18 October 2022

UPDATED: 'Cracked pavements are to seniors what potholes are to drivers': government promises it's working on a fix

| Lottie Twyford
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Emma Davidson sitting in the Legislative Assembly

Seniors Minister Emma Davidson welcomed Ms Lawder’s motion but wouldn’t commit to accelerating a program of footpath maintenance. Photo: Region.

UPDATED 4 pm: The ACT Government won’t be accelerating its program of footpath maintenance, despite calls from the Opposition to do so.

Canberra Liberals spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder has urged the government to make Canberra a safer place for older people.

Her colleague Peter Cain described cracked pavements for seniors as “what potholes are to drivers”.

He said he was repeatedly contacted by his constituents who raised concerns about the state of the footpaths near their homes.

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Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said the government was committed to the Age-Friendly Suburbs Program and its Active Travel Plan.

Through this, funding has been allocated for suburban improvements – including to footpaths, bus stops and local shops – in some suburbs.

“We typically choose the suburbs which have an older population compared to the rest of Canberra,” he said.

He added that the government was focusing on fixing cracks and uneven links following pavement audits that had been completed over the past few years.

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Seniors Minister Emma Davidson this afternoon outlined a number of ways the government was engaging with seniors.

The government today passed a motion agreeing to continue the implementation of the Age-Friendly city plan and the implementation of the Age-Friendly Suburbs Program.

But Ms Lawder said this was just not moving quickly enough.

“[Our footpaths] are not good enough for anyone, let alone our older Canberrans,” she said.

She noted pavement issues impacted parents with prams and people with mobility issues as well.

Cracked footpath

There are cracked footpaths everywhere you look, and that’s a dangerous problem for older Canberrans. Photo: File.

8 am: The ‘dire’ state of the Territory’s footpaths is a risk to older Canberrans who are vulnerable to falls and rely on paths for exercise and mobility.

That’s the message from the ACT Opposition, which will urge the government to speed up its footpath maintenance program as set out in its 2020-24 Age-Friendly City Plan.

The plan outlines how Canberra and its local services will be more accessible for older people in areas such as health, public transport, human rights and planning.

Around 12.5 per cent of Canberrans are aged over 65 and this is expected to increase over the next decade.

Nicole Lawder

Opposition spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder said the city must be accessible to older Canberrans. Photo: Region.

Opposition spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder will today call on the government to accelerate the footpath maintenance component of the plan.

“It’s the basic maintenance components of the [plan] that matter most to older Canberrans which is why I’m calling on the government to accelerate this work,” Ms Lawder said.

“Ensuring that our city is accessible to all should be the highest priority to this government.”

RoadsACT manages around 3000 kilometres of community paths (foot and cycle).

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According to Transport Canberra and City Services 2021-22 annual report, a new accountability indicator was considered to show how many days it takes for footpaths to be repaired once reported via Fix My Street.

It is also reviewed whether to establish an indicator to show the percentage of shared paths in good condition.

Both were rejected and community satisfaction with the maintenance of paths will instead be measured.

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Ms Lawder’s motion also called on the government to implement a raft of initiatives to support Canberra becoming a Dementia-Friendly City.

“It is staggering that the Minister is unable to provide a straight answer as to whether frontline staff such as bus drivers have been given dementia-friendly training,” Ms Lawder said.

“These are simple, low-cost initiatives that can make the world of difference to older Canberrans and prevent future accidents. Many seniors feel ignored by this government and by moving things along faster, we can help improve the quality of life for older people in our community.”

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Earlier this year, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said footpath upgrades were undertaken in a priority-first manner.

“There may be a request from the community that comes on to that list from time to time, and it is ranked accordingly and prioritised for action,” he said.

“We have undertaken a significant amount of work, particularly during the pandemic … to get on and deliver on many of those projects.”

The Canberra Liberals have been calling on the ACT Government to address footpaths in disrepair – and a lack of information about their state – since at least 2013.

In response, ACT Minister for Seniors Emma Davidson said the government was committed to ensuring Canberra was an age and disability-friendly city, and work was underway to achieve that.

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“Government promises it’s working on a fix” – then it needs to work faster. Many footpaths in Ainslie, for example, are in poor condition. Some have white painted arrows on them (indicating a section to be replaced), so the Gov’t should know about them, but the paint is now fading and nothing’s been done, obviously, in years. I don’t believe the Government’s promise.

It’s not just seniors who are affected by uneven footpaths. I tripped and fell hard while out running three months ago and hurt myself badly. The knee that took the greatest impact is still painful and affecting my ability to exercise. I reported the location right away on Fix-my-street but nothing has been done.

You should sue the Government over your injury. My (late) wife tripped and severely twisted her ankle. She eventually got about $65k payout. When things like this happen, take photos of your injury and photos of the footpath, document everything, then go see a lawyer.

I am in agreement with the comments by kenbehrens and hank1908. I live in Watson. Several years ago I tripped and fell on the footpath on Knox St., and was hurt badly enough that I took myself straight to the local Medical practice. Luckily I didn’t sustain any lasting or serious injury. Although I am of an age (69) I am quite fit and have a young (somewhat annoying) attitude to life and growing old.

We have a lovely city and it is sad that the footpaths are maintained better. I guess it is a case of limited resources or the lack of sensible allocation of the available resources. Remember good old Paul Keating? It may be time to tighten our belts again.

What about teams of citizens being trained in Suburban maintenance and instead of watching TV and playing on our devices we could as a Community give Urban services some voluntary assistance, somewhat like Army Reserve corps?

Just saying 🙂

The government isn’t interested in partnering with citizens to manage our city. I tried to clean up a local garden by getting rid of the weeds. Because it wasn’t part of some sort of organised clean up or land care group they would not take away the weeds or provide mulch to cover the cleared area. So hours of work was undone by their lack of care. This government is all about building new and shiny things – but not about maintaining what we already have.

“What about teams of citizens being trained in Suburban maintenance and instead of watching TV and playing on our devices we could as a Community give Urban services some voluntary assistance, somewhat like Army Reserve corps?”

I love this idea but I’d replace community voluntary assistance with minimum security prisoners (obviously excluding violent and sexual offenders) from the AMC.

The deteriorating state of the ACT’s urban footpaths, particularly in Gungahlin, is to be expeted and should come as no surprise if one considers the ACT’s planning policy of maximising the number of dwelling on any given hectare of land…narrow roads (better described as lanes) and most relevant narrow nature strips. Nature strips of less than four metres width with a footpath beside the raodside kerb serve as parking spaces for vehicles. When government planted trees are added to the mix, it becomes a recipe for ongoing maintenance as the tree s grow and the roots uplift concrete pavements.
Clearly a case of the left hand of government being completely ignorant of what the right hand has done and Canberra citizens pay the price.

The ACT Senior’s Minister needs to get out a bit and have a look around before stating that the government was committed to “…..ensuring Canberra was an age and disability-friendly city”.

Minister, maybe grab your walking stick and do the long walk on an uneven footpath, to catch a weekend bus that only turns up every 2 hours. It might enlighten you?

Oh yes please! I was trying to walk on the footpath the other day and even using my cane, I was put off balance numerous times. If I fall, it’s going to be ugly.

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