Frustration mounts over Woodend traffic

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Cows are treated better than people when it comes to road safety, a public meeting at Woodend heard last Thursday.

Underpasses were put in for cows, a resident said, but children and adults in Woodend had to dice with death on State Highway 1 trying to cross it to go to school, the shops or to catch a bus.

At the Pegasus roundabout, lives were also at risk trying to cross from Pegasus to Ravenswood, to visit McDonald’s or the BP Station – a situation that would get worse as Ravenswood grew.

“Our children are crossing that road and it’s frightening,” a concerned resident told about 40 people at a meeting organised by Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey. It was attended by National Party leader Simon Bridges, community leaders and residents.

“Elderly people can’t use the public bus services because they can’t cross the road,” the resident said. “It is a real issue.”

Frustration with the constant barrage of consultation by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) that resulted in nothing being done was a constant theme, along with the long-talked-about bypass being bumped off the 10-year programme, along with delays in safety measures that one resident said were nothing but “cosmetic”.

There were horror stories of pedestrians suffering near misses as up to 16,000 vehicles a day travelled through Woodend and on to the Pegasus roundabout. Many of them were large trucks and many were speeding.

Suggestions were made about putting up cardboard cutouts of police cars in an attempt to put the brakes on traffic, taking the law into their own hands and shifting 50kmh signs further out of the Woodend village to slow traffic, or installing huge iridescent yellow signs to warn drivers about sharing the roadway with pedestrians and cyclists.

Resident Stacy McCracken said he would happily put his hand in his pocket to help pay for a pedestrian crossing to help get people safely across the highway.

“Surely it can’t cost that much to do. Surely it can’t cost much to sort out signs to reduce speed.

“Get a price and present it to them (NZTA),” he said.

Mr McCracken also suggested using the school’s flashing lights that came on before and after school, during the day to slow traffic.

Community leaders expressed their frustration, particularly as the bypass was designated in the Waimakariri District Plan. Consultation continued, but if safety measures were mooted, they were not accompanied by any budget to carry them out.

Mr Bridges said Woodend had been targeted by National, but a ring road around Christchurch took priority before the “outer bits” were done.

The Labour Government had now cancelled the work, despite the number of vehicles through Woodend that justified a bypass. He urged residents to continue to put pressure on the Government.

Mr Doocey said it was time for action. He would call for a meeting with NZTA and help devise an action plan with the community to push safety improvements.

“We have said it all before, but now we need to take action. We are not going to put up with it.”