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Guest blog: Deborah Singerman on the importance of streets

When I first lived in Sydney in the late 1980s, I house-sat in the sprawling, leafy Upper North Shore. I could not drive then and it was all very different from the more compact Hong Kong and London that had been my most recent homes. Streets with no pavements, delineated by grass verges, curving, winding with no real grid to follow confused me. This was magnified by my getting very lost on a cold, wet night a year or so later, in the Chatswood backstreets as I tried to find the main road to the station. I admit to a hopeless sense of direction but when the streets only add to the miasma it does not help.
 
I have since mostly lived in Sydney’s inner-west. I value the much more regimented street layout with its recognisable pattern and increasingly generous number of zebra crossings. Ashfield station runs local and express trains to the CBD and further out west. Lifts and glass walkways were added for the Sydney Olympics. There are seats in the street running from the station towards the shopping centre, and a statue of 19th century Chinese merchant and philanthropist, Quong Tart, who lived in Ashfield.
 
The rebuilt civic centre and library area also has a ground floor café, and cafes have opened in the shopping centre and on the other side of the station. One has internet service and home-made Indian food that attracts what are apparently homesick overseas students. There are also more apartments around the station, unfortunately out of my price range.
 
The epitome of community for me was when one of the guards at the station one night approached me as I left the train. She asked whether I had lost a ticket the previous evening. This was pre-Opal and the ticket was in fact a quarterly with a lot of money still on it. I thought I’d dropped it at Town Hall, but it seems that I had dropped it at Ashfield station and the station master was holding it for the owner – in this case, me. I showed ID, and had to say when I had purchased the ticket, what amount was still on it and, for safety’s sake, the registration number. I was so relieved and thankful that I still cannot but smile at any of the guards from that night.


Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment and community. @deborahsingerma


Sitting together is fun and relaxing; image courtesy of Ashfield Council, Frolic in the Forecourt; photographer Uri Auerbach