“So many near-misses”: $900k pledge to improve road safety around Docklands Primary, but community urges more action
Parents and residents in Docklands have grown so concerned about the “perilous” traffic conditions endangering the lives of children around Docklands Primary School, that they have created a new action group calling for urgent improvements.
The news comes amid a joint federal and state government commitment of around $900,0000 to improve pedestrian and road safety around Docklands Primary School (DPS) as part of their Safer Roads program.
But members of the school community say that despite being well into Term One of 2022, they have “little to show” for their work advocating for improved road safety around DPS since 2017, in which time there have been multiple “near-misses” leaving parents devastated.
Government works under consideration, labelled by one parent as “the bare minimum”, include fencing along Footscray Rd to protect pedestrians from the road traffic.
Electronic, 40km/hr speed signs around the school and better line road markings to show cars on Footscray Rd they must slow down entering at 40km/hr zone, are also options on the table.
Also under consideration are markings or decals on the footpaths to increase safety for kids walking to school, and encourage cyclists and pedestrians to better share the path.
But for DPS parent Mary Masters, who said her commute from West Melbourne was “especially perilous” with only one option to commute along Dudley St – an “awful daily experience” – the announcement is too little too late.
“Road safety surrounding Docklands school has been raised as an issue since the school site was announced in 2017. Despite this, there were no significant changes made to the area before the school opened in 2021,” she said.
“We are lucky that there have been no serious incidents involving our school community, but there have been so many near-misses that we’ve heard about.”
Ms Masters said until late last year, there was no 40km/hr school zone in place, which is a legislated requirement for all schools. And when signposts were installed, they were “totally ignored” by traffic.
She said students at DPS started the 2021 year with only two crossing guards to protect them from traffic on Footscray Rd, until a third was added in Term Four that year.
“Every family who crosses over Footscray Rd has witnessed cars running red lights and can tell you how much we rely on the guards to keep us safe,” she said.
Katy is a representative of the new Parents/Residents Docklands Road Safety Group advocating for improved road safety in Docklands comprising parents and residents which is independent from DPS.
She said they had been collecting community feedback on the recently proposed measures under the $900,000 for DPS and the wider Docklands area.
“We are not in a position to discuss details yet but, from the feedback we are getting so far, parents are expressing concerns that the measures are not sufficient considering the location of the school and surrounding increasing traffic flows,” she said.
I am participating in the project because my child had almost been hit by a vehicle at a pedestrian crossing in Docklands last year. It was a shocking and devastating experience. I observed lack of safety measures to protect pedestrians and I want to bring in changes before someone gets killed, particularly our children.
State MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell said when the Victorian Government built DPS, not enough thought was put into how students would get to and from school safely in such a busy, traffic-filled area.
“Kids have been put in dangerous situations, especially with the traffic on Footscray Rd and Docklands Drive,” she said.
“I joined local parents and the school to push the Victorian Government to make the roads around the school much safer, and we’re so pleased they’ve listened to our concerns and will make a start.”
“These upgrades are only the first step, and the government will need to do more to fix some of these very dangerous intersections, but they’re a very welcome first step.”
DPS principal Adam Bright said with the school rapidly growing – now at 415 students – the congestion and traffic around the school had increased as a result.
“We see the measures – especially on Footscray Rd being a busy arterial route – as crucial for our students’ safety,” Mr Bright said.
“We also see the measures that are being put in place on the bike path outside the school as crucial.”
Ms Masters said there had been multiple near-misses for community members crossing Docklands Drive and Footscray Rd at the major intersection, and using the shared footpath along Footscray Rd.
“Locals commuting to DPS had also been lucky to avoid accidents travelling on the smaller roads around the school, including St Mangos Lane and Little Docklands Drive, also crossing to and from tram stops along Docklands Drive”, she said.
“The $900k is going towards the bare minimum upgrades.”
Docklands News understands the school community is in discussions with the City of Melbourne and the Department of Transport about further road safety improvements.
These include their requests for safer crossing options for pedestrians and cyclists at the major Footscray Rd, Docklands Drive intersection, better traffic management for cars around the school for parents who have no choice other than to drive and park, and further “calming” measures or separation for cyclists using the shared footpath outside the school.
Members of the community have also been requesting that the West Gate Tunnel Project move the cycling veloway exit from Footscray Rd to bypass the school, potentially creating better outcomes for cyclists too.
Asked whether the DoT would implement the additional measures, a DoT spokesperson said it was continuing to make it safer for pedestrians and drivers around Docklands Primary School.
“We recently reduced the speed limit along a stretch of Footscray Rd and introduced a 40km/h limit during school hours near the school to make it safer for students, parents and other pedestrians,” the spokesperson said.
A City of Melbourne spokesperson said the council welcomed the commitment from the state and federal governments for additional funding to improve road safety in Docklands.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure people can move safely around our municipality, whether it’s by public transport, car, bike or foot,” the spokesperson said.
“We’ve recently appointed three new School Crossing Supervisors on Footscray Rd and Docklands Drive, near Docklands Primary School. We have also installed speed humps on Little Docklands Drive and a zebra crossing on Anchor Lane and reduced the speed limit on streets around the school.”
The new Parents/Residents Docklands Road Safety Group currently has three members plus a wider circle of members who can choose various levels of participation when making submissions, Katy said.
The group has an agreement with the Docklands Representative Group that allows it to organise events together and is also in the process of receiving a Deductible Gift Recipient status which would allow it to accept donations •
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