By Kath Gannaway
A NEAR fatal collision with a pedestrian has prompted Yarra Glen businessman John Osborne to call for an urgent review of pedestrian safety in the town.
Mr Osborne, a former Shire of Healesville councillor for Yarra Glen, said there had been three very near misses, to his knowledge, where people have stepped from the median strip onto the Melba Highway and into the path of Melbourne bound traffic.
He said he has even seen vehicles back out of parking bays and pull up in the Melbourne bound lane facing on-coming traffic at the pedestrian lights.
Mr Osborne told the Mail the danger is mostly to visitors to the town who do not realise the roadway (Bell Street) is a dual carriageway.
“People crossing from the shopping strip on the east side of the town cross the service road, mistakenly believing it to be the Melbourne bound lane of a divided highway.
“When they step off the median, they look to the left for traffic coming from Melbourne but don’t look to their right,” he said.
Mr Osborne said his personal experience of potentially fatal incidents on two occasions has convinced him it is only a matter of time before someone is injured or killed.
On a Friday night about a year ago, Mr Osborne said he nearly killed a man who was crossing opposite the Grand Hotel.
“He had stopped to get takeaway food and was crossing the road taking food to his mates in front of the Grand (Hotel). He stepped straight out in front of me. I was doing 30 or 40 and had time to swerve and brake,” Mr Osborne said.
He said he missed the man by inches which may not have been the case had he been doing the legal 60kmh limit and he is calling for a reduction of the speed limit through the town to 50kmh.
Another incident three weeks ago confirmed Mr Osborne’s belief that his ordeal was not an isolated incident.
“It was the same thing; someone stepped onto the highway, didn’t look right because they didn’t think they had to and if it hadn’t been for his friend pulling him back by the jumper he would almost certainly have been killed.
Mr Osborne spoke with each of the unsuspecting victims after each incident and was told they believed they had already crossed the Melbourne bound lane.
Mr Osborne said the design of Bell Street took place before he came onto Healesville Council but it was his understanding the layout was only ever supposed to be temporary.
“I was on council when it was opened and VicRoads said at that time it would be revised when the by-pass was built.
“It’s dangerous but what makes it worse is that for motorists coming in from Melbourne the highway is divided (by a median strip) at the Vasey Houghton Bridge, into two lanes, then goes back into a single lane again.
“It creates the thought in people’s minds that the road is a divided highway.” Mr Osborne said, ideally, people should use the pedestrian lights.
“Unfortunately, they don’t and I believe this can’t wait for the by-pass. It needs urgent action both to address the delusion of a divided highway and to lower the speed limit.”
No comment was available from VicRoads at the time of going to press.
By Kath Gannaway