traffic

A happy ending - John's Story

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In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Melbourne University held a 'Prosh' every two or three years. The 'Prosh' was a procession of floats and crazy students down the centre of Swanston Street in August at the end of second term. Each uni faculty designed a theme for the procession, which took about an hour before crossing Princes Bridge and celebrating in the Alexandra Gardens. Amazing, these days, to think of the massive disruption to Swanston St and cross street traffic that would have ensued, simply for shoppers and lunchtime office workers to be bombarded with flour bombs from the engineering students on impossibly unsafe mechanical conveyances.

Our Commerce faculty decided it would have a look-alike Queen and Duke of Edinburgh wave regally to the crowds from the back of an open Land Rover. The royal couple was preceded by a ‘cop’ motorbike outrider. The cop was me. I rented a policeman’s uniform, complete with helmet and accurate copy of the police badge on the helmet, from a fancy-wear hire shop in Bridge Rd, Richmond, just around the corner from Hoddle St.

After the Alexandra Garden revelries I motored north along Hoddle St to approach Bridge Rd. Even then the traffic was heavy late on the Friday afternoon. The Triumph motorbike that I had borrowed was still coughing and spluttering from its overheating while crawling down Swanston St earlier in the day.

There was a cop on point duty at the Bridge Rd intersection. As the columns of vehicles approached up the hill the policeman turned his back to us and waved at the oncoming Hoddle St traffic to stop at Bridge Rd. The phalanx I was part of slowed in anticipation of the constable about to turn around and wave us to stop. “Damn!” I thought, “this might prove expensive…”  I was driving an unregistered motorbike with no plate on either the front or rear wheel, the bike was unroadworthy because the brakes were faulty and I had no licence to drive motorbikes. I might also have been over the alcohol limit, if they had one in those days, but without instruments to test blood alcohol levels the tests were to walk a straight line and to find your name in the telephone book in less than a minute.

I was in the outside lane, signaling with my outstretched arm that I intended to turn right into Bridge Rd (there were no turning indicators on bikes then). As the policeman raised his hand to stop our vehicles he looked a bit more closely at me as I approached. To everyone’s surprise, he then waved the northbound traffic to continue to move on quickly, glanced over his shoulder to ensure that all the southbound traffic had indeed stopped, and then gave me a generously large wave and a brotherly smile to indicate that I could proceed unimpeded through the intersection.

I had to laugh as I spluttered through, hugely embarrassed, waving my thanks and thinking, “These policemen really are nice people!”

Prahran People - Imogen's Story

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We were Prahran People. Every outing was a chance to traverse that great road, whether to join the Fitzroy folk, or sashay with St Kilda souls. We had a pint on punt, sometimes at the Pint on Punt, sometimes at someone’s home on Punt, then launched into the car. The shortest, lightest person was chosen to lie across the back seat people, like a seatbelt.

We chose the new girl to be the seatbelt. No better way to breakdown boundaries. We were too young for common sense. 

“What’s with the boa?” I asked, not sure if I liked her. She was a newcomer. She was someone’s housemate, or someone met her in a Richmond squat, in the bar, at uni or somewhere else. She was just someone who was invited. 

Whether in our own car, or someone else’s, whether we fell out of a cab or were thrown out, every trip down, up or across Punt Rd was an adventure. And every adventure began and ended with Punt Rd, because we were Prahran people.

We only went out at night, so the traffic problem was a party. Could a car ride be more fun than a destination? We chose our favourite music and touched up our lipstick. The back seaters toasted the passenger filled vehicles in the next lane with their Sub Zeros or Carlton Draughts. (Our favourite drinks in the nineties.) 

The girl with the feather boa seemed happy enough. 

We sang as we reached the other side

“Hoddle, Hoddle, Hoddle,” we chorused, huddled like backing singers around an old fashioned microphone on a radio show. We held the feather boa like a microphone. Why? Because at that moment, on a Saturday night, we were our most exuberant, uninhibited selves. It was ritual as we crossed to the other side. The girl with the feather boa joined our car song.

We went somewhere, drank, danced, enjoyed, then looked for our beacon boa. 

Homeward bound again. Strangers at the beginning of Punt Rd could become friends or lovers, on the way back. 

Quieter now, we crossed the river (where a punt once floated) to reach the hill. The Punt Rd hill, our beacon of home at the end of another perfect Melbourne night out.

Potential disaster - Ruth's Story

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I recall with horror my first attempt to drive a mini bus up Punt Road Hill toward St Kilda when the power brakes refused to engage. I had no idea how to prevent the bus from gradually retreating backwards. My cargo, a group of newly arrived Cambodian refugees relaxed after a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. My head filled with graphic images of the horrific circumstances these young parents and their preschool children had fled only to drown in Melbourne's Yarra River. 

Thankfully, after what seemed like an eternity, the traffic slowly began to move and my vehicle moved forward. Whoops, a potential disaster diverted!

A charismatic tram driver - Lisa's Story

Back in the early 2000s I was on a tram travelling down Victoria Street. The tram was at the intersection of Punt Road/Hoddle Street travelling east to Richmond waiting for a signal to cross that notorious intersection. A number of cars had blocked the intersection so, much to everyone's surprise, the tram driver got on the public announcement system, which could be heard externally, and charismatically said to the congested traffic, 'Now, how am I supposed to get through there?' A very fond memory in Melbourne traffic.

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Happy here - Nga's Story

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I’ve been in Melbourne for 31 years. I live in Richmond, but I work here at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House for 10 years.

I come here by car because I work with cooking so I need to travel by car. Sometimes it’s very busy, after work, heading back home. But in the morning it’s very good and fresh. I arrive at work and no problems. After 5 or 6pm is not a good time. That’s the busy time on weekdays. But weekends are beautiful, quiet. Except when the football is on.

The park is good here. I think if they do more park for children to play more people like to come. A family thing. We have a park over here. Behind here. We use it for festivals. A little bit not security, because the people living here are all drinking.

We do a shop every day on Victoria Street and I live close to there. Victoria Street is smaller. This one is a big one, so very happy, for cars. Over there, the community stays closer. We need more space – no more cars but more space. For parks.

I tried the train but I’m not good at the bus. I don’t know where they take us to. I used to do the train before I was driving. So easy for me and quick. Public transport is the best here in Melbourne. Especially in Richmond, we have everything.

I work with the elderly and they use maybe the bus more on Hoddle Street. And then tram and train. I think they’re happy with that. The only thing is the rough people, the drug dealers, they’re around here too much. So if we can solve that, it’s beautiful living here. The elderly people here, my community, they’re happy here. Everything here, the shops here, the people here.

Scary - Halima's Story

My name’s Halima and I live in Richmond. I come to Collingwood Neighbourhood House sometimes – once or twice a week. I'm originally from Ethiopia. I've been in Melbourne for nearly 30 years.

Hoddle St is busy to drive where you want to go. I don’t use it often. I use a shortcut. There's too much traffic and the road is big, so I’m scared to enter sometimes. I’m scared of lots of cars and buses. I stick to the one side where I need to go. And still I’m scared.

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Traffic strategies - Kaukau's Story

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Hoddle St is a very, very busy street. I accept that fact that it is a very busy street, and you’ve got a lot of people plowing into it. I noticed this morning when I drove here, 'Whoa! This place is absolutely packed.' So I actually got off it. I ended up on Smith St.

You’ve got three or four lanes at any one given time. Peak hour traffic is just hectic. So I must admit I try to avoid this road during peak hour traffic. I will leave at the latest by quarter to five, because that way you get a perfect run along Hoddle St. And I tend to avoid Punt Rd, full stop. Unless I absolutely must travel down there. It’s a busy road, it’s Melbourne, it’s a city. I accept that fact.

It’s also the gateway from the Eastern Freeway, so you have so much traffic plowing in from the eastern suburbs. This place just gets hectic. But I have learnt to navigate: which lanes to jump into, at what part. At certain sections you know to jump into certain lanes, because some will slow down, some will speed up. At certain times it changes. 

Even if you’re getting onto the Eastern, you avoid like hell the two lefthand lanes until the last minute. People just accept the fact that somebody’s going to cut across, they do. There’s that road rage sort of thing but, for the most part, people are quite accepting to allow traffic to cut in.

I had a massive accident a year ago. But I’ve never broken down along Hoddle St or Punt Rd. I would hate to be that person. Once there’s an accident, it throws everything out. All your natural cues, everything is thrown. It’s like when you allow an emergency vehicle through. I’ve noticed that people just won’t move sometimes – peak hour traffic, but there’s nowhere to move anyway. But, even if there is, they’re more inclined to hold their little space.

I have a tendency to feel that, in a car, you’re quite isolated. And it’s quite different to cycling. In fact I try to stay off the road if I’m on a bicycle. Because drivers aren’t so friendly to the cyclists. So I get on the footpaths. 

Crossing Hoddle St, I don’t like to do it. It’s really busy, so I try to avoid crossing. Johnston St, in Abbotsford, I really don’t know what’s down there. I’ve got a vague idea, but I avoid going over there. Purely because it’s so busy and I’ll know I have to wait.

I haven’t used the footbridge in a long time. I think the last time I crossed that bridge was when I used to catch public transport. It’s a rare occasion. When all you see is traffic you think, 'Nah I don’t want to go out there.' Especially when I know I need to drive out into it. Just getting onto Johnston St to get onto Hoddle St, oh my gosh, that can be… If you don’t time it well, after 4 o’clock, even five minutes to, they change the signals so you can’t turn right. So you’ve got to time it or you’ve got to go through Collingwood, through the residential areas, and then make your way down to one of the other streets. If I miss those lights, I have to go down to Victoria St. So you’ve got to make sure you time it. 

I’m one of those people who takes the back roads. I get lost a lot.

Collingwood College - Liria's Story

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I’ve gone from Clifton Hill all the way to St Kilda. The longest trip, I reckon an hour and a half, thank you very much. Traffic, bumper to bumper. I have a girlfriend who lives in St Kilda and Punt Rd, I live in Balwyn, so it’s straight down the freeway, get off and just go straight down. But, too busy. Especially around Richmond way – Swan St, Bridge Rd – it just drags a bit. So it takes a long time. And it’s the traffic. However, let me tell you, it’s still a lovely drive down. Because you’re driving along and you look at Richmond Oval and the gentlemen’s, you know, buildings that are there for gentlemen’s pleasure. You go past the train station. And it changes geographically all the way.

Which is my favourite part of Hoddle/Punt? I think I like it from Queens Pde to just past Richmond. And then it becomes a bit sparse, a bit quieter, it turns a little bit. It’s a strange street, isn’t it?

The road represents a lot. We lived in the area. I was born there in 1958. I went to George Street Primary School. And we used to go to Smith St – it was such a big thing, Smith St in those days. Which is great to see that it’s got the same sort of life now. It’s really buzzing. Hoddle St was always one of the major thoroughfares, always has been. It is a lot busier now though, more cars on the road, but it’s still a good street. And it’s an interesting street: you have little trees, the houses, and there are some shops that don’t seem to be utilised, they’re closed as shopfronts.

I've always driven down Hoddle St. Because for me to go to the city – in 1965 we moved to Balwyn so that’s always been the route that we used. Johnston St/Hoddle St or Freeway/Hoddle St. Because you go straight up to Victoria Pde and then turn to go into the city. And even now when I’m coming back from the city, from the football, from a city thing, I don’t mind Hoddle St. I know it’s busy, but you don’t mind it because you know there are petrol stations if you need. It’s familiar territory.

When I travel down Johnston St every day, it’s interesting the different pockets. When I go past Kew Junction, then up to Raheen, I always look at it and drool and think, 'When can I ever go in there?' And then when you go over the bridge, then it changes, then you see all the shops that are closed and not closed, and it’s busy and it’s older, much older. I always get into the turning lane just before Hoddle St and there’s a Persian rug place, a cafe… Even the pub on Johnston St, there’s nowhere to park. Then you turn into Hoddle and I always think, ‘Now I’m looking at the other side of the city.' It’s almost like, this is now really inner city. It sort of changes it a bit. And that’s why it surprises me sometimes when students from Collingwood College, or this area, are accepted by Kew High School. Because I think how far is Kew High School? We miss out on a lot of students here because Kew wants to keep their numbers up and take them out of their zone. Where we should be having kids in this area, they’re getting on a bus and going out. I think that’s really interesting because this is where they should be. Which is a beautiful old building and a big school.

I'm not exactly sure how old Collingwood College is but I’m sure it’s over 50 years old. It’s an enigma. An amazing school with two ovals and two gymnasiums. Someone said to me there was a Labor minister in the ‘70s who said, 'And why shouldn’t public schools have these kinds of facilities? We don’t leave them just for the private schools.' And so they’ve done that. It’s a huge school. And we can actually have 1200 students here. We don’t, we have nearly 700, but we should have more students, but they are being taken to other schools, to fill their classrooms.

The one thing I grew up with, always on Hoddle St, is the familiar sight of the housing estates. Because that’s part of it. That does something to the area. Sometimes people don’t choose the school because we have the housing estate next door and they seem to have an attitude, or a misconception of what our students would be like. Everyone deserves an education is what I say to the kids and, in fact, when I left Balwyn, teachers where I was teaching in a very elite school were really shocked that I was going to Collingwood College. And students said to me, 'You’ll be stabbed and killed.'

And when I came here, some of the students said, 'Why would you leave that sort of school to come here to us?' And I said, 'What’s wrong with you? You guys are great.' So I’ve actually gone into some of the kids’ homes and had afternoon tea or whatever when I get invited. It does attract some people who do have issues, but there are lovely families there and they’ve renovated some of the rooms and they’re great. And some of the kids are really happy. Happy to be in this school, happy to be there. It’s not a stigma. It’s just public perception.

I think developers think, god, prime real estate. When they were erected years ago… Dad came in 1949, he bought straight in Fitzroy. He left Albania when the Iron Curtain came down. He lived two years in Italy, learned to speak beautiful Italian, lived two years in Greece, learned to speak Greek. And came to Australia in 1949. So he worked on the Snowy River Project and worked in QLD on the sugarcane fields.

We all have a real love of this area, but we left when we were 5 or 6. He wanted to go out a bit. But if I had my choice of where to live, I would have said Gore St, Fitzroy. One of those beautiful terrace houses. Absolutely lovely. And even though Hoddle St is busy, well, the freeway is busy, everywhere’s busy. Try going down Swan St or Bridge Rd. So for us, when we come out of the city, it’s just quick. Go down Grey St, cut through East Melbourne and just come straight onto Hoddle St. It’s the main thoroughfare, isn’t it?