22 January 2024

Why town planners and developers should roll with me on Canberra's mean streets

| Lisa Mullins
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Hedge clippings on a footpath

You might see just some cuttings on a footpath; for someone with mobility issues, it’s a landmine. Photo: Lisa Mullins.

Many moons ago, when I was working for a big regional newspaper, I hopped in a wheelchair to experience the city’s uneven footpaths and too-steep ramps from a different perspective.

I was joined by a cheerful chap from the Australian Quadriplegic Association, who took me to a range of blackspots at the post office, the supermarket and other outlets we all frequent.

At one particularly perilous supermarket car park, my chair made like a rollercoaster.

It tipped and almost flipped so – naturally – I stood up.

Several good Samaritans who ran to help stood slacked-jawed in disbelief.

My companion had a keen sense of humour.

“My wife!” he yelled. “She’s been saved! It’s a miracle!”

The bystanders shuffled off, no doubt expecting that bumpy Woolies car park to be declared a holy site.

I doubled over with laughter before righting my chair and continuing to learn firsthand how difficult it is to navigate through the simplest chores when your mobility is impacted.

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I was reminded of this when an unexpected medical appointment saw me ride my less-than-optimal knee scooter from the Kingston foreshore to old Kingo.

While it’s true my hired knee scooter lacks comfort and suspension (and brakes, as I found out when heading downhill), the myriad uneven surfaces and debris en route made this journey a nightmare.

After diverting to avoid a very bumpy and dangerous stretch of footpath, I even had to travel for a short distance on the road to access a little concrete ramp up onto another footpath.

And pavers? Don’t get me started.

Next time you strut around Green Square in your smirky, able-bodied way, note how the pavers rise and dip like waves.

The bumps are not easy to see, but you certainly feel them when you suddenly start toppling.

And why do so many driveways have concrete pavers or patterned concrete? Every bump and groove makes life hard for anyone on wheels … it’s especially irksome when it’s just for looks.

Give us a nice smooth surface. Please.

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Apart from the hazards of constantly changing and challenging surfaces, surely some rule – prescribed or moral – compels people to remove debris after trimming a hedge rather than leaving twigs and leaves all over the footpath?

I’ll be back on my feet in five weeks, but the lessons from my brief periods of reduced mobility will stay with me.

It’s not a bad thing to have to struggle to carry out simple chores. Too many of us take mobility for granted.

Town planners and developers would do well to travel a mile with mobility issues.

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Suggest the author have a good look at Corinna Street in Woden Town Centre if looking for an unfriendly streetscape. Makes a mockery of the whole Active Travel policy being espoused and has resulted in people being at each other’s throats.

Car parks taken for A bike path i have never seen a bike on , can we throw some extra traffic lights in

And bus drivers refusing to service the street, removing a handy option for the less mobile to have “at level” access to transport after doing the shopping and chemist warehouse collections

So I live in a street with NO FOOTPATHS either side of the street. I have a large gum tree (that isn’t mine… it’s the governments even though I have to clean up a HUUUUGE amount bark, twigs and leaves that come off it every year), I have a nature strip that I have to water, feed and mow and I have what would be considered to be a large garden under the tree (because I have long ago given up getting stuff to grow under it!)… and I will keep it ALL because I don’t care WHO goes past my property and pays me NOTHING for the privilege….. and because I like it…!

As an Inner South resident I despise the way that rich homeowners with their giant hedges can’t be bothered caring for them properly. In my opinion, if you let your hedge grow over the footpath, or leave debris all around as this article mentions, or otherwise interfere with people who need to use public property, city rangers should come in and just cut down your hedge permanently.

ChrisinTurner5:48 pm 24 Jan 24

Don’t forget the streets that have no footpaths, on either side, and gardens that cover the entire nature strip.

Geoff Jenkins9:07 am 24 Jan 24

Just maybe somebody should make stencils with Fix My Street on it and issue them to area communities so when they see a dangerous area of footpaths they could spray a red stencil indicating the danger, just imagine what it would do to the economy with the boosting of red spray paint can sales in Canberra

My wife and I often walk around our lovely Deakin neighbourhood and laugh at the huge houses with regular gardeners who keep the entire formal garden in pristine condition, but then the inner south owners obviously can’t afford an extra $20 to get their gardeners to trim the hedge from growing half over the footpath.

Quite needy. Find some help or get a better mobility device. It’s not the general population’s responsibility to take care of the ever need of every minority group.

Jessica Tattersall5:52 pm 24 Jan 24

“Quite needy” and “find some help” are pretty rough comments – surely people who live in one of the most densely populated suburbs of Australia’s capital city should be able to get to the shops on a scooter or wheelchair without needing extra support. Hopefully you are lucky enough to never have to experience the same – I doubt that though.

Not a Paul asking to be addressed as ‘Pauly’. Quite need, I’m afraid.

Felix the Cat12:31 pm 29 Jan 24

“Get a better mobility device”. I’m sure all the disabled people who currently get around in wheelchair will just run down to Mobility Matters and pick up their new motorised mobility scooter once you send them a cheque each for $5K.
Not that a motorised mobility scooter is the one-size-fits-all solution for mobility.
Apart from the cost factor, some areas won’t fit a mobility scooter or the area is too rough or there are stairs.
Also, you can’t just fold them up and pop them in your backpack when you aren’t using them.
Not only disabled people require clear footpaths, it’s parents with prams, kids on skateboards and and cyclists as well.
Also popular are the e-scooters where most of them have small wheels requiring a fairly even surface to ride on and preferably no overhanging foliage to slap riders in the face (or knock them off) as they ride past.

kaleen_calous3:28 pm 23 Jan 24

I really feel for those people who use wheelchairs because in many parts of Canberra footpaths are barely navigable for those getting around on two legs! The footpaths along parts of Maribyrnong Avenue in Kaleen are not for the faint hearted pedestrian let alone for wheelchair users.

An important part of a functioning city is reducing barriers to participation including physical access.

But what does maintenance of public infrastructure and residents’ responsibilities for overgrowing plants have to do with town planners and/or developers specifically?

The footpath pictured is twice as wide as many in inner Canberra and probably has a ramp to the road too – can we have those in older parts of Canberra please! Many of our shared paths have no ramp to the road. People with prams or on e scooters can hit a vertical kerb with nasty results. If you are in a wheelchair or mobility scooter same problems. Narrow paths with no raps are plain dangerous so why does the government ignore pleas to bring them up to standard?

Geoff Jenkins1:55 pm 23 Jan 24

What an appropriate time to have this article in the paper as on Monday the 22/01/24 we had Marisa Paterson MP visit our suburb in Stirling trying to help get a footpath installed connecting Wittenoom Crescent to the existing Weston Creek footpath system, this is possibly the only street that is not connected to the path system in Canberra and now that we have a several disabled in or moving into the area and that TCCS is unwilling to provide a path because it is not a priority, an application has been with Fix my Street for over 2 years now but it keeps getting rejected because of supposed funding cuts. Just maybe some of the people in TCCS that make these decisions should try having to get around in a wheelchair and see what they are not supporting the disabled. Also the proposed footpath is shown on ACT maps and Dial before you Dig maps

We don’t have a footpath within a block of our place.

It’s funny that she is travelling to Sterling to complain about the lack of footpaths when the street that she lives on doesn’t even have a one.

Does the suffix “MP” give you a clue. Bob.

Perhaps, as an MLA for Murrumbidgee, she was doing what she’s supposed to do – represent her constituents? Oh hang on, she’s not a conservative politician, so how could she possibly be doing anything positive?

JUstSaying – What would be more of a priority, areas where not all the footpaths are linked like Stirling or entire areas where there are no footpaths at all? Serious question here.

I don’t care about her politics, I care about results and prioritising entire areas with zero footpaths, makes a lot more sense.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’ve voted Labour nearly my entire adult life. I am FAR from the die hard conservative you are trying to paint me to be.

I don’t see evidence Ms Paterson was prioritising one area over another – she was simply helping her constituents in Stirling with their issue. You seemed to have a problem with that. I imagine she does constituent work right across her electorate.

It seems that the only maintenance this government is interested in is mowing. And even that is pretty variable. They don’t want to trim the edges of paths, sweep or pick up debris and certainly not fix any broken pavement. Broken paths get some white paint around the bad spots – apparently that will smooth it out!

I am of the opinion that we as citizens could do more to improve our environment. However, apart from keeping my garden trimmed where it meets the footpath, sweeping outside my house and picking up rubbish, I really don’t see how I can do much more. I don’t have the equipment, time or insurance to clean the entire suburb. And in any case, isn’t that what some of the rates are for?

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