Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fixing the problem at its source

I see that fines for "jaywalking" are set to be doubled. Brilliant. All of those terrible lethal pedestrians putting the occupants of cars at risk. It's about time something was done about it. We know that increasing penalties lowers crime. Look at all of those US States with the death penalty - tiny crime and murder rates in all of them. Doubling the fine will definitely fix the problem.

The word jaywalking does not actually appear in the Australian Road Rules but there are various little rules dictating how you walk around town. Subject to certain exceptions, you're allowed to cross the road wherever you like. You just have to do it by the shortest safe route without staying on the road longer than necessary.

It changes once you're within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing with lights. In that case you have to use it. If the robot inside the light tells you not to by displaying a red light, you cannot cross. It doesn't matter that the road is empty. It doesn't matter that it is the middle of the night and there are no cars around at all. You must stand there in the rain and obey. It's for your safety you know.

Personally, I find it difficult to believe that people just walk into a busy road without checking - unless they're very drunk. In certain streets, you can expect there to be a lot of people on each side - usually because there are clubs and bars. You might think that it would be expected that someone might try to cross the road and it would not be unreasonable for a motorist to slow down a bit and be ready for that. BUt hey, that's just me.

A lot of the problem here in Adelaide is a lack of safe places to cross where they are needed. Signalised pedestrian crossings in the city are almost all at traffic crossings. They are in the perfect place for motorists but not necessarily on pedestrian routes. A perfect example is outside the entrance to the Central Market on Gouger Street and further up at Moonta Street. There is a lot of pedestrian traffic crossing there but no proper crossing. It leads very often to groups of pedestrians huddled in the middle of the road (in the laughably title "safety zone") waiting for cars to pass at 50 km/h. This is despite a specific rule that requires driver not to drive past at a speed that puts pedestrians at risk.

You'll never see a police officer there but you will at the signalised crossings ready to catch someone who crosses safely but against the red light and give them a double-sized fine.

There was a great article not long ago in Slate Magazine about this with six ways to deal with the "problem" - a great read.


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