Proper walking routes to school, and better access to paths for people with disabilities, are what Wollongong’s pedestrians need, residents have told council.
Better maintenance of footpaths, and the need for more footpaths, has again been the strong call from Wollongong residents – as it was in each of the city council’s community surveys in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
But more people are driving to work, and less people are walking, catching the train or carpooling in Wollongong, statistics show.
At Wollongong City Council’s final meeting of 2017 it took on a new pedestrian strategy for the five years to 2021 (it included 2017).
During public consultation residents had made clear their opinions – some suburbs have few footpaths at all, and while some streets in the CBD have received attention, many others have footpaths in need of urgent repairs.
“There was strong positive feedback about the plan in regard to council having a plan to specifically address pedestrian needs,” council’s plan says.
“A strong emphasis on the need for increased safety for pedestrians came through, with improvements in pedestrian infrastructure and vehicle driver behaviour viewed as areas for action.”
Commuting statistics from the 2011 Census showed that of all commuting trips to Wollongong’s CBD, no form of public transport was chosen by even five per cent of people.
The only mode of public transport which saw increased usage in the 20 years 1991-2011 was the bus.
Council’s pedestrian plan attempts to boost walking by supporting initiatives such as walk to school day, local walking groups, and self-guided tours of the city.
Its “implementation plan” will include identifying the best routes to safely walk to school, put walking information on council’s website, fix inaccessible ramps at crossings, and improve lighting.
It will “give priority to pedestrian infrastructure” within main walking “activity centres”, and also provide separate funding for areas outside town centres.
But the plan contains no firm commitments on either laying more footpaths, or making footpath maintenance a higher priority. “Maintenance issues” would continue to be “funded by existing operational budget” in the usual way.
There is a goal of “increasing pedestrian permeability” in Dapto, Warrawong, Corrimal, Fairy Meadow, Figtree and Unanderra – this will not become a target for the council until 2019-20.
And any boost for footpath building budgets would need to be considered as “part of the annual planning process and development of council’s new Delivery Program for 2018-2021”.