Report card on city walking

By Eva Garnes

The City of Melbourne has been able to accommodate a pedestrian increase of 130 per cent in the CBD, but there is still a need for upgraded laneways to optimise the experience.

In the most recent Places for People report, council authors described the laneways as a vital component in achieving six “mini-cities”.

The “mini-cities” are local hubs of activity where pedestrians should be able to reach anything they might need within five minutes of walking (or about 400 metres).

In order to achieve this, footpaths and connecting laneways need to be obstacle free.

Through relocating and redesigning old lots into new public spaces, the council has been able to work towards this vision.

However only 42 of the CBD’s 270 laneways have been upgraded in recent years. Many of the remaining 228 laneways still have minimal space for pedestrians and traffic can be dangerous for them.

Another identified CBD deficiency is the effect of new high-rise towers. The report says pedestrians were often met with an inactive streets because ground levels were used for parking. Conversely, the researchers said people felt safe on active streets.

If the pedestrians do not feel safe, they will avoid the area which, again, leads to disengagement.

The council is being encouraged to work towards improving local conditions and prioritise pedestrians above cars.  The report says a strong, engaged community is the backbone of a resilient city.

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