WALKING to school is a daily safety challenge for Colac district pupils like Jess Mackay.
Jess’s parents Robyn and Warren were reluctant to let him walk to Sacred Heart Primary School until this year because there were no footpaths or curbs on the southern end of Hart Street, Elliminyt.
Grade Six pupil Jess said there were usually more cars in the morning than at night.
“Usually we have to walk along the road so I don’t feel safe,” he said.
“My socks get all muddy when it’s wet; there’s lots of cars and poo all over the road.”
The Mackay family isn’t alone in having safety concerns – Sacred Heart and Trinity College have written to Colac Otway Shire Council’s Colac-Elliminyt footpath strategy.
Hart Street is part of the strategy’s “secondary network” of Colac roads, and the council’s works program has the Dean Court-Mahoney Court section of the road in second place on a list of planned improvements.
The section from Mahoney Court to Howarth Street is in 17th place, while Queen Street from Colac Secondary College to Pound Road is the top priority for footpaths.
Sacred Heart school board secretary Gerard Barrow said the whole stretch of Hart Street deserved equal billing with Queen Street.
“Works from Deans Court to Mahoney Court will be good for school pick-ups but it’s not enough to improve safety for children walking to school,” Mr Barrow said.
“This is the only primary school in Colac where there’s significant numbers of children who walk in wet and muddy conditions in the winter,” Mr Barrow told the Colac Herald.
The council would charge residents to build the footpaths.
Mr Barrow asked the council’s infrastructure general manager Neil Allen at Wednesday’s council meeting to explain how the council set the priorities.
Mr Allen said the council looked at Colac’s “existing population bases”.
“We also looked at the relationship between the various services and schools in particular and that is a key requirement in determining what the strategic level of a footpath is,” he said.
“You can’t estimate something that hasn’t happened – what the council was looking at was long-term development, trying to extrapolate usage in the future.”
Trinity principal Tim O’Farrell said the precinct had more than 1000 students.
“They’re leaving at similar times, some on school buses, some on bikes, some being picked up and some on foot,” he said.
“So more footpaths would provide a greater level of safety.
“In an ideal world, we’d have both Queen Street and Hart Street with footpaths.”