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Lobby group says city council is ignoring its own safety plan

Oct 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

CAUGHT OUT: A jay walker crosses Manners St between buses. BELOW: A risky mode of travel.

WELLINGTON City Council has been accused of ignoring its own plan to make walking safe in the city.

The council has not implemented its 2008 Walking Policy, says lobby group The City is Ours in a petition to the council signed by 73 people.

They say the bus lanes in the Golden Mile route are unsafe, and ask that the policy be applied to all council projects at the planning stage.

The policy promotes “the safe design of roads and pedestrian routes”, but there have been seven accidents since the new bus lanes came into operation in November.

“Our main concern is about safety,” says The City is Ours president Maria van der Meel.

At a council meeting, Maria presented statements from architect Ian Drysdale saying the 2009 plans to run buses through Manners Mall had incorrect measurements and were misleading to the public.

In its safety audit report of the Golden Mile Restoration Project, Statham Consulting Ltd noted a “SERIOUS safety concern with proposed lane widths (3 x 3.0m) on Willis St”.

Beca Consultants’ report for the council produced earlier this year emphasised safety concerns with the upgrades on Willis St just days before athlete Vanessa Green’s death there in June.

Maria told NewsWire her group thinks Vanessa did not even cross the road, but was clipped by a bus wing mirror.

“Now buses pull in their wing mirrors because of the limited space,” she says.

The Beca report raised concerns about narrow roads, pedestrian safety, and the risk of buses colliding head-on.

Council transport portfolio leader Councillor Andy Foster says the council does not have minimum size requirements for bus lanes:  “They must be big enough to fit a bus of course.”

Walking, cycling, motorcycling and safety portfolio leader Bryan Pepperell:  “I think the biggest enemy to the pedestrians is the pedestrians themselves.

“There is not a lot we can do. There are pedestrian footpaths and crossings. The City is Ours hype things up a bit.”

The council has lowered the speed limit to 30km/hour along the Golden Mile route (Lambton Quay, Willis St, Manners St, Courtenay Place).

They have also created forums for discussing walking issues, such as Living Streets Aotearoa, Safe and Sustainable Transport Reference Group and other advisory groups.

The council has promoted road safety campaigns that focus on pedestrian safety, the most recent being the “look both ways” campaign.

“I think if you’re going to respond in a sensible way to what is going on around you then, yes, it is safe,” says Bryan Pepperell.

The Walking Policy says walking should be given priority over other modes of travel where it is safe and appropriate.

Council travel and safety manager Paul Barker says pedestrian safety has improved along the Golden Mile, but there are places where the council has had to balance out the needs of other road users, as well.

The City is Ours is asking that these safety problems be investigated and has also made a submission to Wellington Regional Council.

The group lost its case in the Environment Court in April last year, when it appealed against the council’s $11 million plan to allow buses in Manners Mall.

The 2008 Walking Policy

The policy aims to:

  1. Promote the benefits of walking and encourage more people to walk.
  2. Improve pedestrian safety throughout the city.
  3. Improve the experience of those walking through or about the Central Area.
  4. Increase the number of commuter trips taken by foot to and from the Central Area.
  5. Improve the experience of those walking to and from public transport stops.
  6. Increase the number of short walking trips to and from Suburban Centres.
  7. Increase the number of short walking trips to and from Educational Centres and the Regional Hospital.
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