Someone is going to die at this crossing, say councillors


It is only a matter of time before someone will be killed at the new pedestrian crossing just south of Heavitree Gap, councillors told MHR Warren Snowdon when he attended their meeting last night. Deputy Mayor Liz Martin said she has seen children on three or four occasions jumping from the top of the ramp wall onto the highway. She said she also observed a “near fatal accident” involving a triple road train, which could have claimed many lives. The design of the crossing needs to be reviewed “with some urgency”, she said.
UPDATE, June 12, 2013, 4.40pm: This is an extract of the email about the near accident that Cr Martin sent to her fellow councillors on the night of June 6:
I have been around a long time and am not too easily scared. However, tonight I had one of the most frightening events I have ever experienced in my life.
As I sat as a passenger in our bus, headed into Alice Springs to take a group of volunteers to dinner we were forced to brake hard
when about twenty Aboriginal people had clustered on the ramp leading to the walkover / island on the Stuart Highway between
Little Sisters and Heavitree Gap Store.  One Aboriginal women ran onto the road causing the interstate visitor in the car in front of us
to screech to a halt – which in turn caused us to do the same. We stopped within inches of the car.
Then we heard the ominous sound of an airhorn blaring as a fully loaded three trailer roadtrain came up behind us attempting to stop before he ran into us. As we know, roadtrains don’t stop too easy without notice.  Fortunately we were able to pull out into the path of
“thankfully none too close” oncoming traffic. By that time all we could see was the Kenworth’s bull bar and bonnet emblem  in our
back window he was that close.  This terrified us all but particularly the interstate visitors in the car in front. They were so shaken by
the incident they had to pull off the road before they got to the roundabout.
Had Kel not pulled into oncoming traffic the roadtrain would have gone through our bus, the visitors’ car  and quite a few of the Aboriginal
people loitering on the ramp.  His only alternative would have been to pull three trailers into oncoming traffic or roll the whole rig into the river bed.
We (this town)  could have had a multi-fatality accident there tonight. Amazingly, it all happened so quick I can not even tell you whose roadtrain it was except it was a Kenworth with three.
Liz Martin
Cr Brendan Heenan and Mayor Damien Ryan joined Cr Martin in expressing concern to Mr Snowdon. Cr Heenan told Mr Snowdon that Australian Government “Black Spot” funding had been applied for after “an Indigenous lady” was killed, crossing about 100 metres further south from Little Sisters camp to the Heavitree Gap store. He said this was the place that people had been using for years as the shortest route between the camp and the store.
Cr Heenan said the ramp had been built in the narrowest part of the road. He said he had been told that it was designed by Darwin-based engineers and that local engineers disagreed  with their approach; that it had been built over the gas line and had to be dismantled and rebuilt, putting it, he understood, well over budget.
Mayor Ryan said the issue must be addressed as traffic through the Gap is only expected to increase as housing is built in the new Kilgariff subdivision.
Mr Snowdon, who appeared to be unaware of the new crossing, said he would look into it.
New suspended walkway for Anzac Hill? 
The mayor also asked Mr Snowdon about funding for a proposed “suspended walkway” on the eastern side of Anzac Hill so that about one thousand more people could be accommodated at the centenary Anzac ceremony in 2015. Council has costed these words at $.5m. Mayor Ryan said there is renewed interest in the ceremony, especially amongst the youth of the community. He said the walkway would be a great investment for tourism as well.
Mr Snowdon referred to the various sources of funding Australia-wide to support state and territories’ projects for the centenary. The most prospective for the council is likely to be private funds being raised by Lindsay Fox (founder of the Linfox group) “tapping business on the shoulder”.
Feral cat plague
The council is fielding 20 to 25 calls a day about feral cats, director of Corporate and Community Services Craig Catchlove told councillors last night. Cr Heenan was pleased to see that 120 cats had been impounded and put down in the month of May. He said he had caught 48 in two traps at his MacDonnell Range Caravan Park. Mr Catchlove said council has ordered more traps as they can’t keep up with public demand. It’s a “huge issue”.
Getting new mall works right
Cr Jade Kudrenko queried the design of the revamped northern end of the mall after visiting it for the Sunday markets with a pram in tow.
She said anyone with a pram or wheelchair would find it impossible to access the stalls because they were set up too close to the step up from the road. She suggested stall-holders be given guidelines about where to set up to allow better access.
She also wondered whether the current state of rumble surfaces on the road was the finished product. As is, they are a “tripping hazard”, she said.

Cr Eli Melky also reported that a woman had tripped on the raised brick surfaces (at left)  in Parsons Street, on the garden side of the benches. The woman cut her head. Cr Melky mistook the raised bricks for a work of public art. Cr Kudrenko corrected this impression, saying it was part of an irrigation system.
The Lane restaurant to return
Popular mall restaurant, The Lane, looks set to reopen under the management of its original owner, Vin Lange. Councillors unanimously supported the recommendation not to object to an application by Mr Lange for a liquor licence.
Liquor will be sold on premises “ancillary to a meal”. Hours of trade applied for are seven days a week, from 12 noon to 2am.
Free symphony concert for Alice
Most councillors seem to be backing the request for cash ($10,000) and in kind support from the Darwin Symphony Orchestra to give a free concert in Alice Springs after its performances at Uluru in October. Only Cr Melky seemed sceptical, wanting to know what the financial return to council and the community would be.


  1. Re Heavitree Gap pedestrian crossing. Why is it so unfathomable for engineers to think of talking to locals – people will always take the shortest route between A and B. And even less surprising to hear “that it was designed by Darwin-based engineers and that local engineers disagreed with their approach.”
    So why is it that local infrastructure and architectural planning codes continue to be determined by ill informed bureaucrats who do not live here. There appears to be a perverse irrationality in ticking Government public funding boxes despite ill conceived logistics and the blatant waste in funding dollars.

  2. Most locals who use the Gap regularly know that the crossing is an accident waiting to happen.
    I have only seen people crossing the road, and not at the crossing, but just up from it. Children are the ones that just run out and do not realise the car speed that they can not beat.
    The concrete in the middle of the road is very dangerous for vehicles as well.

  3. The infrastructure on the South Stuart Highway mentioned above isn’t a pedestrian crossing, it is intended to improve the safety of people crossing by providing the fencing to corral them into one way of crossing and the middle of the road staging area.
    It is regrettable that so much money has been spent for so few people and that it apparently doesn’t do what was intended. Having said that, the taxpaying public has at least done something and it’s now up to the residents to make the safest use of it when crossing.
    It wouldn’t matter what you install, if kids are going to be allowed to jump from walkways or others cross where it isn’t intended, none of us can
    prevent any consequences in which they find themselves. At some stage pedestrians need to take responsibility for their safety.

  4. It has been raised in previous correspondence but it looks like a review of appropriateness of current speed limits is required. The structure was built to direct people to an appropriate crossing point which is well lit.

  5. Heavitree Gap crossing: We have watched this monstrosity under construction for what feels like an interminable 10 months or so.
    I did hear the cost was $600K – $800K from federal funds. It is surprising to hear that Warren Snowdon (Federal Member) was unaware of it. Perhaps he takes very little notice or cares what happens south of the Gap.
    It is indeed an accident waiting to happen. There is now so much congestion on that intersection since the islands, signage and now this ramp have all been squashed into this now narrow section of highway.
    We hold our breath as we drive through this road daily in case pedestrians or those loitering or socialising on the ramp so close to the road decide to spontaneously step out into the traffic only inches away.
    Even the large transports cannot fit through. The posts have had to be made removable to accommodate wide loads. Where to from here? More money to be spent no doubt.
    [ED – The Alice Springs News Online has reported the cost as $300,000, quoting a source from the Federal Black Spots program.]

  6. Liz Martin’s experience highlights the ongoing predicament: there are significant dangers involving pedestrians, trains, bicyclists and motor traffic in this stretch of road and railway.
    Maybe we need to consider a lower speed limit from the dump road intersection to the roundabout.
    However most comments seem to disregard the fact that there have already been a number of people killed and injured here – on the road and on the railway – in the past thirty or forty years. It’s a dangerous situation, period, from well before the new crossing fixtures were installed.
    With the wheelchair access walkway to the rail crossing, and the pedestrian island, an effort has been made to provide a partial solution to those long term and complicated problems of safety.
    It sounds as though the needs of bicyclists may have been overlooked, or at least not accommodated.
    How do we know whether it is, on balance, a better situation than what was there previously?
    Isn’t it about time that somebody conducted a detailed interview with the people who designed the new structures to get their side of the story?
    Has anybody spoken to the leaders of the Little Sisters community to see what they think?
    Were Tangentyere or Ingkerreke involved in considering the options, and do those organisations have views on the current debate?
    Everybody seems to have strong opinions, but we are not hearing from those who presumably know some of the most relevant facts.

  7. I don’t understand what everyone is so upset about. Surely the finest blackspot I’ve ever seen, and only $300,000.

  8. I cannot believe the sheer stupidity of those responsible for this deliberate obstacle to our town. What happened to OH&S risk management here. It is clear to all there was none. Imagine this – a semi with three tankers of fuel similar situation but with semi slamming on brakes rolling exploding. The death toll would be in 30s plus. Imagine a similar event with the cyanide tankers coming through that would kill everything in a 20 km radius. You think the federal government would remove this ASAP and sack the morons who designed and stamped the approval. And speed limits will not assist when someone just runs out in front of cars or trucks.

  9. Janet (Posted June 14, 2013 at 10:18 am) and others: if you have a close read of Liz Martin’s email (reproduced above by Erwin in his article) you will see that the cause of the near-catastrophe was that somebody ran onto the road in front of speeding vehicles.
    This is NOT a new phenomenon on this stretch of road, and similar behaviour has been the cause of many accidents and near misses there in the past. These incidents have included some that also involved trucks, trains and other vehicles loaded with heavy and/or dangerous goods.
    Large groups, small groups and individuals are often standing beside this busy stretch of road, trying to cross it on their way to or from the shop or “dinner camps” in the riverbed.
    Quite often some or all of these people are in “various stages of intoxication”.
    This has been happening for decades: it has been known to the police, most road users, politicians, council members, emergency services, town planners, road designers, railway staff, Aboriginal organisations and many other Alice Springs residents.
    Most of us know that some people have been doing dangerous things here – including running and walking into the paths of both road and rail traffic, shocking those in the vehicles, and sometimes resulting in injuries or death.
    Some people have fallen asleep on the rail tracks or road, again on occasions resulting in injuries and deaths and shock for drivers and their passengers.
    The frightening near-miss witnessed by Liz Martin appears to be another of these incidents, and not necessarily the product, pure and simple, of the construction of the rail-walkover or the pedestrian island (both of which, incidentally, have been designed to facilitate safety for the wheelchair bound people residing in the vicinity as well as for pedestrians).
    Janet Brown’s apocalyptic visions of disasters about to befall Alice Springs as a result of what may in some respects be a safer situation than that which existed previously do not help us in evaluating what needs to be done.
    It is time we all accept that further measures have to be taken to prevent and minimise these dangerous incidents.
    These changes could possibly include lowering the current 70 km/hour speed limit, and modifying some design aspects of the new structures; as well as reducing sales and consumption of alcohol at licensed outlets in the vicinity, and making ongoing efforts to educate the pedestrians who are likely to use this area (including children) about the principles of safety when walking on the roads and railway lines.
    NB: The people crossing the road here do not only comprise those living at the Little Sisters community: they also include many people who reside at other town camps, particularly those located south of Heavitree Gap, people staying at the Apmere Mwerre Visitor Park, and people from throughout Central Australia who visit these town camp communities.

  10. A controlled pedestrian crossing is the real life way to go. They could even be solar powered and have a timed program so they could not be red against the traffic too constantly. This could also be further governed by the use of infrared eye counter technology for better control. Having worked in the civil construction industry I find it incredible that this abortion has been allowed to spawn at that location.

  11. @bob so what is that you are saying?
    Is it that those people using this area are not smart enough to ensure personal safety and that of their children? And they need people like yourself to educate them in safety?
    We all know that you believe in and support socialism, give people credit that they can think for themselves and they don’t need more paternal interference in their lives pointing out the obvious.
    And my apocalyptic visions of disasters that may befall Alice Springs is not scare mongering it is clearly defining the probability of possibility. In OH&S terms it is called putting together a risk management observation. If we do this, that may happen.
    So we change this so that will not happen. Not rocket science Bob. It is referred to as the common sense approach.
    The probabilities being high to ensure potential loss of many lives with the continuation of this crossing remaining where it is or crossing lights at or near the dump turn off that can be used to cross this busy intersection with safety.
    No-one can guarantee safety for stupid and reckless behaviour. But for those with safety in mind lights would 99% ensure feelings of safety.

  12. So gracious of you Janet (J. Brown, Posted June 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm) to take the time to respond to my comment.
    As a matter of fact, some of my recent work has involved surveying a sample of Aboriginal people in Alice Springs, including visitors from many bush communities.
    In the course of this work I have had opportunity to discuss what many of these people do and don’t understand about calling the police and others for help, and what difficulties they encounter when they try.
    Many of these people did not understand some important details of the system (such as when to use the 000 number and when not, and what other options are available), and were extremely pleased when given more details about how and when to contact police and other agencies about various matters.
    This indicates to me that a continuing information campaign around some key issues may be very helpful for all concerned.
    This is an ongoing issue as there are thousands of Aboriginal people visiting Alice Springs each year, and there is a great variety amongst them in terms of understanding important details of the law, regulations and customary ways of doing things when in a town like Alice.

  13. Janet and the term “commonsense” – there’s an oxymoron if ever I saw one. Thanks for the laugh.

  14. We drove past the Heavitree Gap pedestrian crossing today and yes people were crossing at the southern end of the fence, all except for the one man who was leaning against the fence taking a piss in full view of all the passing traffic. This is by far the flashiest urinal I have seen in a long time!


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