When it’s footy season, Mydi and her dad, Daniel, like to walk and catch public transport to the big games. One night after a match, they got off the bus and were walking up their street when Mydi said, “This street looks creepy”.
Being a town planner, Daniel’s ears pricked up and he said, “What makes it feel creepy?”
“Well for a start it’s so dark with lots of dark spots,” Mydi told Daniel. “It’s also creepy with the trees and bushes hanging out over the path casting shadows. It feels kind of eerie.”
Daniel could see that the plants along the pathway were overgrown and shadowy, with no clear path ahead. They needed to be cut back to make the path more open and feel safer. The street also needed more lights that were closer together.
“It’s actually hard to walk on these paths because they’re so uneven,” Mydi added. Daniel also noticed that the path wasn’t smooth and there were holes you could trip over. “It should be a smooth, even path along the whole street,” he said.
Daniel wants his daughter to be able to walk wherever she wants and to feel safe, so he asked her if she would have caught the bus if he wasn’t with her. Mydi said no, that she only felt safe because he was with her. This surprised him to hear that she would feel scared alone in their own street.
Daniel says that he now has a greater understanding of the fear that women and girls may have when walking our streets. This has impacted on his planning practice and helped him to always consider the perspective of women and girls to enhance safety when he is developing plans.
“We need to plan streets so that everyone can feel safe and confident to walk in our communities,” Daniel explained. “That’s why planners and designers should get out and experience these environments and consider the perspective of women and girls, as well as other vulnerable pedestrians like people living with a disability.”
We know that safe and secure streets need surveillance from adjacent properties, lighting for night time use and elimination of potential hiding places. It is important that increased funding is committed by all levels of government to improve our walking environments and encourage more walking and less car travel.