08 December 2016

We're making West Hobart more walkable

A good number of residents attended the community consultation "Walk This Way" on Friday 18 November at Lansdowne Crescent Primary School.  The meeting (and catering, yum) was organised by the Council.  Publicity for the day included alerts via this blog and Facebook, an interview of the keynote speaker on ABC radio, a local interview for The Mercury, and letterboxing of about 600 houses around Hill Street.

Photo:  Matthew Farrell
The passionate keynote speaker, Ben Rossiter, Chief Executive of Victoria Walks, presented views on how walking has been discouraged in Australian suburbs, which rang true for us in West Hobart!  He then gave some impressive examples of how residents and Councils in Victoria have created "walkable" communities.  Below are
- some notes from his presentation
- conclusions drawn on how to create safe crossing points on Hill Street
- next steps for us.

Some notes from Ben Rossiter's presentation

Walkers are the "indicator species" of a healthy community.    People WANT to walk, for health, enjoyment, social interaction, to save money, and often for convenience or by necessity.   But walking has not been valued, we have made it scary and difficult, we have designed our street environments for cars not for people.

As we age, we tend to walk more often, for both recreation and transport.  Our senior citizens know that they are vulnerable to falls, so they are deterred by things like:
    • dogs not on a leash
    • footpaths that are uneven or poorly lit
    • badly designed kerb crossings
    • drivers failing to give way, and fast moving traffic
    • bicycle riders on shared paths riding too fast or behaving erratically
Barriers to children walking or riding to school and playing outside include:
    • road safety concerns of parents
    • traffic volume and speed
    • fear of strangers, and empty streets not offering eyes to watch out for kids
    • the lure of less active hobbies, such as screen time
Infrastructure solutions include:
    • safe and level footpaths on all streets
    • well designed kerb ramps and clear markings at driveway crossings
    • reduction in vehicle speeds
    • reduction in both the complexity and the distance of crossing the road
    • more time to cross
    • reinforce the requirement for vehicles to give way
    • visually and actually narrowing streets to discourage speeding behaviours
Ben showed photos of safe pedestrian priority crossings, including zebra pedestrian crossings.  The crossings are frequently elevated on a raised table - this gives additional visibility to pedestrians and also an extra incentive to drivers to slow down.  Locating these real pedestrian-priority crossings right at intersections reflects pedestrians' "desire lines"  i.e. where the attractive destinations (like shops and cafes) are, and where most people want to cross.

The community can also act to improve things.  It's important to build the number of interesting destinations in the community, and to build community connections via school and neighbourhood activities.   Encouraging walking groups and promoting local walking routes can help people to start walking and to continue enjoying regular walks.  WHEN's West Hobart Walks map is a good start!

Safe crossing points on Hill Street

Council has committed to install two safe crossing points on Hill Street in the current financial year 2016/17.  Residents and schools reps at the workshop came away convinced by the additional data and examples presented that the Council's plans when they are shown to us for more formal consultation should be for
  1. zebra crossings (which give pedestriansa legal priority under our current Road Rules)
  2. located at the two intersections at either end of Lansdowne Crescent
  3. and preferably on raised tables for additional protection
The safe crossing points should be reinforced by a reduced speed limit of 40 kph, at least all along Hill Street if not applied across the whole of our residential community.

Next steps

A coalition of local community groups, schools and businesses have sent a letter to Council outlining and supporting this viewpoint, and urging that the solution for safer crossing points on Hill Street reflect these elements.

If you want to send a similar letter on behalf of your group or business, do contact us via whenvnet@gmail.com, and we'll send you a draft you can make your own.

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