Sticky Streets Killing Small Business

The concept of “sticky streets” or streets that people want to stick around in at the expense of traffic flow, works in some parts of the world. It’s worked in large cities where choking off a few streets won’t make that much of a difference. But here in Hobart’s CBD, it’s a disaster for our small businesses.

Traffic flow in Collins and Liverpool streets is woeful. These are two of Hobart’s most important arteries. But that life-giving traffic flow has been choked. The passage narrowed like life-threatening cholesterol builds up in the heart’s arteries.

What I would give to be able to take a sledgehammer and restore those lanes that have been removed.

These sticky streets are hugely damaging to the small businesses that make Hobart the unique place that it is. If we don’t start prioritizing these little family businesses, all we will be left with are the boring ‘big box multi-nationals’. Free from character and local business, but hey, people might want to hang around in the streets for a little bit longer.

Hobart has experimented with the ‘Sticky Street’ concept for years.  First, we installed the Elizabeth Street Mall. Then, Collins and Liverpool Streets were narrowed. Elizabeth Street Mall is known to the locals as not the place to be out of hours, and inevitably, the police find themselves needing additional funding to put more officers out on the street to deal with rising crime.  Hardly a situation we need to repeat over and over throughout!

 And other emergency services will also be affected.

Fire and ambulance access also suffers when the streets are narrowed creating a potential disaster in our most densely populated shopping district. Imagine the lives and property that would be at risk should another electrical fault trigger a fire as we saw in the Myer department store in 2007.

Last year a Fire-truck was called out to Collins street creating a traffic disaster as cars following the truck found themselves unable to move forwards or backwards for nearly an hour.  Exactly how is this appropriate or safe for us all?  Surely we should be planning for good support for all businesses and shoppers alike – we all need to be safe when utilising the Central Business District of Hobart.

Hobart’s iconic retailer, Coogans, which had been serving Hobart customers for almost 150 years was shut down in 2019. A Coogans representative on the radio last week was pretty clear about the impact that narrowing Collins street had on their business. The sale of goods out the door fell dramatically. The impact is real. 

Look a bit further up the street, where Country Road once traded. The shopfront is still empty while officials work out what to do with it.

There is no shortage of empty windows on Liverpool Street either. Businesses were already struggling at the start of 2020 before the pandemic came to finish the job.

Let’s create an environment that allows small businesses to thrive. Supported they can create employment opportunities and better yet produce the very innovation that small businesses are known for – to prosper and fill our world.

Sticky streets need a strong public transport system. Hobart does not and likely will not have great public transport for many years to come. Let’s accept that our beautiful city is different and develop solutions that work for it, not ideas imported from abroad.  No matter how many experts you cherry-pick theory from they cannot shoehorn Hobart into something she is not.

It’s our small businesses, their employees and their families who pay the price.

The metal seating in Liverpool Street, which has taken away valuable parking access, is generally unused but for some reason, we’re sticking with them. The people our small businesses need are not sticking around in these sticky streets.

Image a future where these vital roads were freed up with more than a single lane of traffic and 45-degree parking along at least one side.

Imagine better access for the elderly and disabled so they can come back to explore the shops in the CBD. After taking my father, in a wheelchair, around Hobart I experienced the city’s shortcomings. The number of disabled car parks have diminished and are, in some cases, unusable. I challenge anyone to try and push a wheelchair up from the Council Chambers Disabled parking spots to the GPO.

Imagine designing an accessible mecca for innovative small businesses who give the giants a run for their money.  Remember, none of us visits another city to see the same franchises we already have. We visit for those things we cannot experience anywhere else. Small business holds so much value for our city. We should treasure them. We should build a CBD to showcase them and in return and we will all reap the rewards.

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