Speaking out for the walkers

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Pedestrian safety advocates have called a public meeting in Dunedin next week to set up an action network.

The idea of the Pedestrian Action Network came about after Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (Victa) founder Dr Lynley Hood and Disabled Persons Assembly kaituitui (secretary) Chris Ford were invited to give feedback on speed-limit changes.

“Since Chris and I can’t speak for all pedestrians, we want to establish a greater Dunedin pedestrian action network as a point of contact for transport planners,” Dr Hood said.

“A more specific pathway for feedback is needed.”

Dr Hood, Mr Ford, Dave Allen, of the Otago Blindness Network, Andrea Woodford, of Corstorphine Community Hub, and Paula Waby, of the Otago Blindness Network, met to discuss the issues with The Star this week.

Dr Hood said it was frustrating that despite walking being the most popular leisure activity in New Zealand, pedestrians were often not consulted about transport infrastructure.

On issues of pedestrian safety, people who walked dogs, went walking with family, took buses or needed to cross the road should be actively involved in transport planning.

Mr Ford said research had shown that when the accessibility of spaces was considered during planning, it was then easier and cheaper to solve issues during construction.

“The universal design principles – that spaces are accessible for any user, whether disabled or not – are vital,” he said.

Ms Waby, who lives and often walks with guide dog Rana in the St Kilda area, is particularly interested in shared spaces.

“It is very important that these spaces are safe and meet the requirements for pedestrians with visual impairments,” she said.

Another issue was that pedestrians were given only a three-second “head start” at traffic lights.

“You have to take your life in your hands when you are crossing the road in Dunedin,” Dr Hood said.

Dunedin City Council Transport group manager Richard Saunders welcomed community input.

“As new groups develop, we can incorporate them into our consultation processes,” Mr Saunders said.

The first objective of the council’s Integrated Transport Strategy was that Dunedin had an “integrated, affordable, responsive, effective and safe transport network for all modes”.

“We recognise that the age of Dunedin’s infrastructure means a lot of our footpaths don’t work well for pedestrians or people with pushchairs, wheelchairs or other mobility devices,” he said.

Last year, the council spent more than $400,000 on safety improvements to roads and footpaths. Another $300,000 was budgeted this year to further improve intersections for pedestrians, Mr Saunders said.

The council had also spent more than $1.5million resealing footpaths, and would be spending $1.9million this year.

The public meeting will be held next Wednesday, November 1, from 12.30pm-2pm in the Dunningham Suite, 4th floor, Dunedin City Library.