AS we reported yesterday, the NSW government has promised the City of Newcastle $500,000 to trial a 30km/h speed limit, along with "streetscape activations", in Darby Street.
Maitland City Council gets money for seven lanes in the old city centre, while Port Stephens Council can attend to William Street, Raymond Terrace, which runs across Adelaide Street (the old Pacific Highway) past the Big W and down to the Hunter River.
Three projects from the one "Streets as Shared Spaces" policy, but Darby Street differs from the others in terms of traffic flow.
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There is no doubting Darby Street's growth from a small shopping centre opposite the Delaney Hotel in the early 1980s - when most of the restaurant and retail outlet terraces were still rented accommodation - to the familiar "Eat Street" of today.
Ditto for Beaumont Street, Hamilton.
Also subject to calls for a 30km/h limit, Beaumont Street was transformed after the 1989 earthquake from a Mediterranean enclave to today's culinary kaleidoscope.
But both Darby Street and Beaumont Street are important roads, demanding thorough investigations of the pros and cons before any decisions are made.
Any speed cuts can only be trials, for a limited time, and for the shortest section of road possible.
Darby Street is such a key route south out of the CBD that it was once slated for widening to four lanes.
Today, "progressive" planners keep calling for greater public transport use, but few Novocastrians leave their cars at home if they have a choice.
As anyone driving around The Foreshore would attest, driving at 30km/h requires regular braking.
Given Macquarie Street's love of speed cameras, it is not impossible to imagine speeding fines becoming a de facto method of paying for the "shared space" grants that encouraged the speed limits in the first place.
Whatever improvement in amenity the Eat Street operators might hope to gain from the supposedly "pedestrian friendly" conditions could be negated by inconvenience discouraging customers.
The CBD is increasingly a residential area, but it is also a destination for visitors - mostly in cars - and they should be catered for.
Finally, although it might be different this time around, thanks to the East End development, Newcastle's original "shared space", the Hunter Street mall, has never really worked despite decades of tinkering.
READ MORE HERE: Sage Swinton on details of the Darby Street trial
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