Calls mount for safety fix at new school campus
Growing numbers of concerned parents are voicing alarm over unsafe road conditions they say are putting lives at risk amid the opening of North Melbourne Primary’s School’s new campus.
Parents and children are currently being forced to “race” against traffic along a busy road after the new Molesworth St campus opened on May 25 with an absence of zebra crossings and appropriate signage.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” a concerned parent, who withheld their identity, said of the Curzon St/Harker St arterial, which still retains a 60km/h speed limit.
It’s inadequate – we want the speed limit dropped to 40km/h.
The issues have prompted the school community to launch a petition for authorities to act and ensure the safety of everyone.
The petition, which has attracted more than 300 signatures, calls for clearer signage indicating a school zone, as well as electronic flashing 40km/h warning signs, and pedestrian crossings to be installed on Abbotsford St and Curzon St/Harker St.
“We need immediate action to improve safety measures and active reminders for motorists travelling through our local streets to slow down and keep our children and school community safe,” the petition said.
The concerned parent said another worrying factor was that traffic travelling from Flemington Rd accelerated downhill along Curzon St/Harker St before going “around a bend where they hit the high intensity pedestrian crossing” near Haines St.
“This fantastic new campus is an amazing investment in our local community,” the parent said, but added, “safe access to the school is problematic”, with community members also contending with a high volume of construction vehicles in the area.
The City of Melbourne said it was working with the state government to install a new zebra pedestrian crossing on Abbotsford St, as well as changes to the road layout, traffic islands, speed humps, disability access and lighting.
The crossing works, which were initially promised to be delivered by January, are now scheduled to start in August, with the new crossing ready to use by September.
“In the interim, we have installed temporary speed cushions next to the tram stops to improve safety,” the council said in a statement.
“All local streets in North and West Melbourne are now signed as 40 km/h at all times, and we have installed signs near the school to highlight the presence of school children.”
New parking restrictions have been installed along Molesworth St to help parents picking up and dropping off children, with the council promising to “continue to monitor activity and assess whether additional measures are required”.
Meanwhile, it said the state government was undertaking community consultation on a proposal to remove the tram stops on Abbotsford St to further boost safety at the zebra crossing.
The Department of Transport said it recently reviewed the speed limit along Curzon St/Harker St and found the current speed zone was “appropriate and met safety guidelines”.
“We delivered a number of safety improvements around the new North Melbourne Primary School Molesworth campus. This includes extending crossing times and reducing waiting times for pedestrians at the intersection of Curzon Street and Haines Street,” a Department spokesperson said.
“We will continue to monitor the speed limit along this stretch of road near North Melbourne Primary School Molesworth Campus.”
School principal Sarah Nightingale supported the community’s concerns, saying the current traffic conditions around Molesworth St “could definitely be improved”.
“Consideration needs to be taken now that we are a two-campus school, in order to promote safe walking paths from each campus both before and after school but also during the school day,” she said.
Our youngest students attend the Molesworth St campus, and we need to ensure our school community is safe at all times. These measures would be a huge benefit not only to the North Melbourne Primary School community but also the wider North Melbourne community.
“We would be grateful to see more pedestrian crossings installed and a school zone with decreased speed limits enforced as soon as possible.”
Ms Nightingale said the school was also working with the council to install new “Kiss and Go” signage on Molesworth St to make student drop-off and pick-up less congested.
The office of state MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell has been inundated with parents expressing their dissatisfaction.
“Parents and the school community are understandably frustrated that these works were not completed in advance of the school opening,” Ms Sandell said.
“I urge the state government to take immediate action to keep children and their families safe while travelling to and from the school.”
The school’s council president Rohan Kimber said despite the best efforts of Ms Nightingale and her team to keep children safe, “the lack of appropriate signage and speed restrictions expose our children to unnecessary and avoidable risks”.
“The efforts made by the school community to raise awareness and highlight this issue are a true reflection of the spirit of being a North Melburnian.”
“I understand that there are complex issues being addressed at both local and state government levels, spanning multiple departments,” he said, adding “I appreciate the progress made thus far and the efforts involved.”
“However, I urge all parties involved to prioritise the safety of the students at North Melbourne Primary School.”
North West City News put questions to the Department of Education about the process for road safety planning when building new schools, but it did not respond before deadline. •