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Toying with kids' lives

Mosman Daily

Thursday 15 December 1994
JUST on four years ago when I was Chairman of the Mosman Traffic Committee, a meeting was held outside the Middle Harbour School in MacPherson St with the local Member Mr Peter Collins, Sergeant Mick Martin of the Police Highway Patrol and representatives of the RTA.

The then headmaster Mr Barry Ruskin (the “Guardian Angel”) was extremely concerned that a child was going to be seriously injured or killed because many vehicles were speeding through this crossing and frequently running the red lights. The children attending this school are aged 12 or under. Children of this age are not able to correctly judge speed and distance. When the lights turn green, they cross the road.

Sgt Martin was also very concerned. He wanted to use the speed camera at this location in order to slow the traffic down. He was overruled by the RTA and NRMA. The reason: it was not a “black spot”. No one had been killed at this location. However, the speed camera was approved at the pedestrian crossing just around the corner in Gerard St because an elderly woman had been killed at this location.

I managed to get council to approve paying for a red-light camera. The RTA refused our offer. “No one had been killed … it didn’t meet the warrants.” Mr Collins pleaded with the RTA to allow the cameras to be used. His attempts fell on deaf ears.

In June this year I wrote to Mr Collins, asking him to apply for a 40km/h speed zone to be put in place outside the school in MacPherson St during school hours. Such zones have been created around most schools in our municipality. Mr Bruce Baird, Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads, wrote back to me stating that he “appreciated the problems caused by increased traffic and excessive speed.”

Unfortunately, there was no mention of a 40km/h zone. Instead he said that the RTA was holding discussions with Mosman and North Sydney Councils with a view to providing: “traffic calming” measures in MacPherson St and Ourimbah Rd to discourage motorists using this route as an alternative route. “Traffic calming” is the RTA’s euphemism for doing nothing.

Let me explain why nothing has been done. The RTA is culturally focussed on vehicular traffic flow, not pedestrians. They are quite happy to allow traffic to be slowed in slow speed streets, but in the streets where vehicles are known to be speeding, that is, where the risks to pedestrians are the highest, they will only act when someone is killed or several people are seriously injured. They are programmed to be re-active, not proactive.

These children are our responsibility. We should not remain silent while faceless bureaucrats play with children’s lives and safety. I look forward to Mr Collins, as one of the most senior politicians in our State, using his influence to overrule these bureaucrats and to ensure that the 40km/h zone is in place before these children return to school next year and that the police are free to use the speed cameras in this location if and when they see fit.

Harold C W Scruby

Grosvenor St

Neutral Bay