Monthly Archives: January 2012

A wet summer

The sound of rain on a corrugated iron roof. Now here I was lying in bed, well after midnight, listening to the constant drumming as we experienced our third consecutive night of torrential downpour. In desperation, I buried my head beneath the pillow, and resorted to earplugs, reminding myself that this was one of the sounds I used to think I missed whilst living in London. This and the intense sticky dampness from a couple of days of constant sub-tropical downpours.

As the rain eased off slightly during the afternoon and needing to stretch our legs, my daughter and I wandered down to the creek at the bottom of the hill, curious to see how high it had risen over night.

A torrent of muddy water was swirling around an enormous pile of debris consisting of uprooted weeds, bamboo, tree branches, enough rubber balls of varying origins to outfit an entire primary school and an enormous number of plastic bottles discarded by lazy drinkers. It was obvious from the amount of water on the local playing field and the pile of debris jammed against the bridges, that it had broken its banks.

Even had I been wearing my wellingtons I wouldn’t have clambered over that debris or walked through the water. We could see lots of lizards crawling across the mountain of balls and bottles but it was the snakes that made us hesitate. My daughter had already seen a brown snake weaving across one of the clearings on the opposite slope so we were very cautious in clambering across the piles of creek silt that had been washed against the trunks of the trees lining the pathway.

I wonder about the wildlife of this creek and whether it survives this mad rushing water. On our walks we often see turtles and carp in the still water beneath the bridge and there are always families of ducks, moorhens and swamphens floating near the banks. 

I saw one family of ducks shepherding their 6 ducklings into the bushes on the far side of the flooded playing field so perhaps the birds are safe and will return when the water  flows more slowly.

Red concrete or a tree?

I returned to Brisbane keen to see how it had adapted into its self-proclaimed image of a ‘World City”. The site proudly proclaims that Brisbane is “…clean, green, sustainable, friendly, tolerant, multi-cultural, creative, collaborative, energetic, progressive and livable.”  Oops. Let me apply some of those adjectives to traffic calming at an intersection in my suburb.

The Windsor Road / Murray Street intersection is not green but red. It is a study in boring, ugly paving with few redeeming features. Why would our local council build something so pedestrian? This traffic-calming initiative may possibly calm the traffic moving from Windsor Road into Murray St but it does not contribute creatively, sustainably or psychologically to our local community.

Its psychological effect is to make me angry and discouraged each time I drive past as it seems so little design or creativity went into this example of traffic calming. The red concrete island looks cheap and nasty. This isn’t the only example of ugliness in this neighbourhood. At many of the intersections to what are obviously local streets along Windsor Road red paint has been used on the road surface.  It is difficult to know what this red paint is meant to indicate. It certainly doesn’t contribute visually to the local environment and once it starts to fade it looks particularly ugly. It is almost a study into how to make a street look unwelcoming. Surely the Brisbane City traffic planning authorities could have been a little more creative and planted a couple of trees and plant boxes at these intersections?

Here are two pictures of Brisbane’s traffic calming initiatives. Judge which image you would rather see on your street.



There are many studies supporting the fact that trees and street planting bring benefits to the community that outweigh the cost of the initial planting and maintenance.

These studies have identified that tree-lined streets have a calming influence on drivers, causing them to slow down, improving their awareness of their environment, and making them more alert to the presence of pedestrians. This calming influence may even play a role in reducing road rage and aggressive driving habits.

Why if we are being encouraged to reduce our carbon footprint do we not plant more trees and garden beds at intersections? Not only do they absorb the carbon we produce but they also aid in reducing air pollution from car emissions. The shade produced by trees has many beneficial impacts including reducing by 3-5 degrees the ambient local temperature which may impact on the amount of energy local residents use to cool theihouses. Trees and shrubs will also encourage birds into the suburbs.

We shouldn’t underestimate the influence of living in a beautiful environment. A prettier street will encourage greater pedestrian traffic whether it is exercising the dog, riding a bike, or just walking to the local shop. The more people on the street, the more likely we are to stop and chat to each other. This greater connectivity can only encourage a stronger empathetic community.

I think the Red Hill community should inform their councillor that we don’t want to see a band-aid of red concrete placed across our roads as a ‘token’ traffic calming initiative. We should discourage ugliness and insist that design and beauty be integral in all aspects of council planning initiatives.

Does anyone else think along these lines?

A tree is as individual as the person who walks in its shade.