By Kirra Grimes
A SERIOUS accident on an Inverloch street that left a man with a fractured skull earlier this month has reignited calls for more footpaths to improve pedestrian safety throughout the township.
Local police advised the community “don’t walk on the road” after a 47-year-old man was hit by a car as he walked on Venus Street on Sunday night, March 1.
But residents say streets lacking footpaths leave them with no choice, with people “forced” onto the road, especially those who have difficulty navigating boggy or uneven nature strips.
“Inverloch is severely lacking in footpaths,” and “it’s only a matter of time before more people are seriously injured” was the consensus among residents who spoke to the Sentinel-Times last week, highlighting Royal Parade, Toorak Road/Venus Street, Powlett Street and Ullathornes Road as some of the most hazardous for pedestrians.
Residents of Powlett Street hoped the recent accident might “enlighten” the Bass Coast Shire Council of the need to prioritise footpath works in Inverloch.
Narelle Shandley, Mick Oliver and Kellie Gabb were among the 120 residents who signed a petition calling for a footpath for Powlett Street that was presented to Bass Coast Shire Council in November last year and is yet to receive a response, despite two council meetings being held in the meantime.
They say Powlett Street residents have been asking for a footpath for over 10 years and they’re now questioning why ratepayers’ money isn’t being spent on this “obvious” need.
“With how much we’ve all spent on rates over the years and they can’t put in a bloody footpath. It’s a lot of money between all of the houses here – that should buy a lot of concrete!” Mick said.
Russell Thompson recently moved to Powlett Street and has already had difficulty getting into town in his powered wheelchair.
“I use the bike lane but people park in it quite often, so you’re in and out of cars. You try to keep out of the road but you just don’t know what could happen. It’s a busy road. Something should’ve happened a long time ago,” Russell said.
It’s the same for people pushing prams and for the many elderly residents that live in units on Powlett Street, Mick said.
“I’ve seen someone with a walking frame take 15 minutes to get around a car,” he said.
When contacted by the Sentinel-Times, council’s General Manager Place Making James Stirton said a report in response to the Powlett Street petition would be presented to a council meeting “this financial year”.
Mr Stirton said Venus Street (from Sandymount Avenue to Abbot Street) was included in council’s Footpath Priority and Evaluation List, and that other footpath works would be identified and evaluated using assessment criteria contained in council’s Footpath Priority and Evaluation Tool.
“These evaluations are reviewed and updated based on new or changed information and conditions,” he said.
Bunurong Ward Cr and Inverloch resident Julian Brown last year unsuccessfully attempted to secure an increase in funding for new footpath construction across the shire.
He declined to comment on Powlett Street, citing a conflict of interest, but said from his point of view, it would “make a lot of sense” for Toorak Road/Venus Street to have a footpath “because of the many other streets that connect with it”.
“A footpath there – it would allow pedestrians and those with mobility scooters in a large area of the town to easily access the main street,” he told the Sentinel-Times last week.
But there are a number of “complicating factors,” he said, including the need to work closely with Regional Roads Victoria, the authority responsible for Toorak Road.
“There is also a budget issue,” Cr Brown said.
“Historically, council has not devoted a lot of money to new urban footpaths.
“I think that there is still room to move some money from our renewal budget into our new capital works budget. This way there would be no net increase in the cost to council and we would not have to take on borrowings.”