Thursday, August 24, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Three weeks into the Airlie Beach boardwalk expansion and tensions are rising among regular users of the piece of infrastructure who say that insufficient signage has caused confusion and that they can foresee dangerous incidents arising between high-speed electric scooters and pedestrians when it re-opens.
In April, the boardwalk between Sorrento’s Restaurant and Bar and Coral Sea Marina Resort was closed for expansion works for six weeks to widen the pathway by one metre.
At this time many considered the signage to be “confusing and insufficient” in redirecting foot traffic around to Shute Harbour Road, the only other access point to Coral Sea Marina.
Dozens of tourists use this route each day to embark on various cruises and local resident, Sharon Smallwood, who is also a regular boardwalk user, said from her observations the situation “could have been better managed”.
She also states that, when it re-opens, it will “only be a matter of time before there is an accident” on the boardwalk involving motorised traffic and pedestrians.
“Council have good intent, but I don’t think it’s going to have the desired outcome unless they have better traffic management,” she said.
“This was already a place where motorised, wheeled devices could converge into heavy pedestrian traffic, and if it is not managed properly, I fear the expansion of the boardwalk will only make that situation worse.
“There are other areas in Australia where [motorised vehicles] are banned for this reason yet here I’ve seen near collisions on our boardwalk, some involving young children.
“What’s particularly frightening is how silent some of these scooters can be – so you don’t hear them coming – and the significant speeds they can reach.”
Coral Sea Marina say that while the new boardwalk will be a positive addition to the community, it is imperative appropriate shared usage is addressed and speed deterrents are implanted in advance of its re-opening.
“Our concerns are related to the shared usage of the boardwalk between pedestrians, cyclists and users of motorised devices - not just in this particular area but throughout the entire span of the boardwalk,” said Kate Purdie, Chief Executive Officer, Coral Sea Marina.
“The former timber boardwalk between Coral Sea Resort and Sorrento’s was a speed deterrent due to the nature of the timber and the fact that it was narrow.
“When it is re-opened, the increased width and improved material will enable users to travel at higher speeds just as they enter the high pedestrian traffic area of the north marina village.
“The biggest bottleneck will be where the boardwalk at Sorrento’s leads into the north marina village which is full of tourists preparing for daytrips, charter boat guests provisioning vessels and a large number of pedestrians.
“It is imperative that the local community, and visiting tourists, are made acutely aware that this widened boardwalk ends abruptly in an area of high foot traffic.”
Last year Coral Sea Marina introduced a Pedestrian Only campaign throughout the marina precinct, asking users to “Get off your wheels and on your heels” so they can transit these high use areas safely.
“We hope all users of this shared pathway will recognise the importance of this for their own safety and the safety of others,” said Kate.
Whitsunday Regional Council’s Director Infrastructure Services Adam Hagy said the boardwalk upgrade and widening was built to allow safer traffic flow in a shared area.
“The expectation is that, as with any public shared walkway or footpath, users would be courteous to others.”
“The boardwalk is no different to any other shared public walkway or footpath, the issue is not the boardwalk but the safe use of the electric scooters.
“Council has ordered signage that will encourage users to slow down however local contractors are experiencing delays so these will be installed as soon as possible.”
The boardwalk between Sorrento’s and Coral Sea Resort is under construction and when it re-opens there are fears its broader width will become dangerous due to speedy scooters. Photo credit: Rachael Smith
The new signage that Whitsunday Regional Council will soon place at the entrance to the expanded boardwalk. Photo provided