Alexander Street traffic analysis

A traffic study on Alexander Street was conducted in order to determine the volume and nature of traffic in the street. The study was designed to look at three modes of travel: car, bicycle and walking. I took note of how fast they were going, how long they spent in the street, which direction they came from and whether they were arriving, departing or passing through. I conducted these observations across 6 periods of study: morning peak, midday, evening peak, night time, weekend morning and weekend evening.

Alexander Street is subject to very low traffic conditions throughout the day, with the morning peak period experiencing the highest volume of traffic and night time the lowest.

The diagram below depicts the observed volumes of traffic for each hour period, making note of whether they were arriving, departing or passing through, and the direction in which they travelled.

20140930 alexander street traffic #1

The following diagram shows the average amount of time each mode of transport spent in Alexander Street and the speed at which they travelled. There was very little observed difference in this data across the 6 observation periods.

20140930 alexander street traffic #2

Traffic conclusions

Given the low volume of through traffic recorded, it is clear that Alexander Street is used primarily by its residents. The through traffic that does exist is due to northbound traffic from Gold Street that uses Alexander Street to avoid the intersection with Alexandra Parade. Cars who intend to head west on Alexandra Parade will use the Alexandra Parade slip lane at the end of Alexander Street in order to avoid the traffic lights on Gold Street. Gold Street can get quite busy, hence it makes sense to rat run through Alexander Street. Note that the adjacent Ballarat Street has been closed off to prevent this from occurring (see diagram below).

20140930 alexander street traffic #3

One option to reduce traffic to Alexander Street further would be to block access to the Alexandra Parade slip lane as has been done to Ballarat Street. Alternatively, I could introduce a shared traffic space heading north to make it less enticing as a thoroughfare. This approach could easily be extended to Forest and Bendigo Streets to the west, to prevent adverse traffic conditions in those streets.

Image sources

  1. Street traffic data, this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. Average time spent.
  3. Rat run diagram.

Alexander Street

Street analysis

The part of the Langridge Ward within the City of Yarra which I have visited is bounded by Hoddle Street to the east, Victoria Street to the south, Wellington Street to the west and the Eastern Freeway / Alexandra Parade to the north. It contains a mix of residential typologies, with commercial and retail typologies along Johnston Street and a broad variety of industrial uses.

20140915 alexander street #1

The most common street typology featured a 12m wide road surface and 2m wide footpaths, with either parallel parking on both sides or a combination of parallel and diagonal parking.

20140915 alexander street #2
Typical street

The industrial street typology featured a one way 7m wide road surface and 1.5m wide footpaths, with parallel parking on one side and, depending on the land use, off street parking.

20140915 alexander street #3
Typical industrial street

Street selection

20140915 alexander street #4

20140915 alexander street #5

Alexander Street has been selected for its relative tranquil atmosphere, a particularly quality given its proximity to both Hoddle Street and the Eastern Dreeway. It is somewhat unique, with a 22m fence to fence street width, which would be better suited to a more publicly oriented and less car dominated street. The northern end of the street terminates at a service lane connecting Hoddle Street to Alexandra Parade, which could potentially be manipulated to close off the street or permit one way traffic. Either scenario would greatly change the type of traffic entering the street. There is also a public park in a council-owned residential allotment in the middle of the street which is frequented by many of the residents. This indicates a desire for public recreational space among the community. For this reason Alexander Street will present the ideal location for my Streets Without Cars development project.

Vegetation mapping

In mapping the Langridge Ward, we researched and documented the location of public green space and street vegetation. The vegetation map below shows the public green space across the ward and corresponding usage and street trees.

20140915 alexander street #6


  • Mature trees occur in well presented streets, perhaps due to a City of Yarra scheme that allocates funding towards maintenance of heritage listed mature trees.
  • Mature trees occur more frequently in wider streets. This is likely due to the selection of smaller trees in narrow streets which minimise property damage caused by tree roots.
  • The City of Yarra uses different species of trees in order to differentiate parts of the city, industrial, residential and commission housing.
  • We also noticed there was a distinct trend in the number of trees per block depending on the land use.

Number of trees per block (block = 5000sqm)
Industrial blocks = 3 trees
Main roads = 20 trees
Residential blocks =- 40 trees
Commission housing = 60 trees
Parks = 40 – 120 trees

Image sources

  1. Langridge Ward map, this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. Typical street.
  3. Typical industrial street.
  4. Alexander Street.
  5. Street selection.
  6. Vegetation map.

Evolution of American playgrounds

In the United States of America, facilitation of play has been a public responsibility for the entirety of the 20th century. In the Streets Without Cars studio, will establish the need for play space within the public domain, hence it is important to understand the discourse behind playgrounds and the drivers that allow for their creation.

20140826 playgrounds #1

There have been proven developmental and social benefits associated with childhood play, best represented in the United States by public playgrounds.[1] However, politicians and policy makers were not always interested in this, with playgrounds originally constructed as a necessary public safety measure.

At the turn of last century, progressive liberal reformers in line with Theodore Roosevelt and New York mayor, Seth Low, acknowledged the need for publicly funded outlets for poorer children to access education, health services and daycare. This resulted in the construction of schools and settlement houses.[2] Settlement houses were converted properties run by middle class volunteers as a form of daycare for children of the working families of the tenements. The play spaces these houses included were fenced off green spaces sometimes featuring a sand pit and swing set. The settlement houses were designed to keep children safe and out of trouble.

However it was established by 1901 that there were far too many children playing on the streets, causing high youth delinquency, an increased number of play-related car accidents, and a public nuisance.

A study conducted in New York City in 1901 revealed that there were 183 minors killed in moving vehicle related accidents, an additional 381 incidents were reported where the child survived. This tendency had led three years previously to the establishment of a group run by New York settlement house workers, the Outdoor Recreation League, which had already opened 9 privately owned playgrounds. In 1902, the city acquired all of them. Later that year, Seward Park became the first publicly commissioned play ground in New York. Key features of the park included an athletics space for boys, children’s play area with swings and sandpit for girls and younger children, green space, and public baths. The park was well received with over 20,000 people attending the opening ceremony.[3]

20140826 playgrounds #2

20140826 playgrounds #3

After World War I there was very little improvement in play spaces, however more playgrounds continued to be built following the playground typologies seen at Seward Park:[4]

Athletic fields
For boys over 14
Competitive track and field sports
Lockers and toilets

Baseball fields
Maintained lawn
Screening of danger zone and bleachers

Boys playground
For boys under 14
Space for ball games

Girls playground
Same as boys
Sand pit
More open space for free games

In the 1930s, Carl Theodor Sorensen, a Danish landscape architect, thought of providing scrap materials to children to create their own environment as a new form of play. The first playground following this philosophy was opened in Denmark in 1943. The first junk playground was opened in the United States during the 1970s in Huntington Beach, California. This was a significant step towards establishing the importance of free play, where children were able to design their own environment. By this point there was an awareness of the relationship between play and learning, with the purpose of playgrounds no longer a response to the outmoded idea of children as public nuisance.[5]

However, through a history of regulations for playground safety, such as policies to regulate the speed of merry-go-rounds, swing safety harnesses and rubberized play surfaces, we see less adventurous play facilities emerging. Parents are also taking a more hands-on role in directing children how to play, removing the learning and developmental benefits of play in the process.[6]

20140826 playgrounds #4

In 2010, the Rockwell Group completed the Imagination Playground in New York. This playground differs from typical playground design thanks to the assortment of proprietary Rockwell Blocks made available throughout the playspace. These large foam blocks were designed to maximise design options for children to construct their own environment. They mimic the flexibility of the junk playground without requiring the space and insurance premiums that go with it. Other facilities within the playground are intended to be used in conjunction with the Rockwell Blocks: water, sand an timber climbing frames to name a few.[7]

While the limited flexibility of the 15 standard Rockwell Blocks does not provide the same free play experience as the junk playground, the designer of the blocks, David Rockwell, also identifies the necessity for parents to limit their controlling role in their children’s play. Carers within the Imagination Playground are thereby instructed to ensure parents leave their children alone to play as they please. The key innovation of this project is that it recognises the difficulty of designing a playground to freely stimulate children. It is in fact the children’s ability to reshape and construct their own environment that ensures the success of a play space.

20140826 playgrounds #6

20140826 playgrounds #5

20140826 playgrounds #7


  1. Interview with Joe Frost; What’s wrong with America’s playgrounds; American Journal of Play; 2008.
  2. Seward Park history; NYC Parks.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Playgrounds in parksNYC Parks.
  5. Kurt Kohlstedt; Urban Adventure Playgrounds: Cool Places Too Few Kids PlayWeb Urbanist.
  6. Hannah Rosin; The Overprotected Kid; The Atlantic; March 2014.
  7. Rebecca Mead; The State of Play; The New Yorker; July 2010.

Images sources

  1. Benefits of play, author’s own image.
  2. Seward Park site plan, copyright Harvard University. Image sourced from Harvard Art Museums.
  3. Seward Park pavilion, copyright Harvard University. Image sourced from Harvard Art Museums.
  4. Imagination Playground #1, copyright Rockwell Group.
  5. Imagination Playground #2, copyright Rockwell Group.
  6. Imagination Playground #3, copyright Rockwell Group.
  7. Imagination Playground $4, copyright Rockwell Group.