21 October 2022

'Cracked pavements are to seniors what potholes are to drivers': government promises it's working on a fix

| Lottie Twyford
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Emma Davidson sitting in the Legislative Assembly

Seniors Minister Emma Davidson welcomed Ms Lawder’s motion but wouldn’t commit to accelerating a program of footpath maintenance. Photo: Region.

UPDATED 4 pm: The ACT Government won’t be accelerating its program of footpath maintenance, despite calls from the Opposition to do so.

Canberra Liberals spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder has urged the government to make Canberra a safer place for older people.

Her colleague Peter Cain described cracked pavements for seniors as “what potholes are to drivers”.

He said he was repeatedly contacted by his constituents who raised concerns about the state of the footpaths near their homes.

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Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said the government was committed to the Age-Friendly Suburbs Program and its Active Travel Plan.

Through this, funding has been allocated for suburban improvements – including to footpaths, bus stops and local shops – in some suburbs.

“We typically choose the suburbs which have an older population compared to the rest of Canberra,” he said.

He added that the government was focusing on fixing cracks and uneven links following pavement audits that had been completed over the past few years.

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Seniors Minister Emma Davidson this afternoon outlined a number of ways the government was engaging with seniors.

The government today passed a motion agreeing to continue the implementation of the Age-Friendly city plan and the implementation of the Age-Friendly Suburbs Program.

But Ms Lawder said this was just not moving quickly enough.

“[Our footpaths] are not good enough for anyone, let alone our older Canberrans,” she said.

She noted pavement issues impacted parents with prams and people with mobility issues as well.

Cracked footpath

There are cracked footpaths everywhere you look, and that’s a dangerous problem for older Canberrans. Photo: File.

8 am: The ‘dire’ state of the Territory’s footpaths is a risk to older Canberrans who are vulnerable to falls and rely on paths for exercise and mobility.

That’s the message from the ACT Opposition, which will urge the government to speed up its footpath maintenance program as set out in its 2020-24 Age-Friendly City Plan.

The plan outlines how Canberra and its local services will be more accessible for older people in areas such as health, public transport, human rights and planning.

Around 12.5 per cent of Canberrans are aged over 65 and this is expected to increase over the next decade.

Nicole Lawder

Opposition spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder said the city must be accessible to older Canberrans. Photo: Region.

Opposition spokesperson for seniors Nicole Lawder will today call on the government to accelerate the footpath maintenance component of the plan.

“It’s the basic maintenance components of the [plan] that matter most to older Canberrans which is why I’m calling on the government to accelerate this work,” Ms Lawder said.

“Ensuring that our city is accessible to all should be the highest priority to this government.”

RoadsACT manages around 3000 kilometres of community paths (foot and cycle).

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According to Transport Canberra and City Services 2021-22 annual report, a new accountability indicator was considered to show how many days it takes for footpaths to be repaired once reported via Fix My Street.

It is also reviewed whether to establish an indicator to show the percentage of shared paths in good condition.

Both were rejected and community satisfaction with the maintenance of paths will instead be measured.

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Ms Lawder’s motion also called on the government to implement a raft of initiatives to support Canberra becoming a Dementia-Friendly City.

“It is staggering that the Minister is unable to provide a straight answer as to whether frontline staff such as bus drivers have been given dementia-friendly training,” Ms Lawder said.

“These are simple, low-cost initiatives that can make the world of difference to older Canberrans and prevent future accidents. Many seniors feel ignored by this government and by moving things along faster, we can help improve the quality of life for older people in our community.”

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Earlier this year, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said footpath upgrades were undertaken in a priority-first manner.

“There may be a request from the community that comes on to that list from time to time, and it is ranked accordingly and prioritised for action,” he said.

“We have undertaken a significant amount of work, particularly during the pandemic … to get on and deliver on many of those projects.”

The Canberra Liberals have been calling on the ACT Government to address footpaths in disrepair – and a lack of information about their state – since at least 2013.

In response, ACT Minister for Seniors Emma Davidson said the government was committed to ensuring Canberra was an age and disability-friendly city, and work was underway to achieve that.

Original Article published by Lottie Twyford on Riotact.

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