Street into Brunswick Street North, then drive south along the residential street until joining onto St Georges Road. Local residents have been asking Council to address this issue since 2007.

Timeline of issue. Image credit: Lisa Byrne.

LAPM review

Council conducted a LAPM review of the Scotchmer precinct in 2018, with the final report delivered in early 2019. The LAPM review identified that Brunswick Street North suffers from high traffic volumes and high vehicle speeds, and is one of the top three streets of concern in the area.

LAPM report stating that daily traffic volumes are unacceptable
LAPM report stating that speeds are greater than 40 km/h

The LAPM review map of ‘overall issues’ identified Brunswick Street North as suffering from rat running, as well as bicycle crashes at roundabouts, and pedestrian safety.

Summary of issues for Scotchmer. Image credit: City of Yarra.

Council resolution

Council resolved on 5th March 2019 to:

  • consider slow points on Brunswick Street North, and
  • trial a median strip (or barrier) on Holden Street, to block the rat running.

Council then asked DoT to assess the proposed trial:

Image credit: DoT report

DoT assessment

The DoT delivered their report on the 16th March 2020.

DoT report. Image credit: DoT.

The DoT did not support the proposal, stating that the proposal would create impacts for public transport and delays for the surrounding arterial road network.

Image credit: DoT report

Our assessment is that the DoT report does not reflect the DoT strategic plan or the Movement and Place framework. Preferred Traffic Routes (PTRs) and arterial roads, not residential streets, should carry through traffic. It is entirely possible to design the precinct so that all properties can be accessed, but through traffic is kept to the arterials. The DoT should align with the policy of 20-minute neighbourhoods from the State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and support treatments that keeps traffic on arterials. If congestion on arterials is too high, then the DoT should invest in more public transport and impose demand responsive driving charges, not recommend against treatments that prevent rat running.

Other options

In addition to the median strip on Holden Street, residents propose a range of options to make Brunswick Street North more beautiful and liveable, including:

  • 30 km/h speed limit
  • Closing Brunswick Street North and Rae Street at the Capital City Trail, and expanding parkland
  • Slow points
  • Left-turn only intersections

30 km/h speed limits

30 km/h is a safer speed for all road users, and is supported by Safe System, the core of Victoria’s and Australia’s road safety strategies. The whole LAPM area would benefit from being upgraded to a 30 km/h superblock.

LAPM 3 Scotchmer as a 30 km/h superblock. Image credit: Google Maps, City of Yarra and Streets Alive Yarra.

Closure between the Capital City Trail and Holden Street

The LAPM report identified that Brunswick Street North could be closed between the Capital City Trail and Holden Street, and converted to parkland. However, the LAPM report stated that this treatment was not supported by the 12% of the community who offered feedback to the Stage Three Consultation. This displays poor methodology for community consultation. It is ineffective to ask residents if they are happy to risk vehicular access in exchange for a safer, more pleasant street. This approach places the burden of decision-making risk upon residents. It’s proven to be much more effective to use tactical urbanism to let them experience it, before they are asked for their opinion. In most cases, residents realise that the proposed traffic calming is, on balance, much better than they had expected.

Slow points

Slow points are narrowings in the street which induce drivers to slow down, and were endorsed by Council on 5th March 2019, for inclusion in the 2020/2021 budget. Instead of waiting until then, low cost tactical urbanism techniques could be applied now. Slow points are a recommended treatment in Austroads and Council design guides.

Examples of slow points. Image credit: Austroads guide AGTM08-16 Figure 7.11.

Left-turn only intersection

The majority of through-traffic rat running could be blocked by introducing a left-turn only intersection at an appropriate location on Brunswick Street North, such as at the intersection with Park Street, or the intersection with Scotchmer Street.


Residents propose a treatment to narrow the street as follows:

Proposed slow point on Brunswick St North, looking south from just below Park Street. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra and Google Maps.

The proposal offers the following advantages:

  1. It is low cost to execute, as it involves paint and not installation of street hardware eg bollards, round-a-bouts etc;
  2. It introduces additional parking via the extension of the existing parallel parking on the west side of BSN further north towards Park Street, and conversion of this parallel parking to 60-degree angled parking.  The increased parking should ensure majority support.
  3. It is limited to changes to the street layout within Brunswick Street North;
  4. It is expected to have a beneficial impact on reducing rat running and traffic volumes;
  5. Introduction of bike lanes.  Brunswick Street North is already used extensively by bikes and supports the recent post below by City of Yarra (CoY) which states that CoY wants to looks at ways in which it can make Yarra more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Cost and timelines

The principle of ‘tactical urbanism‘ has been demonstrated around the world, proving that traffic treatments can be applied quickly and for low costs. For example, three ‘slow points’ could be added to the street using planter boxes and paint, within a single day.

Similarly, a trial ‘left-turn only’ treatment could be applied to the intersection with Park Street, quickly and for low cost. Or, a trial closure of both Brunswick Street North and Rae Street at the Capital City Trail.

Local champion

Your local champion for Brunswick Street North is Lisa Byrne – Yarra resident. View all of Streets Alive Yarra’s champions on our supporters page.

I first bought a residential property in Fitzroy North in the late 90s and live in that property with my partner. I also co-own a residential rental property in Richmond which I purchased in the early 2000s. In that time, I have seen both areas grow and change significantly with the growth of the City of Melbourne, the proximity of City of Yarra to public transport, bicycle paths as well as the CBD. I am passionate about seeing the area support appropriate inner city growth while balancing, improving and respecting the safety and livelihoods of those who live in the streets of City of Yarra, with a strong focus on walking and cycling for both adults and children for education, work, sporting activities, dining and cafes, or simply to meet up with friends.

Lisa Byrne