Harrison’s lost window of opportunity

Active Street sign close to Evatt shops, Belconnen

Don’t you think it would be desirable to see more children riding to school? Children riding to school are more likely to ride as adults. First we make our habits, then our habits make us! Industry sales of children’s bikes has declined by 22% in the last ten years. Just take the time to reflect on that! What can be done?

Children’s brains are not fully developed and they are therefore not very good at judging traffic – and parents know it. It seems obvious that we need the most modern, next practice infrastructure around schools that is internationally available to us. Anybody that has seen schools at the beginning and end of the day will know how busy they can get. And anyone who has studied psychology will know that parents are focused on their own children – not on those of other parents. And most certainly not those, who are ‘reckless and uncaring’ enough to let them ride to school! Ideal around schools would be narrow roads to slow down traffic, and wide footpaths with separated footpath and bike paths. When the ACT is laying out the suburb, this should be the better practice standard.

It is all the more interesting then that this has not been done in the relative new suburb of Harrison around Mother Teresa Primary School on Mapleton Ave. The road is pretty narrow, the footpath is pretty wide, but there is no bike path to be seen.

Once the suburb has been built, how do you find space to retrofit bike paths? How can it be done cost effectively? To make it worse, locals have already accepted and adapted to the existing design. It’s now the status quo. Change is hard, because it’s hard, because it’s hard!!

There are plenty of blue signs painted on the concrete footpath around Mother Teresa Primary School warning of children using the paths. It is not as though you would not see them. What they are really doing is demonstrating the tension of bikes and pedestrians sharing one narrow concrete path. Paint has never successfully driven positive behaviour.

This is the lack of systems thinking and fully integrated change leadership and change management that is typical of our “olden but golden” planning in Canberra.

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