In afternoon peak, Flemington Road in Parkville is a barely moving quagmire of motorists heading out of the city bound for the Tullamarine Freeway.
Meanwhile trams on routes 55, 57 and 59 get to fly past at their normal pace, thanks to the solid yellow line separating them from the traffic lanes.
On a recent cold and wet Melbourne evening I was onboard a tram travelling north on Flemington Road, when all of a sudden I heard a loud **crunch** from the front of the tram. I opened the window and saw that the traffic outside was moving at walking pace, when a Mercedes with a scratched up front panel passed the tram while tooting their horn. Meanwhile our tram driver left the cab and went back to talk to the driver of the tram behind. After conversing for a bit, he checked for damage at our end, had an unsuccessful attempt to find what we had hit, before we set off on our way.
The tram caught up to the car at the next set of traffic lights, where I saw the damage.
A close up view of the scratched up alloy wheel and front quarter panel.
Not having see the actual car before it was hit, I’m going to assuming the car somehow ended up foul of the solid yellow line along the tram lane, so got cleaned up when our tram came past.
Tram lanes and the law
VicRoads has this to say about the tram priority measures on Flemington Road, between Racecourse Road and Royal Parade:
Tramways were introduced as a new road rule in Victoria on 9 November 2009, as part of the changes to Victoria’s Road Safety Road Rules. Tramways help trams run on time and improving safety and the reliability of public transport.
What does a Tramway look like?
Tramways have overhead signs and raised dividing strips or two yellow lines beside the tram tracks.
How do you drive in a Tramway?
A driver is not allowed to drive in a tramway. If it is necessary, you may drive in a tramway only to avoid an obstacle and without delaying a tram.
Section 79 of the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 also has this to say:
76. Keeping clear of trams travelling in tram lanes etc.
(1) A driver must not move into the path of an approaching tram travelling in a tram lane, or on tram tracks marked along the left side of the tracks by a broken or continuous yellow line parallel to the tracks.
Penalty: 3 penalty units. Note Approaching, left, tram and tram tracks are defined in the dictionary, and tram lane is defined in rule 155.
(2) If a driver is in the path of an approaching tram travelling in a tram lane, or on tram tracks marked along the left side of the tracks by a broken or continuous yellow line parallel to the tracks, the driver must move out of the path of the tram as soon as the driver can do so safely.
Penalty: 3 penalty units.
Unfortunately for tram passengers delayed behind ignorant motorists, the above laws don’t permit Yarra Trams to install bulldozer blades to their fleet to force cars out of the way – all road users still have a responsibility to avoid a collision:
If there is a danger that you might collide with another vehicle or person, you must slow down and stop if necessary to avoid the collision. For example, if a driver at a GIVE WAY sign, a STOP sign or a red light does not give way, the other driver must slow down or stop to avoid a collision. If you have stopped you must remain stopped until it is safe to proceed.