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Byron Shire
April 11, 2021

The cars that ate Byron Bay

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Australia has the highest rate of obesity in the world.
According to the Monash University Study, obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness.
Various bodies looking for a solution to this crisis identified one area where local government has an essential role to play: safe pedestrian and bicycle access and amenities.
It is a part of an ‘Active Transport Report’ prepared by among others the Australian Local Government Association.
It does not look like Byron Shire Council is rushing to save lives and taking seriously the need to change and provide adequate pedestrian infrastructure.
Quite the opposite it seems. Rather then remove cars from the beach front and sections of Jonson street, the council seems hell bent to vandalise recreational areas like Butler Street Reserve in order to create more car paid parking spaces to satisfy their insatiable hunger for gold coins.
Never mind that the Farmers Market or the Community market have no other homes and hundreds of people and their families will be affected, they are only people after all.
Cars are different. Has anyone noticed how well the cars are looked after in this shire compared to pedestrians and cyclists?
The cars at The Cavanbah Centre and other shire carparks have lovely trees shading them, but the cyclists and pedestrians using the Ewingsdale-Byron pathway must endure full sun.
This pathway incomprehensibly finishes abruptly at McGettigans Lane. It is hard to believe that McGettigans Lane, leading to Cape Byron Steiner School, has no path for pedestrians.
I often watch brave residents attempting to jog, walk a dog or push a pram along, risking loss of life or injury.
Familiar scenes around Byron shire, where the developers are not obliged by law to provide walking paths and our ‘green’ council does not see any need for them.
The Arts and Industry Estate and many other areas are crying for a safe, shaded, pedestrian environment.
Byron traffic congestion could also be solved by looking at it from the pedestrian point of view.
Experience overseas and  in Australia shows that the motorists are happy to park and walk big distances as long as the walking is safe and pleasant.
Aside from market days, presently very few people use the free Butler Street parking, it is hard to see that they will rush to pay to park there.
Maybe the obstacle course to walk through the disused railway discourages them?
Imagine Byron’s beachfront without cars and with art and recreational space worthy of the location?
A good area for large parking would be at  Belongil turnoff if the council could secure necessary land.
A promenade above the beach leading to Byron along the caravan park could be an attractive option tabled years ago by Cr Richard Staples.
The popularity of the Camino trail is a proof that walking can be an experience in itself.
Byron’s own Lighthouse walk is a good example of it, managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Imagine a walkway along Coolamon Scenic Drive from the lookout to Crystal Castle?
New Pedestranism is a worldwide movement which could inspire our shire’s planning.
The bureaucracy needs to serve the people not itself.

 

Sky Wesolowski, Coorabell

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Sky,

    I think that’s a little unfair on Council. The Access and Movement Strategy for the Byron Bay Masterplan is all about getting the cars (and parking) out of the CBD to create a more pedestrian-friendly town centre. The Masterplan has already identified the Kendall St site (Belongil turnoff) as good location for park-and-ride. The railway line runs at the back of this site, and the Elements Resort shuttle train could easily stop here and drop people off at Simmons/First Sun platform. Unfortunately this land is privately owned and well beyond Council’s means to buy it.

    See the Byron Bay Masterplan here:
    http://www.byronbayourplan.com.au/

    Contrary to popular belief using Butler St Reserve as a car park is not a Council money-making exercise. Butler St Reserve is Crown Land, which means any money raised from its use goes to the Crown. Butler St Reserve is actually closed to cars outside of Thursday mornings, so that’s why its empty most of the time. The easy way to make parking more attractive at Butler St is to make parking on the streets and at the beachfront expensive (and time limited) and make parking at Butler St free with no time limits.

    Unfortunately not everyone is prepared (or able) to walk long distances to from their car to the town or beach, and if you take parking out of the town centre you have to provide parking elsewhere, and the obvious place is Butler St Reserve. In fact, I’d argue that utilising Butler St Reserve as car-parking is absolutely essential to creating a pedestrian-friendly town centre. As it stands we have a lot of parking in the town centre (in and around the railway station) and we have a market site on the edge of town. I think we have that the wrong way around, because it means market patrons have to drive into town to park, instead of parking on the periphery and walking in to a market held in the town centre.

    The Masterplan team have also suggested removing the Main Beach car park and making it a pedestrian area connecting Belongil to Main Beach. This idea has met strong opposition from locals however, who love the convenience of being able to drive right to the waters edge and park.

    I agree with you 100% that pedestrians have become second-class citizens in Byron Bay and that needs to change, but there will have to compromises and concessions to make it happen, and I think losing Butler St Reserve to a car park is a reasonable tradeoff. With a little imagination I think an expanded Railway Park plus Jonson St up to the Lawson St roundabout would make a great market site

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