People walking - bush track

Let’s Just Walk

Nov 10

In our interviews you talked a lot about walking. Even the most committed car commuters among you long for a good walk, whether it’s on the waterfront, through the CBD, up or down the Rivulet Trail, or in the bush that surrounds Hobart.

When we’re walking we can look up and see the mountain, read the signs of weather to come. We can notice what we too often take for granted: the Georgian and Victorian architecture, the views of the water, the trees and flowers, the native hens, the cockatoos.

Yet we’re also committed drivers. Free or cheap parking is almost holy for some of us.

“You must be willing to spill seven litres of blood if you want to remove a parking spot in Hobart,” one of you said.

Many of you are furious that our city, once built for people, now seems to be built for cars. You don’t want to live in the shadows of multi-storey car parks. But you are also frustrated about our new ‘peak hour’, and how hard it’s become to get a park on the waterfront.

When asked to describe Hobart, one of you said, “See you in 5 minutes”. The accessibility of our city came up in almost every interview.

But some of your favourite parts of Hobart were built before cars. They never were and never will be car-friendly. You are worried about pollution, congestion and roadkill. Too young to have their own driver’s license, one interviewee wondered why, with such high levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, we are still so determined to drive.

We have given this some thought in the past. Many of you brought up the Jan Gehl report from 2010, which recommended focusing on pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and public transport. Others talked of building the ‘Western bypass’ to ease car traffic in the central business district. Some of you advocated an absolute cultural change: take out street parking and replace them all with bike lanes as they are doing in Europe and North America. Others referred to that sort of thinking as absolute insanity.

It seems that driving could be the topic that most divides us.

However, almost all of you came back to walking: kids walking, businesspeople walking, seniors walking safely and happily through Hobart. How much blood would we have to spill to achieve this?

Should we work to become the best place to park a car in Australia or the best place to walk?