My old phone, which had been going for about three years was on its last legs, so I was planning replace it. It was getting to the stage where it would sometimes only last for a couple of hours before it would go flat. I was going to try and see if I could get a Fairphone 2 via a collaborator in the UK, but after Christmas their turnaround on orders really slowed down, so I thought I’d just keep an eye on the Fairphone project for the future.
Anyway, I looked into what other options were more ethical, and found something I wanted to buy. Turned out there were only two places in Melbourne that had the deal I wanted, both out of the city a bit. So I looked up the closest location on my phone and headed out.
Just after the train arrived my phone died, so I’d seen a map of where I needed to go, but when I left the train station there weren’t really any helpful streetsigns. There was a highway passing over the railwayline, and a small street going underneath. I walked along the highway in one direction for a little bit to see if I could see any signs of the shopping centre I was looking for. Walked for about then minutes without being able to see much. Walked back towards the station and then walked along the highway in the other direction for a bit. Wondered about crossing over to the other side of the highway and whether I might be able to work out where to go from there, but there wasn’t really anywhere safe to cross. I ended up walking back to the bridge and going under the bridge to the other side of the highway. I walked towards a hardware store, and once I got to the hardware store I was able to see a big sign further down the highway, advertising a whole lot of stores, including the one I wanted. So I walked along the highway towards where the sign was. I took two rotations of light changes to safely cross the highway. Once I got to spot where the sign was I found myself in an area full of government department offices with a road running through the middle. In the distance I could see a sprawling carpark and some shops. I dodged traffic to cross the road. Saw another person almost get hit by a car as she crossed further down. Walked for about five minutes across car parks to get to the shopping centre.
This experience showed me a bit about how dependent I am on a phone to find my way in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. But it also made me wonder whether it was intended as a neighbourhood? It seemed like little thought had been put into making the area navigable for local people on foot. What was being prioritised was getting people through the area (via the highway and railway line) and getting people to the government service offices and warehouse shops.
Even in our own neighbourhood, which I think is pretty easy to get around, it is noticeable how much busy roads break up the area and make some places harder to get to. Last week we went to visit our neighbours, who live in the same street as us. However, there’s a highway that separates our houses. When it’s not busy it’s easy to cross safely, but when we visited last week it was very busy, so we had to walk a couple of blocks down to cross at the lights.
What role do major roads play in your neighbourhood? What kind of relationship do you have with them?