The Illawarra sweltered its way through its first 30-degree-plus day in more than a year yesterday.
By lunchtime, it was 34 degrees, and the air was moisture-sapping.
Air conditioning was on overkill in workplaces, and anyone attempting to commute by public transport, bike or on foot were set for a hot, sticky and downright unpleasant (and perhaps unsafe) journey home.
Fortunately, these days are few and far between in Wollongong, and this is likely to be our last extended spell of warm weather before the nights draw in, and the temperatures start to plummet for winter.
But the short, sharp blast of uncomfortable conditions makes you wonder about commuting without a car during inclement conditions.
A 30-minute commute is the dream of the Greater Cities Partnership prospectus, which brings together all levels of government, business and higher education institutions and is brokered by RDA Illawarra.
On a 20-degree, dry and still day, a commute by bike, bus, ferry or scooter is more than doable. But in the heat, rain or wind, a vehicle like a car or a bus becomes more attractive. At least if you're stuck in traffic, you are shielded from the weather.
And suppose you are disabled, like 20-year-old Rubaiya Islam, who needs to travel by bus to the University of Wollongong in her electric wheelchair. In that case, commuting requires a whole lot more consideration beyond whether an umbrella or extra bottle of water is needed.
It's devastating to hear that within two weeks of living in Wollongong, she's had an experience with public transport which has left her feeling like a second-class citizen, and scared of using buses without assistance.
Ms Islam makes it clear that she's had many other positive experiences with public transport in Wollongong. Still, for our elderly and most vulnerable people, it takes just one bad experience to knock confidence.
If we want to achieve a 30-minute commute, a lot must happen to make it doable. And while we're considering what needs to change, we must take a long hard look at how we make these changes with our disabled, vulnerable people at the centre. Not as an afterthought.
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