Photo Essay - Why kids are in danger just walking to school in Wollongong

Photo Essay

Why kids are in danger just walking to school in Wollongong

By Mithra Cox, Greens candidate for Lord Mayor and Ward 1, Wollongong Council

Every day in Wollongong, kids are risking their lives just walking to school.  Most cities have twice as many kilometres of footpaths as roads; Wollongong has less than half.

Wollongong Council currently has a Draft Pedestrian Plan on exhibition, which acknowledges that more than 80% of trips in Wollongong are made by car — compared with about 50% in other OECD countries. [source: idea.org]

Children in our city are at danger walking to school.  Many streets have no footpaths, even in flat suburbs in close vicinity to a public school.  Many roads near schools have no place to safely cross the road to get to school.

And we don’t have a plan to fix it. The Draft Pedestrian Plan states that "it is unlikely to be feasible to deliver paths across the complete walking catchments of every school in the LGA in the short or even medium term timeframe". We can surely do better than this?!

Look at this family in Bulli -- just 100 m from a school.

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Walking 10,000 steps a day greatly reduces risk of medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — lifestyle diseases that are leading causes of death and ill health, and are on the rise in our society. For most people, just walking to school or the shops each day can achieve a level of physical activity that will really improve health.

If we are serious about the health of our residents, the safety of our children, and cutting our greenhouse gas pollution, we have a duty to provide proper pedestrian infrastructure.

If you don’t have the stress of walking your kids to school each day in an unsafe environment, it can be hard to understand why it’s a problem not having footpaths.  Parents from across Wollongong have sent me photos of their daily walks in an attempt to illustrate how scary this daily experience is.

This street in Corrimal has no footpaths, while bins and power poles are blocking the verge.  Meanwhile, the road is wide, and if planned better it would have plenty of room for a footpath and even a cycleway too.

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This photo from Fairy Meadow demonstrates the problem when you are dependent on wheels — if you have a pram, a wheelchair or a scooter, you get bogged on the grass.  Which leaves mums with newborn babies and toddlers in the middle of the road.  This affects both young and old —anyone who requires wheels to help them get around.

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This next photo shows Cater Street in Coledale, which connects Buttenshaw Drive to Coledale Station.  This family took me on a walk to show me the scary double blind corner, with no footpath or even safe shoulder to the side of the road.  They drive their teenagers to the train to get to school because this road is too unsafe for walking.

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This photo is in Mt Keira, and shows another blind corner with no footpath, and essentially no place to walk except on the road.

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This is Railway Street Corrimal — right near Corrimal station.  There is no safe place to cross to get to the station - in fact there are metal barriers specifically to prevent pedestrians from crossing close to the station, but there is no zebra crossing or lights. What is a pedestrian to do?

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Here in Coniston, while there is a footpath, there’s no ramp to get to street level.  Manageable with a pram perhaps, but a serious barrier for anyone in a wheelchair.

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And what about those unlucky enough to have to walk here, at the foot of the busy Bulli Pass? The fast trucks and cars and bins littering the narrow verge make it very unsafe for kids and adults alike.

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Better footpaths will help everyone, reduce parking and traffic congestion, and will make Wollongong a safer and healthier place. 

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