Lack of a pedestrian crossing for the elderly raises alarm

Marcus Herman standing next to the sign that sits near the entrance of Melville Grange Aged Care, an identical one can be found across the road where the arrow is pointing. Picture: ETHAN BENEDICTO.

By Ethan Benedicto

A Berwick resident has raised concerns over the lack of a proper crossing in Melville Park Drive, which splits Homestyle Melville Grange Aged Care and Fiddlers Green Retirement Village.

Tucked in the nook just behind Berwick Station, the area itself seldom sees heavy traffic, but its positioning next to a station car park doesn’t dismiss its availability for access to peak hour motorists.

For Marcus Herman, the non-existence of proper crossing facilities is “not good enough”.

“I really do think it’s ridiculous that [council] hasn’t put a crossing in the entire time.

“It seems that they’re putting the public at risk in an extreme way because they’re encouraging them to use the [other] crossing at grave risk to the pedestrians,” Mr Herman said.

Melville Park Drive is a roughly one-kilometre-long road that has both ends covered by Gloucester Avenue and Princes Highway – High Street, with the nearest zebra crossing coming just after the roundabout on Gloucester Avenue.

A proper zebra crossing sits at the end of the roundabout, marking the Gloucester Avenue entrance to Melville Park Drive; complete with signs and flashing lights on both sides of the nature strip, as well as an island.

Mr Herman’s concern is 170 metres from said roundabout, where a small, shoulder-level sign on the nature strip states ‘pedestrians cross here: give way to vehicles’.

“That one there actually makes it more dangerous for a pedestrian than not, because it says that they have to give way, so they think they’re going to get in trouble if they don’t stop,” Mr Herman said.

The City of Casey’s manager of city asset and planning, Keri New said that footpaths, pram crossings and pedestrian crossings are designed to be “accessible for everybody, including older pedestrians and people with disabilities”.

“In 2015, a flashing light zebra crossing was installed at the intersection of Melville Park Road and Gloucester Ave, there is direct pedestrian access from Fiddlers Green at this location, and it is 100 metres from the main entrances to both Fiddlers Green Retirement Village and Melville Grange,” Ms New said.

The main issue for Mr Herman however, is “it’s too far for the elderly to cover that distance”.

“Some of them have trouble even just crossing this road, it’s much too far of a journey.”

Other signs on the road are 120 metres from the Gloucester Avenue roundabout, where there is a speed hump and another few metres after, two signs on either side of the road that display the word ‘aged’, and two figures crossing.

“As far as I know a pedestrian crossing has lines in it, and what else is missing? There’s no sign that can be seen by motorists, no illuminated sign and at night you can’t see that.

“If that small one could be changed to a proper crossing, that would be much better,” Mr Herman said.

Ms New added that the existing zebra crossing at Gloucester Avenue “provides priority pedestrian access between Fiddlers Green Retirement Village and Melville Grange; to Berwick train station and the bus stop from Fiddlers Green; and to Berwick shopping precinct and the bus stop from Melville Grange”.

“There is also an existing pram link approximately 30 metres out east of the entrance to the Melville Grange to assist all pedestrians.

“Pedestrians are encouraged to use the existing priority crossing facility near Gloucester Avenue during times of higher traffic volumes, at other times, pedestrians may choose to use the pram closer to the facility entrances,” she said.

Mr Herman first took action in early 2023, when he was issued a $138 fine in February for obstructing access to a footpath, which is the same footpath that the small crossing sign sits next to.

While he initially contested the grounds of which he was fined due to the size of the sign, it was then his bigger worry about its visibility brewed, especially concerning motorists travelling through Melville Park Drive, which in turn could endanger elderly pedestrians in the area.

In a letter to a senior infringement review officer in August 2023, Mr Herman wrote that the sign “puts pedestrians at grave risk of crossing between cars” and that “tall illuminated signs and reflective marked road crossing lines should be installed as a matter of urgency”.

“Quite often in the dark, especially in winter like now, you wouldn’t have a clue, especially with the sun setting soon,” he said.

At 93, Mr Herman has been visiting his wife with Alzheimer’s at Melville Grange, ever since she moved from his care in 2019.

With the frequency of his visits, he has noticed that vehicles park around the small sign, essentially obstructing motorists’ view of its warning.

He had also noticed that residents from the aged care have taken to using the lined speed hump as a crossing on multiple occasions.

“A lot of elderly people think that that’s a crossing and I have seen people [get] really trapped in the middle of the road.

Chief executive officer of Homestyle Aged Care, Tim Humphries said that “enabling residents of Melville Grange to safely access the neighbouring retirement village, local shops and surrounding area is important to us”.

“Whilst we would be supportive of the construction of a pedestrian crossing to assist residents and family members safely accessing Melville Grange and its surrounds, Casey Council would be better placed to advise process and rationale for the positioning,” Mr Humphries said.

In November 2023 the State Government, in partnership with Transport Accident Commission announced that they were investing $23 million to make pedestrians safer at locations and on routes where there are high pedestrian numbers and a high risk of crashes.

Ms New further added that since Melville Park Drive is a collector road and “does not carry the traffic volumes expected on the arterial road network, council has no current plans to provide additional crossing facilities”.

“However, we will investigate whether pedestrian and traffic flows have increased to a level that would support the construction of an additional pedestrian facility in the future,” she said.

Moving forward, Mr Herman is hoping for some action and changes in the near future and stands by the notion that an additional crossing should have been considered to begin with.