By Mikayla van Loon
For over 30 years Jean Barnes has lived in her Hereford Road, Mount Evelyn unit without any worry of having an accident when pulling out of her driveway.
In February, that changed after she’d been waiting for 15 minutes to pull out onto the road, thinking the coast was clear, she was t-boned and her car completely written off.
Thankfully, Ms Barnes was not injured but it traumatised her for months.
“At my age, you don’t take those shocks as easily as you would at 21 or even 40 but thankfully, I’m still standing. I’m good,” she said.
The 89-year-old said after her accident she was medically and physically cleared to continue driving, she has just put limitations on herself not to drive after 5pm and she has reduced the distances she will drive.
But as the traffic continues to get worse on Hereford Road, Ms Barnes fears the day when someone is killed because of the lack of pedestrian access and the speed in which drivers handle the road.
“Constantly the sound of horns are blazing and then you think ‘oh my goodness, not another one’,” she said.
Having watched adults and children battle crossing the road from the Pro Futsal Stadium, the doctors surgery, Form and Practice physiotherapy and Edge Martial Arts, Ms Barnes said it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian is hit by a car.
Pro Futsal centre manager Terval Atanasov said since Pro Futsal took over the stadium in April last year, after previous owner Futsal Oz could not continue due to the impact from the pandemic, he would receive at least one phone call a day about the parking and traffic issues.
Aware of the dangers associated with the current pedestrian access and parking during peak playing times at the centre, Mr Atanasov said he has been liaising with Yarra Ranges Council and Evelyn MP Bridget Vallence to see changes made.
“We’re trying but we’re not sure what to do next,” he said.
Mr Atanasov said every time the Pro Futsal Centre has contacted either the council or VicRoads each entity passes the responsibility to the other. Ms Barnes said she has had the same experience.
“Hereford Road is managed by the Department of Transport, who we have spoken to previously addressing our concerns regarding safety on that particular road,” Yarra Ranges Council’s Environment and Infrastructure director Mark Varmalis told Star Mail in December last year.
The Department of Transport (DoT) has indicated that when safety improvements are being considered, a number of factors come into play including the road environment, the need to cater for pedestrians, the site’s historical safety record, and the impact the improvements would have on the surrounding road network.
“The safety of everyone travelling on our roads is a priority and we are continually looking at ways we can make it safer and easier for people to use our road network,” a DoT spokesperson said.
“We will continue to monitor Hereford Road to ensure it is safe and determine if any further improvements are required.”
The Victorian government data website outlining crash statistics shows there have been 11 accidents at the intersection of York Road and Hereford Road and 35 on Hereford Road intersecting with various side roads.
Evelyn MP Bridget Vallence recently raised the matter with the roads minister during question time at Parliament House on 11 May.
In her question she asked, “When will the government fix the dangerous and congested Hereford Road in Mount Evelyn to make it safer for motorists and pedestrians, particularly the very busy stretch between Birmingham Road and Burdap Drive.
“Hundreds of residents, from young children right through to the elderly, are concerned for their safety as a result of regular accidents and near-misses.”
The response received from minister Ben Carroll said he would pass on Ms Vallence’s “suggestion for improvements” to the DoT for “monitoring of the network.”
Mr Carroll also made reference to the potential upgrade of York Road as part of the 2021-22 budget under Major Road Projects Victoria.
Ms Vallence, however, is calling on the State government to act on the desperate pleas of the community for safer conditions.
“It is a state government responsibility. Residents are desperate for this road to be made safer, and I call on the Andrews government to do so,” she said during question time.
“The government’s transport department must urgently investigate and take action to make this road safer for motorists and pedestrians,” Ms Vallence added in a statement.
For Ms Barnes and Mr Atanasov, seeing traffic lights installed would be a saving grace for both pedestrians and to slow cars down.
“The best thing possible would be traffic lights because it would allow people to cross and it would stop people putting their foot down from the roundabout, which they do and also coming around the bend,” Ms Barnes said.
For Ms Barnes, seeing the millions of dollars spent on new football pavilions and clubrooms is great for community sport and keeping people healthy but she can’t understand why nothing is being done around road safety on Hereford Road.
“Does that matter as much as people’s lives do? I can’t comprehend it because people’s lives are put at risk.”