Roundabouts and intersections

Wray Avenue has been closed down at the west end as the Council put in a new roundabout. It has been nice to have a break from the buses and two way traffic for a bit.

The purpose of the roundabout is to slow traffic down along South Terrace and, for some, to make it easier to get out of Wray Avenue than the current stop sign allows.

I’m not convinced by the idea that it will slow down traffic, at least not by the argument that this is the best, cheapest or only way to achieve it. Part of that comes from the roundabouts easier redistribution of traffic from Wray Avenue and the possible extra traffic this ease will bring.

The Howardians are also concerned that the roundabout will lead to their road becoming a legal throughway (as opposed the the illegal throughway that drivers currently make extensive use of). I’m sympathetic to their concerns.

Foremost in any issues I had with the roundabout, the only issue I really had anyway, was the possible removal of the tree (pictured above) and nearby seat. Thankfully, it looks like these are staying. I’m pretty sure that the plans said that they were but you never can tell with these things.

There was talk about placing some sort of public artwork on the roundabout but, at the local precinct meeting, it failed to garner any consensus. There were disputes about the subject matter, the artist to be commissioned and whether it should even have art on it. I imagine that nothing will happen.

Personally, I’m in favour of the art. Not because it’s a “bold entry statement” but because this is a significant, large and visible part of our public space. Roadways aren’t pretty in anyway, so any attempt to beautify them with trees or artwork is a bonus.

A tree is a bad idea as the roundabout will likely be ripped out in about ten years to accommodate the eventual light rail that will run along South Terrace and possibly up Wray Avenue itself. In that time, a tree won’t have time to establish itself and its demise upon this change will result in a lot of consternation which can easily be avoided.

In pondering the diversity of opinions about the nature of any public artwork I’ve thought of an idea that I think would be rather excellent.

Instead of having an artist (possibly from outside the local area) win the chance to make an artistic statement in one of the most prominent intersections of Fremantle, what should be created is a kind of “artistic space”, like a sculptural blank canvas. Locals could then use the space to make artistic comment.

This has the advantage of changing and evolving over time, reflecting no one person or group’s ideology. As the roundabout is likely only going to be a temporary fixture anyway, this “artistic space” would function in much the same way as derelict buildings attract graffiti This would not be graffiti though as it wouldn’t be derelict space but a space that the community had embraced to invest with their sense of creativity and diversity.

There is enough will and creative energy within the area to ensure that this space became vibrant with quality ideas – anyone walking through the area will know how Robyn from Wild Poppy decorates the space at this intersection, not to mention quality Wray Avenue designers like Madam Bukeshla and Dusty Designs.

I would also like to imagine that the frequently changing space would also cause drivers to slow and observe the space more carefully, achieving the goal that the roundabout is supposed to – calming traffic. I have my doubts that a roundabout in itself will be able to achieve this but with something to cause drivers to be more conscious of their surroundings it may just be possible. A great example of where something similar happens is the Eliza Statue on Mounts Bay Road, Crawley.

Anyway, watch this space – or the space on the roundabout. I think I’ll seek a few people who might give some support in this. If you see it happen, remember that you heard it here first.