Tried walking through Banyule lately? You may have found you are a second class citizen. I have taken a vow to walk to my destination when at all possible in my neighbourhood. Altruistic? No. Convenient? Yes. Life threatening? You bet!
Banyule has many wonderful qualities: parklands, great shopping, cafes, libraries, a multitude of activities for families and children. The problem is getting to them all quickly and safely and for the most part, public transport just does not run frequently enough for people to justify standing at a bus stop when they want to make a quick dash to the shops (if you are even close by to a bus line going in the right direction). The other issue is parking – enough said. So, I find it easier to leave the car behind and walk, really, and for the most part this works well but sometimes it is a frightening and fraught experience. Which brings me back to my original question, have you tried walking through Banyule lately? The Age had an article in which the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) called on governments to double the number of trips made by public transport in all major cities in the next decade, triple the number of cycling trips made within 10 years and quadruple the number of walking trips within a decade. http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/public-transport-needs-more-funds-acf-20110427-1dvac.html
Well, people have been advocating for more public transport for years and we are slowly but surely seeing more bike paths and lanes built, sometimes with strong local opposition, but what of the idea of walking? It is free, it is healthy but around Banyule it is also dangerous. I can’t stress enough how frightening it is to walk with a child along Rosanna Rd when truck after truck thunders past and you just know there is no room for era, not a stumble, not a lapse of concentration, not for a second. Yet the back streets, by default of Rosanna Rd, have become just as dangerous.
My first aim when getting out and about is to avoid Rosanna Rd by crossing it and getting onto the back streets. Fortunately I live near a set of pedestrian traffic lights at St James Rd so I can cross there. Unfortunately the traffic lights are designed to expedite the passage of traffic through Banyule and not for the passage of the residents who actually live here. Added to this is the frustrated driver who, already delayed, doesn’t want to stop at a pedestrian crossing so even at what should be a safe spot to cross, you have to contend with cars and trucks racing through the red light. After the traffic finally stops and you are ready to risk the crossing, you need to put on your running shoes as there is then barely time to get across before the lights have changed and drivers roll forward to start off again.
The second hurdle is trying to cross roads that are used by the rat runners. Here I am specifically referring to those who turn off Rosanna Rd at Station St in Heidelberg and then turn into Grove Rd to try and avoid the traffic build up. Residents who live along here have what is now a second thoroughfare, despite the “local traffic only” sign. Just as annoying, and downright dangerous, is the fact that pedestrians just cannot cross at Grove Rd. Whilst heading to the Rosanna precinct last Friday I counted eleven cars that did not give way as I tried to cross Grove Rd going towards Rosanna. Coming home I had the problem of drivers turning left into Station St from Grove Rd who only look right towards Rosanna Rd and have no regard to pedestrians coming from their left. And this was not an isolated experience, it has been happening at this intersection for years and I expect it is happening consistently around other parts of Banyule too. It is these types of issues that make walking around Banyule difficult and dangerous. It appears to me that pedestrians are not considered road users when in fact we are and are entitled to use roads safely and have our space on them too. Cyclists have been rightly complaining about space issues on roads for years. The disregard to other road users by many motorised vehicles who travel through Banyule is obnoxious and dangerous and I think facilitated by the lack of useable local public transport around the municipality and the traffic mess that is evident on many of our roads.
Get people out of their cars, onto bikes, public transport or their feet and much of the problems getting around Banyule disappear. Perhaps it is time we started a revolution by getting out of our cars and walking, demanding that trucks talk alternate routes and that we have better bus routes and timetables through Banyule so people might consider this as an alternative too. The more we walk and raise our experiences of walking black spots with Vic Roads and the local council, the more likely we are of having a chance to get our needs as pedestrians met like safe places to cross busy roads, and we ourselves might just become more considerate of others using the road when we are driving too.
Are there other walking black spots you can name around Banyule? Are there public transport holes you can name that need better service and might get locals out of their cars if they had an alternative? Let me know by posting your comments!