As the debate continues over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, this series looks at the politics of some unresolved issues swirling around Australia Day – namely, the republic and reconciliation. And […]
They’ll be talking about the big issues –the light rail project, the state of our hospitals and the quality of education in our schools. Hopefully, they will offer some imaginative and compelling visions for the future of our wonderful city.
At the same time, I hope that they are equally attentive to some of the less high-profile things that are important to the quality of life and, indeed, safety of many people. Much of the business of making a city like Canberra function isn’t big picture stuff; rather it’s the prompt attention given to all those practical things from fixing malfunctioning traffic lights to ensuring the storm water drains aren’t blocked and the rubbish is collected on time.
I was recently reminded of the importance of little things by an accident that befell a friend who while jogging tripped and sustained a painful and complex injury to her hand.
The cause of the accident was clear – a piece of ageing concrete pavement had been lifted by tree roots. Despite being a hazard on a well trafficked footpath the broken pavement had been left unfixed for many years.
I know this experience all too well, though fortunately without as severe or painful consequences. On all too many occasions I’ve found myself flat on my proverbial thanks to one of the gaping cracks that pervade the footpaths in Canberra’s older suburbs. I admit I’m a notoriously clumsy person with weak ankles and poor co-ordination, but cracks, sometimes gaping holes and uneven footpaths don’t help.
I wrote about this problem in this column nearly five years ago: “Footpaths often seem to be regarded as optional extras in the Bush Capital… I have lived in areas where footpaths suddenly peeter out on you or where they just don’t exist at all… Sometimes pushing a pram along the footpath can seem more like negotiating a combat assault course even if you have forked out for the cross-country three wheeler with bull bar, snow chains and fog lights.”
I do note that the Department of Territory and Municipal Services now has a more extensive footpath maintenance program than they did five years ago. But my own experience, and that of many friends, leaves me in no doubt that this still requires greater priority.
I’ve been walking a lot around Tuggeranong in recent months and found the experience just as hazardous as on the decrepit footpaths of the inner north and south. Broken drain covers, cracked and broken pavement were all in abundance.
I know footpaths aren’t very sexy. Politically footpaths don’t stack up against big new projects, bold initiatives and grand visions. But walking is healthy and definitely to be encouraged.
So just maybe now would be a good time for the ACT Government and our politicians to move footpaths higher up the priority list. And maybe those of us out walking should be a bit more proactive in reporting any hazards, which you can do online via tams.act.gov.au/roads-transport/Road_Infrastucture_and_Maintenance/communitypaths
Then we would all be more encouraged to get out and about without tripping up.