Spoken submission to HCC annual plan 2007 – 2008

I represent Living Streets Hamilton, a branch of Living Streets Aotearoa, and the aim of our network of groups is to promote walking as a first mode of transport for short urban journeys, and to promote the benefits of walking for health, recreation and the good of the environment.

Hamilton City Council was the first local body in New Zealand to sign the International Charter for Walking, and while we congratulate the council on this forward-thinking move, we would like to illustrate today some of the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of walking in Hamilton, and ask that some of these issues be addressed in the coming years.

You have all had the chance to read our written submission and I do not intend to present this material to you again today.

I would instead like the opportunity to show you what we mean.

Under the “Sustainable and Well-planned” section, we mentioned the difficulties facing pedestrians trying to deal with major roads with no safe crossing points or with widely separated crossings that cause unacceptable delays in walking journeys.

There are many of these:

Try Peachgrove Rd at 8.30 on a school morning**. These slides show solid cars heading towards the roundabout. The only official crossing points are at the roundabout itself, and about 400metres further down Peachgrove Rd. As a personal example, this nearly caused my 13-year-old daughter’s demise about ten days ago. I allowed her to persuade me to take unsafe action because she didn’t want to walk the extra 300 metres to the refuge, and we attempted to cross at Claude St. Seemed fine initially but as we got to the centre median, a car stopped right in front of us wanting to turn right into a business driveway. She made an unwise decision that she could get across the remaining lane and failed to perceive another car coming up alongside the waiting one. She missed collision with it by about 5cm. It was so fast that I could do nothing. Near misses like this are commonplace, and will continue to happen in areas that cater so little for pedestrian commuters.

Now take a look at Heaphy Tce near the Boundary Rd roundabout **, also at 8.30 on a school morning. You will note the cars two abreast in single lanes, cyclists forced onto the gutter, and the prospect of crossing the road on foot is daunting to say the least. It is also worth comparing this situation with the same time of day on a school holiday morning**

For this reason we strongly support the Walking School bus scheme. One of the major problems facing the scheme is the difficulty in providing adequate numbers of adult volunteers to run the groups. We believe that community funding may be available for projects such as this, which do not involve actual construction works, via both Land Transport NZ’s “Community Focused Land Transport Activities” funding and possibly also via the Community Road Safety Programme currently administered by the Hamilton City Council. It seems that funding bids for the current year may already have closed and we were, until very recently, unaware of the existence of such funding. We would like to maintain much closer liaison with council to ensure that we can have some input into future funding applications.  In the case of the walking school bus project, it may even be possible to obtain funds to pay the adult supervisors for their time, or to compensate their employers for time spent off the job doing this kind of vital community service.  Living Streets Hamilton would welcome the opportunity to be involved in discussion and planning of future developments that have an impact on pedestrian travel.

Other streets are also inaccessible to pedestrians** There is no safe crossing point anywhere along Victoria St between the Whitiora Bridge and the Beerescourt lights. The intersection with Fairfield Bridge is totally devoid of any provision for pedestrians**.  After the Beerescourt lights, which are very wide and rather intimidating crossings, there is another desert from Forest Lake Rd to the intersection at Spotlight. The only refuge in this four lane horror** has a memorial plaque for someone who was killed there in 1992! I presume the refuge was built in response to this fatality.

Crossing points which are light controlled but in direct competition with vehicles are not easy to illustrate, but almost everyone will have experienced the nasty sensation of having a car appear in front of them as they cross a pedestrian crossing at the lights. This needs addressing.

Dark gloomy underpasses, nasty alleyways and overgrown gully paths are another major reason for non-participation in walking. Theses photos from the Cobham Drive underpass to the gardens should illustrate the point**.  Would you allow your kids to go there alone? Would YOU go there alone?

The “Vibrant and Creative” section also allows the opportunity for some wonderful contrasts around Hamilton. Obviously the Hamilton gardens and the river walkways are a wonderful resource. The main problem is getting to them any way except by car! ** The notorious Cobham Drive approach to the gardens is a case in point. ** Four lanes with high speed traffic and no crossings apart from refuges in the centre.

Within the city centre we also have many contrasts, with areas that are positively repellent to pedestrians because they are bland**(Warehouse wall), featureless Wintec wall)**, intimidating (nasty wall opp warehouse)** or just plain ugly** ( back door of warehouse, Anglesea St) These areas do nothing to attract pedestrian traffic and would seem only to encourage people to get through them as quickly as possible, in their cars, en route to something more salubrious.

We do, however, have better.** Casabella Lane is an oasis in the city** More places like this would bring pedestrians out to savour their city, and could well improve safety in general. My son has just come back from a week working in Melbourne and commented that he felt quite safe on the streets in the evening because there were so many people out walking, enjoying the street theatre and other entertainments available.

To have a “unique Identity” we need a lot more of this** (Casabella Lane) and a lot less of these** (blank walls , four lane deserts, car-riddled residential streets)

Even as it is now, Hamilton has a relatively high number of walkers and cyclists, because it is flat and has a fairly compact city centre. We could easily become the trendsetter for pedestrian friendly, safe communities within New Zealand. Let’s get on with it!

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About Us

Living Streets Aotearoa is the New Zealand organisation for people on foot, promoting walking-friendly communities. We are a nationwide organisation with local branches and affiliates throughout New Zealand.

We want more people walking and enjoying public spaces be they young or old, fast or slow, whether walking, sitting, commuting, shopping, between appointments, or out on the streets for exercise, for leisure or for pleasure.

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