Pedestrian safety biggest issue on online Southbank page

Pedestrian safety biggest issue on online Southbank page
David Schout

Pedestrian safety has emerged as the biggest issue on a new online Southbank portal, the City of Melbourne has revealed.

In its first review of 10 online hubs, launched in late 2022, and covering each suburb across the municipality, the council revealed that Southbankers were particularly concerned with walking through postcode 3006.

The portals, introduced as part of the council’s Neighbourhood Model in 2022 that sought to better understand and work with different communities, are dedicated spaces allowing residents to keep up to date with all things, have a say on their area’s future and share local issues.

This includes details of upcoming events, construction activity and general local news and information.

One issue, the council said, came through loud and clear.

“Pedestrian safety has emerged as a key priority in Southbank following several truck incidents along City Rd and some near-misses involving bicycles and e-scooters along Southbank Promenade,” the review stated.

The terms “City Rd” (36 times) and “pedestrian safety” (29) are the two most-used terms on the Southbank page to date.

This was followed by “green space” (26), “dog park” (14) and “police presence” (13).

In 2023, council consultation on the Southbank Pedestrian Study resulted in 1160 pins being dropped on a Southbank map identifying areas of safety concern.

At the February 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, councillors backed a motion for a “pulse check” on the Neighbourhood Model, which aims to “measure changes in community perceptions” since the last consultation in 2022.

The council’s health, wellbeing and belonging portfolio chair Cr Olivia Ball said the pulse check represented the “next stage in the evolution of our Neighbourhood Model”.

“We already, of course, have the neighbourhood portals, which are online places where we have two-way interaction between the community and the council,” Cr Ball said. “We have this knowledge bank where we are building up that information and drawing conclusions from it, partly with AI.”

“This innovation of what we’re calling a pulse check is to retest the validity of the models that we’re using so far and to fill the gaps where we know that certain groups in the community are underrepresented, such as young people defined as under the age of 30, local businesses and the full gamut of multicultural communities, to make sure we are hearing their voices in proportion to their presence in the community.”

As part of the Neighbourhood Model, the council has employed a “partner” for Southbank (and all nine other neighbourhoods), who acts as the main point-of-contact on specific issues within the area.

Southbank’s neighbourhood partner, the council said, had been working with building managers to better understand communication channels within individual high-rise buildings. Some buildings already offered digital platforms to enable residents to communicate with each other and exchange second-hand items.

“Through the brokering work of the Neighbourhood Partner, some buildings have set up new physical noticeboards, and others have updated their policy so people can utilise the noticeboards in the mailrooms,” the report stated.

“Southbank Library has recently reported an increase in attendance (with 1500 more visitors in May compared to April) at their library following targeted information being shared by the Neighbourhood Partner through the new noticeboards and other channels within high-rise buildings.”

It is hoped that, long-term, the initiative will allow the community to better connect with the council by helping share its ideas for the future. The City of Melbourne has previously acknowledged that there were vast differences in different suburbs within the municipality (for example, between Southbank and East Melbourne) and said the “place-based” neighbourhood approach would ensure it could understand and respond to unique communities.

Findings from the pulse check will come back to councillors by June 30. •

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