FREMANTLE’S historic Proclamation Tree, planted in 1890 but for many years stuck on a traffic island between Adelaide and Parry streets, is set to be returned to the public realm.
Fremantle council’s strategic planning and transport committee has approved a new concept plan to simplify the notoriously confusing road layout, which also includes Queen Victoria Street, described by Mayor Brad Pettitt as “a dog’s breakfast, with roads and slip lanes converging from all angles”.
The as-yet mostly unfunded concept anticipates a wide, open four-way intersection with larger footpaths and added cycle lanes, while aiming to slow down cars entering Fremantle by reducing the width of approaching roads and to “create a more welcoming arrival experience”, according to Dr Pettitt.
“The city’s integrated transport strategy and our newly updated bike plan identify the centre of Fremantle as a low-speed city core where cars, pedestrians and cyclists all share the space,” Dr Pettitt said.
The bike plan shows that the council has had little success attracting pedalled commuters into the city despite an infrastructure spend it likes to brag about, with the number of people cycling to work rising a minuscule 0.2 per cent in the last five years. It’s had more success in inner-city cycling, no doubt assisted by its bike share system, with an increase of 13 per cent over the same period.
The Proclamation Tree, a Moreton Bay fig, was planted at what was once the main entrance to Fremantle by governor William Robinson, commemorating the granting of responsible colonial self-government by the Crown.
Forty years later, first year students from the Fremantle Boy’s School donated and erected a commemorative plaque on the site which still stands today, along with a celtic cross in memory of William Marmion, an early Fremantle politician who “filled with honour many high offices in the state” according to the inscription.
While today the tree is generally bypassed by most cars and pedestrians, more people are expected to move into the precinct according to state member Simone McGurk, who says “anyone who has tried to cross this busy intersection on their bike or on foot knows just how dangerous it can be.”
by JUSTIN STAHL