The Department of Transport has planned eleven more ‘Safe Active Streets’ in Perth and Bunbury, despite complaints about the program’s revamping of Railway Road in Geraldton.
The $1.73 million Safe Active Streets Program reduces the speed limit on selected roads from 50km/hr to 30km/hr, adding plateaus and planted trees to create a snaked road, with the aim of increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians along the 1.4km stretch of road.
But Geraldton locals have expressed concerns about reduced safety and increased congestion on Railway Road, after it was converted by the program. The location was identified by the City of Geraldton in their 2050 Cycling Strategy after safety concerns for students commuting to near-by schools, including St Lawrences Primary School and Bluff Point Primary School.
Currently, there are 10 Safe Active Streets located in the Perth suburbs of Bassendean, Mount Hawthorn, Belmont, Melville, Stirling and Canning.
Data from the Department of Transport has showed an increase of almost 300 per cent in cyclist numbers along Safe Active Streets in Perth, however Geraldton residents are sceptical that Railway Street would see similar results due to the traffic noise from the highway, which is 40 metres away, and distance from already established cycle routes which have coastal views.
Geraldton resident Gemma Simkin said the project concept was positive but more research into the location should have been conducted before redesigning the street.
“I think there is a place, but this is not it. It’s loud, and with a pub and two bottle shops close by it can be an intimidating street to walk [along] later in the afternoons,” she said.
“I don’t think they really looked at the street itself. While the street is wide, it was never wide enough for two lanes and parking, as well as the addition of trees on the road. We already have a large nature strip filled with trees that separated Railway Street from the highway, so these new trees are just a hazard.”
Geraldton chief executive Ross McKim said the street was designed and built to the requirements of Mainroads WA and the Department of Transport.
“The city is aware that some community members have expressed discomfort regarding driving along the street during peak school drop off and pick up periods even though the road is still two lanes wide with a lane of designated for on street parking,” he said.
A Department of Transport spokesperson said local schools and businesses, as well as Main Roads WA and the Mid-West Sports Federation, were consulted before the site was approved.
However, Geraldton Cycling Advocacy Group chair Shaun Dynan said the group was ignored by the city during the designing or construction phase.
“When the city was looking for feedback in the scoping phase, we had questioned the value of the project,” he said.
Mr Dynan said the group didn’t think Railway Street was a priority for cycling improvements and that other streets were more suitable.
The Department of Transport and the City of Greater Geraldton have both said they would continue to monitor the street to evaluate the reduction of traffic speed and noise, and increased pedestrian and cyclist usage.