Safety concerns escalating

Continuing concerns about visitor behaviour on the world's steepest street, Baldwin St, Dunedin, prompted reporter Hamish McNeilly to investigate.

A van struggles to the top of the world's steepest street yesterday, before a plume of smoke erupts from its engine.

Welcome to the ups and downs of Baldwin St.

Moments before, the fully laden van had scattered dozens of pedestrians - many posing for photographs in the centre of the roadway.

The street attracts an estimated 100,000-300,000 visitors each year, and the behaviour of a minority is concerning Dunedin tourism operators.

Late last year operators were given tips to improve safety and satisfaction for Baldwin St visitors.

Issues included camera-wielding tourists blocking the street, people lying on the street posing for photographs, and the question ''what happens to Dunedin's reputation if there is an accident''.

The Guinness Book of Records recognises the street has an average gradient of 1 in 3.41.

At its steepest section, the gradient is 1 in 2.86.

The Otago Daily Times spoke to some residents, including one man who keeps an emergency medical kit beside his front door. It is easy to see why.

The man, who declined to be named, was one of the first on the scene when a 19-year-old University of Otago student was killed when the wheelie bin in which she was travelling down the street struck a parked trailer in 2001.

''I heard the almighty thud outside the door ... it was quite a mess.''

Two weeks ago, a young man from Jordan cycled down the street and ''he took his hands off his handlebars and ended up on the road''.

''He had spreadeagled his hands and his bike went out of control and he almost lost every bit of skin off him. I ended taking him up to the hospital.''

About the same time, an Asian female driver damaged a late-model car after struggling to turn her vehicle around on the narrow street, the man, who has lived in the street for more than three decades, said.

While the street was gaining in popularity each year, the number of heavy vehicles attempting to drive up the dead-end street had declined because of a warning sign at the bottom, he said.

In the space of an hour the ODT saw nine tourist vehicles drive up and down as occupants filmed the trip, pedestrians blocking the entrance to the street to take photos, and people lying down on the steepest section as vehicles approached.

Footage on video-sharing website YouTube includes a camper van driver filming himself driving up the street, as well as a segway being ridden up the street.




Maybe it would help to have a "residents' cars only" sign at the bottom to stop the endless Jucy vans going up and down.

The people who walk up are good fun but the vans get a bit much sometimes. 

Unrealistic variance

With a 66% variance between estimates of visitor numbers this sounds more like trying to justify this story, or boosting the importance of this so-called tourist destination than anything else, what factors are being used to justify this type of addendance variance, after all how do you get this type of count so wrong?

Perhaps they count them on the up and down journey?

The street attracts an estimated 100,000-300,000 visitors each year, so what is it really?

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