Monday, 31 May 2010

Zebras and Pelicans

Not long ago, I saw a man lying in the middle of Regency Road in Broadview. The motorist who had hit him had stopped and was offering what assistance he could. In the distance could be seen the flashing lights of an ambulance fast approaching.

Without knowing anything about how the man had been hit, it was quite easy to infer. It was dusk and he had crossed away from lights or a pedestrian crossing. This is often the sort of "jaywalking" that generally gets people fired up enough to write a comment about it on AdelaideNow.

In fact, the poor man's behaviour was hardly surprising. There is a place for pedestrians to cross at the intersection of Hampstead Road. Travelling east, there is another intersection with pedestrian lights at the Main North Road intersection. That is about a kilometer and a half away. There is a proper pedestrian crossing somewhere between the two but it is about a kilometer from the Hampstead Road intersection. In other words, if we want to cross Regency Road "safely" you have to walk on average half a kilometer.

It is no wonder then that the poor man crossed where he did. It was not far from the Home Hardware shop. He may have been walking home from there a short distance away. If he were to use the proper crossing, it would turn a fairly short walk into one of about 20 minutes.

This is fairly typical of all main roads in Adelaide. It is of course because the right of way of the almighty motorist can never be impeded. It is also one of the reasons why suburbs are cut in half and why children, in so many cases, cannot even walk to a friend's house in the same suburb.

In Adelaide, if a safe place for pedestrians is to be installed, it is usually part of a traffic light. They are all over the place and they are what make motorists have to stop for no apparent reason in the middle of the night. They are also where pedestrians are required to wait on empty roads until a robot inside the light tells them it is safe to cross. They are clearly too stupid to know themselves.

In the UK, there is a clever invention called a zebra crossing, so named because the stripes on the road are the colour of a zebra

Picture from here.

The flashing orange lights make them clearly visible to motorists. When a pedestrians stands on the edge of one, as if by magic, cars stop to let them cross. Sometimes, motorists break the rules and travel through. Not to worry though, if that happens, the pedestrian has not started to cross so usually no lasting damage is caused. Once traffic on both sides has stopped, the pedestrian crosses the road and politely waves to the motorists to thank them for stopping.

The great thing about them is that if no pedestrians are waiting, traffic is not held up for no reason.

They used to be all over the place until the authorities started installing "pelican crossings":

Picture from here.

They are like the Australian ones where pedestrians have to press a button and apply to cross the road. When you press the button, the first thing you see is a stern "WAIT" light up. You then wait on the side of a busy road while cars speed past, ignoring you. Then, after a while, the light changes to red and, hopefully, the cars stop. Sometimes the pedestrian might be old and frail and take a little longer. Before they have crossed the road the light may begin flashing orange and, heaven forbid, change to green. This causes the motorists to get frustrated because they cannot proceed through "their" green light. They are not half as good as the zebra crossings for that reason. Instead of people working together, they are split into two opposing camps.

When I was in Vancouver I noticed crossings similar to zebra crossings. If nobody is waiting on the side of the road, you sail through. If someone is though, the cars stop for them and receive a friendly wave.

A brilliant system and one that could be used here very effectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment