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Inconveniencing Dunedin people who dare to use cars, with the intention of encouraging more pedestrians, is likely to be ineffective.
Destroying the viability of the best pedestrian spaces we have is downright silly.
We are fortunate in Dunedin to have a series of malls in our downtown area around George St. It was such a good idea to build these that the DCC got in on the act and now we have a 50% share in one of them, namely Wall St.
Malls are by definition covered pedestrian areas which exclude cars. They attract people for recreation, shopping, eating and drinking. They have the advantage that there are public toilets available. They have contests and fashion displays.
And all of this paid for by the tenants in the malls.
Having malls (pedestrianised areas) attracts a variety of people and provides work for many.
Most places malls are located are not in the middle of town, they are out where plentiful parking can be provided.
We have these wonderful pedestrian areas in the middle of town.
Yet for some strange reason the Dunedin city councillors are overlooking these in an attempt to follow some idea that we should have pedestrians walking along George St rather than in the carefully provided pedestrian-only areas we already have.
The ex-city councillor who has described himself as trading in George St for many years is actually in a mall near a car-parking building.
But now the war on cars has escalated and the DCC has tried even harder to discourage motorists in downtown Dunedin by introducing a 10kmh speed limit, under the twin ideas that people on the footpaths need to stay 2m apart and that this will support businesses impacted by Covid-19.
How this speed limit could keep pedestrians 2m apart is unknown. And how cars could actually drive that slowly is also a mystery. Even in countries which have a prohibition on kerb crawling you don’t have to drive this slowly to be prosecuted.
Scooters travel faster than this on the footpaths, which is surely more dangerous. And there was already a speed limit of 30kmh before this experiment.
What is clear is that cars are being discouraged, and that this is supposed to benefit business.
Those in business know to ask customers ‘How can I help you?’, since they need to know that in order to meet customers, to sell their products and services.
The DCC appears not to have approached the business community to ask this basic question. There is no apparent support for these ideas, apart presumably from those selling gaudy little street bubbles being stuck to the pavement and whoever benefits by charging the DCC for installing traffic signs.
It is not a question planners and councillors can know the answer to without asking.
As it is, they have come up with a plan that is likely to damage those who trade in the malls, since ease of access is all-important.
It is not about supporting or not supporting pedestrians in the middle of Dunedin.
We should start by not damaging the experience we can all have now with our pedestrian-only spaces in the malls.
It would be easy enough for us to lose the mall experience, and therefore the covered pedestrian spaces, in central Dunedin. Retail and hospitality are under threat. Consents for building in Dunedin are not easy. Someone creating a mall on a motorway outside town, as is done all around the world, and sucking the vitality out of the middle of Dunedin must be a possibility.
If we really want to support business in Dunedin, ask how we can help.
If we want to support pedestrianisation in the middle of Dunedin, start by not destroying what we already have.
If it is just because there are politicians in Wellington with bizarre notions about extending footpaths for avoiding each other during Covid-19, our mayor should explain to them in Wellington that we have malls in downtown Dunedin and we want them to stay.
It may be that with enough public pressure and national ridicule our councillors will change their minds, like they did with the pocket parklets.
Hopefully, we can stop wasting money on such projects by not even starting the next proposal.
When Mayor Hawkins held up a sign saying 10 it was upside-down. These ideas are a 1 on a good day.
- Hilary Calvert is an Otago regional councillor, a former MP and former DCC councillor.