Bushes and trees blocking footpaths

We all like some greenery in our neighbourhoods.

But as I noted in this rant blog post, one bane of pedestrians is bushes and trees overhanging footpaths.

They’re not really obvious unless you’re walking, but bushes and trees like this are everywhere.

I’m sick of having to duck out of their way. This is especially difficult when it’s dark. You can easily not spot the hazard as you approach.

Bushes blocking footpath

Local councils have regulations about this. In my area, City of Glen Eira local law says:

Trees must be trimmed to a height of three metres above the ground and, at least, vertically in line with the property boundary. Shrubs must not protrude beyond the fence line or encroach onto the footpath.

If a Council notice is sent requesting that trees or shrubs be trimmed, the work must be completed within 14 days.

Property owners who do not comply with a notice within 14 days will be issued with an official warning notice. This provides a further 10 days to complete the work. If action is still not taken within the required timeframe, a penalty notice of $200 may be issued and a contractor will be engaged by us to undertake the necessary work. The property owner is responsible for the contractor’s fees.

When I checked with the council, they said they don’t do proactive inspections. It’s up to people to report problems.

But how many people know what the rules are, and that you can report them? No wonder it’s such a widespread problem.

Bushes overhanging footpath

What the council does do is when looking at a reported site, they will look at the immediate surrounding area.

They also said that for overhanging branches from trees on the nature strip, the council is ultimately responsible — though it sounds like they’d prefer if property owners kept them under control.

One weekend I went for a walk along some main roads near home, and noted down some particularly problematic locations to report.

I used a stricter criteria than the council. The council standard is 3 metres of clearance. I decided I’d only report it where I had to duck to walk under it (I’m about 1.8 metres tall), or if it was blocking enough of the footpath that a parent with a large pram, or someone with a mobility aid/wheelchair would have to detour onto the grass to avoid it.

On a 6km walk, I found about two dozen problematic locations. About 90% of them were bushes and trees growing from private property. A small number were on the nature strip. And I reported a bunch of them.

On a subsequent walk, I found one far worse:

Tree branch across footpath

With most trees and bushes that overhang the footpath, you can brush past. Not this one.

The main branches are so thick that you’d do yourself an injury if you collided with it. It’s right at head height.

Someone had put a bit of hazard tape on it, but one wonders how it was ever allowed it to block the footpath like this.

Duly reported.

We’ll see what happens next.

Update 15/5/2018: Sometime in the last 72 hours, the tree in question has been pruned back markedly, such that it is now clear of the footpath.

Do your bit for walkability: keep the footpath clear

It wasn’t planned this way, but this week’s posts seem to have been all about pedestrians/walking.

Along with rules about not parking over footpaths (and vehicles needing to give way to pedestrians when crossing footpaths), some people seem to be unaware that there are rules about keeping vegetation clear of footpaths.

Footpath

Able-bodied people can duck or brush past overhanging trees, or detour onto a nature strip, but someone pushing a mobility aid or a pram may not be able to do that.

In my area, the City of Glen Eira says:

Property owners are responsible for keeping trees and shrubs under control and trimmed back to ensure pedestrian safety and clear sightlines for drivers.

Trees must be trimmed to a height of three metres above the ground and, at least, vertically in line with the property boundary. Shrubs must not protrude beyond the fence line or encroach onto the footpath.

The precise rules vary by council area, but the City of Monash describes it nicely in this diagram:
City of Monash: footpath overhanging vegetation rules

Why 2.5 to 3 metres? I suppose it allows for cases where rain weighs down tree branches, bringing them lower. You also need to account for an adult riding a bike (accompanying children doing the same, which is perfectly legal) — their height is likely to be higher than 2 metres.

What’s not clear to me is whether property owners or the councils have responsibility for trees on the nature strip.

City of Monash says: Council acknowledges its duty to ensure street trees and other public vegetation does not encroach onto footpaths.

…but other rules imply that property owners are meant to keep nature strips under control. Personally, I’m happy to take this responsibility.

Some people in my street seem to take no such interest. Should I flag such issues with council? It might be quicker to sneak out with pruning shears and do it myself! Hmm, vigilante footpath clearers…

It’s worth checking the precise rules in your area.

Do your bit to help walkability: for the sake of pedestrians in your street, keep overhanging trees and other vegetation off the footpath.

(Try Googling your local council name and: footpath overhang, or similar terms)

How Yarra Trams cleans up the wrong types of leaves

There’s a legendary excuse for late-running trains in Britain called the wrong type of snow (fallen on railway lines). Apparently the wrong leaves are also blamed sometimes.

Yarra trams track cleaner

I recall a Yarra Trams person telling me that while they love Melbourne’s leafy streets, some of our local trees drop the wrong leaves (I’m paraphrasing mind you, these are not her words), which does cause slippery rails, particularly in autumn — which is why, particularly at this time of year, you’ll see this beastie out and about, cleaning them up.

Similar perhaps to a conventional street-sweeper, it’s got special wheels that go into the groove of the track to clear it out.

It moves slower than the trams — on the morning I snapped it, it manoeuvred itself onto the opposite track when a tram came along, then moved back and followed it onward.

Yarra Trams track cleaner

Councils give warnings about overhanging trees blocking footpaths – why not parked cars?

From the City of Glen Eira web site:

Property owners are responsible for keeping trees and shrubs under control and trimmed back to ensure pedestrian safety and clear sightlines for drivers.


If a Council notice is sent requesting that trees or shrubs be trimmed, the work must be completed within 14 days.


Property owners who do not comply with a notice within 14 days will be issued with an official warning notice. This provides a further 10 days to complete the work. If action is still not taken within the required timeframe a penalty notice of $200 may be issued and a contractor engaged by Council to undertake the necessary work. The property owner is responsible for the contractorโ€™s fees.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they were as keen in preventing this far more common intrusion onto footpaths:

Car illegally blocking footpath

This is inconvenient for all footpath users, but can be downright hazardous for those in wheelchairs and other mobility aids, as well as pushing prams and strollers, and children riding their bikes (which is quite legal, I might add).

While you occasionally hear of people being rightly fined for it, it doesn’t seem to be very common.

It’s particularly galling when there is plenty of space on the street (or in the driveway they’re not quite using). People are just being lazy — as well as thoughtless and inconsiderate.

Perhaps a better way for Councils to deal with it would be to do as per the trees: first send a notice advising people not to illegally block the footpath… if they keep doing it, get a contractor to tow the car and charge them costs.

Overhang

One of the things you really notice as a pedestrian in wet weather is low-hanging branches over the footpaths.

I don’t know if the wet weather we’ve been having causes the trees and bushes to put on a growth spurt, or it’s just more noticeable because every time you brush against something lots of water falls on you, or because it’s harder to avoid head collisions while dodging puddles and holding an umbrella, but it’s been particularly apparent the last couple of days.

Yesterday afternoon I went out with the clippers to ensure the tree outside my house that overhangs the path isn’t in anybody’s way.

Of course, I shouldn’t have done it straight after it had been raining, as it resulted in masses of water showering down on me every time I nudged a branch.

But oh well, anybody walking down my street (and we don’t get heaps of traffic, foot or otherwise) can rest assured, they won’t have to duck when passing my house.

It’s worth a few minutes’ work to make life easier for my fellow pedestrians.

I must check if there are council bylaws about this kind of thing. Checked your overhanging trees recently?