29 Mar 2017

Tourists making world's steepest street unsafe

1:26 pm on 29 March 2017

The world's steepest street in Dunedin has become so popular with tourists, it is a safety risk, a resident says.

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According to locals, it is not unusual to find three to four busloads of tourists wandering Baldwin Street at any given time. Photo: 123RF / AFP

A constant stream of tourists climb Baldwin Street each day, stopping in the middle of the road to take photos, or trying to force their campervans up the 19-degree angled street.

Last year a public toilet was put near the street entrance, after residents and business complained of busloads of tourists asking to use theirs.

Resident Sharon Hyndman told a Dunedin City Council meeting yesterday she enjoyed living on Baldwin St. In the past 12 months national and international media had interviewed her several times.

However, the street was so internationally renowned, it posed problems for residents and tourists, she said.

"Increasingly, inexperienced tourists attempt to drive all modes of transport, including campervans, large SUVs, motorbikes and rental cars of all descriptions up the street.

"Once they reach the top, if they make it, there is no parking and very limited turning. It is not unusual to have four or five cars all vying for the turning space.

"There are often large groups of pedestrians congregated, making turning unsafe and difficult."

Baldwin Street in Dunedin

Council staff are coming up with a traffic and pedestrian safety plan for Baldwin Street because of the number of tourists. Photo: 123rf.com

Ms Hyndman said tourists used residents' driveways to turn around, or parked in driveways and "were not always co-operative when asked to move".

"One of my neighbours has had a retaining wall repaired three times due to turning manoeuvres."

Two weeks ago, a group of men on a motorcycle tour tried to reach the top of the street, but did not make it because of the congregated pedestrians, Ms Hyndman said.

Three of the bikes slid down the hill, pinning one of the men under their bike, she said.

She said it was not unusual to find three to four busloads of tourists wandering the street at any given time.

Although the street had footpaths and stairs, they were no longer adequate to cope with the amount of foot traffic.

Pedestrians tended to walk up the middle of the street, with some "foolishly" lying down to pose for photos, she said.

Ms Hyndman asked the council to consider more signage at the bottom of the street, resident only vehicle access, wider footpaths, or resident only parking.

"Every day people wander over my property, walk on my deck - usually posing for photos - and peer in my windows on the odd occasion."

Acting transport manager Richard Saunders said the council recognised the number of tourists caused issues for Baldwin Street residents.

Staff were coming up with a traffic and pedestrian safety plan and would discuss it with residents within the next couple of months, he said.