Are Wellington's alleyways 'dirty and dangerous', as a study recently suggested?
A survey conducted by University of Otago, Wellington painted a picture of the city's street- connecting walkways. The verdict? A mixed bag, with improvements needed.
The study rated 118 walkways across nine suburbs.
Positive elements included handrails, lighting, and signage, while graffiti, litter, and slippery surfaces were considered negative.
The walkways got the basics right, for the most part - 84 per cent had a handrail along stairs, 65 per cent had signage at each end, and nearly all had paved surfaces.
But that's not enough for a tick of approval, the study's lead author, associate professor Nick Wilson, said.
Some aspects appeared good, but many others were potentially substandard for pedestrians, such as lighting at entrances, signage, and graffiti, he said.
Litter was present in 58 per cent of walkways, 51 per cent had graffiti, and only 20 per cent had lighting at both ends.
Other problems included obscure entrances, broken railings, loose steps, water running over the path, blocked drains, and overgrown vegetation.
Wilson said good urban design encouraged people to walk and improved walkways could reduce rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
"These conditions account for a large share of health loss for New Zealand and are major costs for the tax-payer funded health system."
He said Wellington City Council could do better by monitoring walkways more effectively and introducing several low cost measures.
"Improved signage would be inexpensive and greater use of motion-sensitive and highly- directional LED lighting would both improve lighting and reduce electricity and maintenance costs," he said.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said Wellington was New Zealand's most walkable major city, and council staff regularly maintained the quality of the walkways.
"Huge numbers use our footpaths and walkways for commuting to work or study, and for recreation," she said.
"Our walkways are generally good and provide shortcuts and convenience for thousands of people daily."
Infrastructure staff do regular checks of pathways, and a graffiti programme adviser responds to complaints about tagging and other vandalism.
"We have an ongoing maintenance programme that focuses on the likes of handrails, safety of steps, removal of vegetation and lighting," Wade-Brown said.
"We improve lighting where necessary. We've added signage to many shortcuts, for example in Kelburn.
"We also respond quickly to complaints to our call centre regarding litter or damage, but we receive relatively few complaints when compared with the number of people who regularly use our walkways."
She said a council proposal to replace 18,000 suburban street lights with bright, "smart" LED lights would make a big difference.
She said the council was also working to improve the quality of walkways, particularly in the central city.
"In the case of Drummond St, the steps were installed to improve the amenity of the area and because it is intended that the neighbourhood will be home to many more people in coming years," she said.
"The city council is also working on improving laneways and shortcuts through the CBD - the recent investment in Opera House Lane is a good example."
She said she appreciated the study's results and had asked her staff to consider the details it showed.
Problems with walkways can be reported to the council through the FixIt smartphone app.
- Where are the worst alleyways? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Drummond St to Tasman St, Mt Cook: Wide, good lighting, and a metal railing.
- Messines Rd to Ponsonby Rd, Karori: modern lighting, clean, open.
- Millward St to Riddiford St, Newtown: Community art on walls.
- Wright St to Wallace St, Mt Cook: Graffiti.
- Springfield Tce to Central Tce, Kelburn: Slip hazards.
- Orangi Kaupapa Rd to Garden Rd, Northland: Steep, shallow steps, overgrown.
- The Wellingtonian
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