Our “Local Legends” articles celebrate local people – often working as volunteers – shaping Merri-bek for the better. After retiring from a career in sustainable energy engineering a decade ago, Local Legend Andrea Bunting has channelled her energy and unwavering dedication towards advocating for safe, accessible, and convenient walking within Merri-bek.
Walk in someone else’s shoes
During a challenging year-long recovery from leukaemia chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in 2018, Andrea became acutely aware of the hazards faced by pedestrians.
As she gradually regained her strength through walking, she realised the dominance of cars risking safe pedestrian travel to schools, local shops, or public transportation – especially for vulnerable road users like herself.
“I started looking at the Transport Accident Commission statistics for pedestrian fatalities and injuries and was absolutely shocked,” she explains.
“I also saw that there wasn’t an active local community group advocating for safer streets for pedestrians and so I rebooted the Walk On Merri-bek facebook group to do something about it.”
Walk On Merri-bek lobbies government at all levels to improve the safety of walking. In recent years Andrea has led the group to several successful campaigns, including the community win that halted the Glenlyon Road Bunnings development. Utilising her engineering skills to analyse the proposed traffic volumes and impacts, Andrea noted that the traffic generated by the project “would have been terrible for our community”. This analysis proved instrumental to helping win the appeal.
Creating a walking culture in Merri-bek
Andrea and Walk On Merri-bek have also achieved success with a Merri-bek Community Budget Idea in 2022/23, the Merri Creek Trail: Seating Installation project. Now underway, 20 new seats (with backs and armrests) are being installed along Merri Creek to improve access to the nature reserve for all abilities and ages.
The group also contributed to a recent 2023/24 budget submission to include more drinking fountains in shopping strips, which Council has recommended for inclusion in the budget.
Brunswick elevated rail
Andrea’s next major campaign is focussed on improving pedestrian outcomes for the Victorian Government’s level crossing removal project in Brunswick.
Andrea says the project prioritises the needs of motorists, saving them a few seconds on their commuting journey, while increasing east-west traffic in our local streets and risk to walking and cycling safely. Andrea and Walk On Merri-bek are putting these concerns to Council and the Victorian Government.
“After surviving leukaemia, I realised that my life is finite,” says Andrea.
“I want to make the best use of my limited time to make a difference, and I try to do that locally by making our streets safer for walking. So many changes are needed, but slowing cars down is vital. 30 kph speed limit in residential streets has been shown to massively reduce road trauma – particularly for people walking – and this is what we need,” she adds.