20. Does the area feel safe to walk around?
- Are there places where it is “dark and scary”?
- Are there areas that do not have good enough street lighting, or long stretches of road that feel empty and deserted?
- Are there broken windows, high fences where you can’t see around you, or shabby looking street corners?
Public places including footpaths, parks, shopping strips and school areas should feel safe for people of all ages to walk around – as long as they exercise a normal level of caution. And in fact, communities get stronger when people regularly and spontaneously meet in public spaces.
However, a lack of safety or even a feeling of unease should not be taken lightly. Many of the possible causes for this feeling are covered above – and it’s also worth looking at whether some basic, routine maintenance (such as rubbish removal and street cleaning) might improve things.
Specific things can create safety concerns, too. “Dark and scary” places may be created by unlit laneways, trees shading street lighting or large stretches of road that don’t have houses or businesses to act as ‘passive surveillance’. Better lighting can often fix these problems (see 21., below).
Above all, though, having people around is the best safety solution. There is definitely safety in numbers, so walking yourself and encouraging others to walk can start a process that transforms a neighbourhood into a much safer place to be.
21. Is there enough street lighting?
- Lighting is needed most where people need or want to walk at night – including near public transport stops, schools, in parks and in entertainment, leisure or restaurant areas
- Is the street lighting bright enough to be able to see other people’s faces in the evening, and see any obstructions (eg. seats, poles) or potholes/trips and slips?
22. Are you aware that other people can see you as you walk around – like drivers and residents?
- Passive surveillance is about people or drivers being able to see what is happening on the street. It is one of the best ways to help people feel safe, both during the day and at night.
- Sometimes passive surveillance is difficult to achieve because there are very few people or drivers in this area, or if there aren’t any buildings nearby where there are people living or working at certain times of the day or night.
- These things can sometimes be fixed with extra street lighting or other measures. But other times, it might be easier to choose a different route – or to choose only to walk with friends. Publicising safe routes around your area may be one of the activities your group decides to do to encourage walking in the short term.
23. Are there enough people around on the street to make you feel safe?
- Places feel safe if there are people out and about, walking, sitting and talking to each other. If there are other people walking around while you’re doing your audit, why not ask them about whether they feel that there are enough people to help them feel safe?
- You can also pick a spot (eg. outside train stations, at a street corner or outside the library) and count the number of people walking past you for an hour or two, just to get an idea of daily “foot traffic”. The numbers might be higher than you think!