Campaigning for safer road conditions

Attempting to cross the road in front of Grist Bakery at Wesley Hill feels akin to playing a game of Russian Roulette as cars fly around the blind corner and cross onto the shoulder, trucks barrel down the hill, and school buses accelerate to make up lost time.
The speed limit on this busy section of road is 60kmh, but many of the vehicles drive well beyond the legal limit as they leave the slowness of the 50kmh stretch of road in Chewton and begin to descend into the township of Castlemaine.
A group of residents from atop the hill have banded together to petition for safer road conditions, to aid families with small children, older kids making their way to school, those with disabilities, and elderly residents to safely cross the road.
85-year-old Noreen Wheaton told the Mail that she cannot cross the road at all.
“I don’t have the courage to cross, there’s too much going on and lots of school buses traveling through,” Noreen said.
Earlier this year a group of Wesley Hill residents lodged a petition with Mount Alexander Shire Council (MASC) to draw councillors’ attention to the dangerous traffic situation and request support in getting the speed limit reduced to 50kmh.
The letter to the council highlighted the dangerous traffic conditions including; trucks entering, and an increase in traffic due to the bakery, velodrome, walking tracks, and weekly market.
A MASC representative said the council formally considered the petition at the February council meeting.
“Councillors met with residents in early March to discuss the issue further and the council will now prepare a report to respond to the petition which will be addressed at the April 2023 council meeting,” the representative said.
According to data from the Victorian Department of Transport, in the five years up to February 2021 there have been eight traffic accidents on Duke Street, including one fatality, with accidents on Duke Street accounting for nearly 20 per cent of road accidents in Castlemaine.
Residents from the Wesley Hill area noted that there has since been another serious traffic accident in March and at least two bicycle accidents during 2022. Residents also report having witnessed numerous near misses, particularly at the sharp bend at the Duke and Taylor Street intersection.
“One of our neighbours was hit by a car and required a significant amount of physical rehabilitation,” said one resident.
Another Wesley Hill resident, Eliza Hull told the Mail that she enjoys being able to walk to the bakery near her house with her children.
“I am a disabled person and have a condition known as Charcot Marie Tooth,” Eliza said.
“Unfortunately, it’s started to feel too unsafe crossing Duke St because cars are driving too fast as they come into town and often can’t see pedestrians crossing the road. I am
hoping that we can reduce the speed limit coming into town so that I can safely cross with my children.”
Residents noted the council had been considering footpaths and crossings in two locations in Wesley Hill via its SHAPE Walking and Cycling Strategy, however, the residents have spoken with relevant parties and have been informed that no pedestrian crossings are being considered.
Local resident Trace Balla has questioned why our priorities have gone so far off track that we are unable to send a 10 year-old to the store or allow them to walk to the creek near their home.
“For some reason, the speed of drivers in cars is given priority over this,” Trace said.
“I would love to invite those who make these laws to bring their families for a visit, perhaps pop a coin in the pockets of their kids, as well as a stamped envelope and some paper and pencils… and send them to pop by the bakery for a pastry that they can take down to the creek, to enjoy some time away from the rush of life, where they might stop long enough to share their experience in a letter to a loved one… and then post it at the letterbox beside the bakery… and safely cross the road to come back home… Why should this be a fantasy?” asks Trace.
“When will we learn that there has to be another way….”

Jade Jungwirth
Jade is the former Editor of the Tarrangower Times and has lived in the region for over 16 years.