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Peds Rule

Give Way Law change A4

Changing the road rules to favor pedestrians at intersections is something that will transform city life. It will allow people to move around more freely, access services and conduct everyday activities with less intimidation and inconvenience from marauding drivers. In conjunction with simple road markings, it will also help to liberate kids to travel to school or visit friends on their own, and encourage walking as a legitimate transportation mode.

As a recent immigrant I have learned to qualify my expectations, ranging from- this is different, but I can deal with it (eg. rugby league), to holy crap, this is mental, which is what I think of this road rule. With fresh eyes one can see how unique the pedestrian status is here compared to North American and European contexts. Here are a few examples:

  • At intersections and driveways it is common to see people running or madly jumping out of the way of turning cars; this doesn’t happen in large North American cities,

  • People walking are constantly looking way over their shoulders in a state of paranoia for cars to turn across their path,

  • Pedestrians increasingly cross mid-block in order to avoid the debacle of our intersections.

It didn’t take long before I became accustomed to the madness and started walking around town as if in a war zone.  This was brought to my attention on a recent trip to Vancouver when walking around downtown my friend stopped me and said, “you don’t have to worry, the cars will stop, it’s not like Auckland.” I was clearly suffering from a sort of post traumatic stress condition.

From an urban design perspective the road rules force a lot of knock-on problems that are difficult and costly to mitigate. For example, oddball pedestrian refuges are placed on insignificant side roads forcing intersections to be further blown out to accommodate rare large vehicle turning movements. Another example is the placement of speed tables in places that could easily be controlled by a regular crosswalk. While tables may make sense in the densest city centre context, it seems like overkill along regular corridors where a simple crosswalk would suffice.  I’ll write about stop signs and crosswalks in a subsequent post.

In the comments section recently we have been reminded of the tremendous progress that is being made to changing these road rules by  Walk Auckland, Living Streets Aoteroa, and the Waitemata Local Board. In addition to the other other sensible transport guidance the Waitemata Board supports changing this antiquated rule.

“Auckland Transport to advocate for a change of the give way rule requiring motorists to give way to pedestrians at intersections.”

And from Living Streets:

“…we think the Road Code should treat pedestrians as it treats other road users at intersections (mode equality). This would mean that turning vehicles would give way to pedestrians walking straight through (see the diagram below). This is already the law in Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.”

For those interested in the gory technical and policy details,  have a look at this comprehensive paper by Dan Ross (pdf) posted through Living Streets Aoteroa. Of the many interesting tidbits from this paper is the description of a ‘courtesy crossing’. (No points if you guessed who benefits from said courtesy.)

As a side note, it’s important to note the leadership of these local efforts. Urban innovation is increasingly being driven by cities, not national governments. You can expect to see more deviations from the typical car-first paradigm that is embedded in national and Canberra policy, where the applicability to urban Auckland in particular is suspect.

This rule change will happen, and like the new turning give-way rule, it will quickly be assimilated into our daily lives. Of course, comment away on how dangerous this rule would be to implement, in particular the ‘false sense of security’ it will provide.

For fun, this is how Dustin Hoffman deals with traffic in NYC (sorry no puppy photos).

154 comments to Peds Rule

  • Martin W.

    Actually with such a simple rule also traffic flow on traffic lights could be improved too. In fairly whole Europe as well as in some States in the U.S. right turners (would be here left) can enter the intersection, what makes cars behind them able to pass, but they have to wait for the pedestrians to cross. So no left turn arrow is needed.

  • SF Lauren

    Can I suggest you campaign to have zebra crossings installed at intersections where you want pedestrains to have the right of way.

    The issue I have with just changing the law is that pedestrains will start thinking they are now safe because of the law but car drivers will stay doing things as normal looking for other cars rather than pedestrains. In the end we may get more incidents.

    • Kent Lundberg

      Ah, the old ‘false sense of security” chestnut.

    • Brendan

      That way will take lots of paint to achieve what Vancouver has – pedestrians having the right of way on every unmarked intersection.

      • SF Lauren

        I think you will find paint is much cheaper and easier to replace than a human life.

        • NCD

          Well, how about a reduction in speeds to save lives in that case? That would also mean motorists are much less likely to miss a pedestrian they should be giving way to, and if they do hit, reduce the severity of the incident…

    • swan

      The 2012 intersection law change went off with out a hitch based on my observations. I dont see why this wouldnt.

      • SF Lauren

        Yes all that happened was that we had a few accidents and congestion worse. Not a hitch at all.

        • Bryce P

          Congestion is worse? Can you point me to a study?

          • SF Lauren

            There are a number of studies underway. However it is rather evident why this is the case as right turning traffic gets stuck in the middle of the road longer blocking through traffic.

            A number of intersections have now had right turns prohibited due to this reason.

          • Excellent. We allow too many urban right hand turns. Low hanging safety and traffic movement fruit right there. Ponsonby Rd for example.

          • Sailor Boy

            I would say that in many places congestion is actually better due to the lack of confusion.

          • SteveC

            or left turning traffiuc has a give way marked, messy and confusing

          • A don’t see how it can cause congestion as the same was previously true before hand with left turning traffic stuck in the other lane blocking through traffic?

            If there is space to pass to the right of a left turning car, there is also space to pass to the left of a right turning car. If there isn’t space to pass, either way you are blocked.
            I guess you can cross the centre line to pass on the right if there is nothing coming the other way, but if nothing is coming the other way, then no one is waiting to turn, they are just turning.

            Would be good to see some studies if there are some inexplicit side effects causing congestion.

        • swan

          The question is of compliance with the law SF. Any effects on congestion would have been reasonably forseeable.

  • Sanctuary

    The biggest problem with the first image – a vehicle turning right across on-coming traffic into a side road – is that the driver is already handling multiple inputs – watching the approaching traffic, checking the rear vision mirror, calculating distance, etc. The requirement to keep an eye out for a pedestrian approaching over the drivers right shoulder – effectively a blindspot for this manoeuvre (a driver will checking the rear vision mirror to be sure all traffic will pass on his or hers left, not looking for anything approaching from the right rear) – along a possibly dimly lit footpath and unlikely to be moving quick enough to catch the eye or wearing high visibility clothing is simply unrealistic. Worse, if the driver were to commence the turn, notice the pedestrian and try and bail out then the chance of being hit by an approaching vehicle square on the drivers door is quite high, meaning the driver will probably choose to cut down the pedestrian than risk personal injury… I know I would. It is an unrealistic idea that would probably see more pedestrians (“but I was in the right!” *gurgle* *die*) hit, not less.

    Don’t have a problem with the second one though, most drivers slow right down for such pedestrians anyway now.

    • Martin W.

      It is actually quite funny that it seems to work in most of the other OECD countries tho… although i have to admit, it is not a general right of crossing, but they have way more zebra crossings.

      • SF Lauren

        When you say “it seems to work” are you just saying they have it or that you have some research demonstrating that it’s safer?

        • Starnius

          Lauren, Auckland/NZ has an very high crash record in comparison with, say, Germany or Sweden and a lower walking rate. Sometimes, things that are safer IN ISOLATION are crap for society.

          I mean, the safest solution would be to NEVER cross (or allow crossing) anywhere except at traffic signals equipped with fully protected ped phases. Assuming everyone then obeyed the rules, risk would be zero. I don’t have to explain why this would be the worst idea ever.

          • SF Lauren

            Starnius, a global crash statistic with no compatible context is superfluous.

            In order to make any comparison you need to break it down so you are comparing apple’s with apple’s and not chocolate fish with second hand dishwashers.

          • Starnius

            If you want to use analogies – I know that I am comparing a damaged bucket (the way our current environment treats peds) with well-maintained dishwasher (the way our current environment treats cars). If you want to move the discussion into the merits of whether toploader dishwashers are better than frontloader dishwashers, well, the rest of us will still be here, using the damaged bucket, meanwhile.

          • Stu Donovan

            SF Lauren – I suggest you re-consider your use of the word “superfluous”. International comparisons of rates of walking and accidents involving pedestrians are relevant to this discussion, even if they are not the be all and end all of the debate.

            Moreover, there is – in my experience – very few “apples and apples” comparisons.

            Most comparisons sit on a spectrum of relevance. So while we must be careful to not read too much into high-level cross-sectional statistics between jurisdictions, you should also not simply dismiss those statistics when they don’t align with your own world-view. Instead you should present reasons why, for example, Sweden’s high rates of walking and cycling and lower rates of accidents should not be attributed, at least in part, to their road rules.

          • NCD

            It could be argued that some international studies are actually more relevant in some circumstances than local studies as they have much bigger data sets available, so achieve statistical significance that we can’t.

        • Martin W.

          I intended to refer to the road codes there. To get statistics where the pedestrians got hit by turning traffic is probably an exhaustive exercise.

    • Steve D

      The requirement to keep an eye out for a pedestrian approaching over the drivers right shoulder – effectively a blindspot for this manoeuvre

      You should already be keeping an eye out for pedestrians, even if there’s no formal right-of-way rule at the moment. Lots of people don’t, of course, and lots of people turn too fast to be able to stop. The solution is to SLOW THE CARS DOWN, not to keep enabling their sense of entitlement to go 50-but-really-60 km/h everywhere without regard to whether they’re driving safely.

      choose to cut down the pedestrian than risk personal injury

      If that pedestrian dies, what you’ve described is murder. Regardless of what the give way rules are. And not in some sort of figurative sense – if you admitted to those facts in court, you would be convicted.

      Incidentally, if you’re turning right, and you stop, and the oncoming car doesn’t have time to stop before it hits you, then you picked far too small a gap to turn in.

    • swan

      Sanc,

      Have you mowed down any peds recently turning into petrol stations or supermarket carparks, or your own driveway? Cause that is pretty well the same situation except that you already DO have to give way to peds.

  • Steve D

    Isn’t that Dustin Hoffman who’s walkin’ ‘ere? Anyway, this would be a great change and make walking a lot safer and more pleasant.

    For what it’s worth, pedestrians aren’t actually required to give way to cars at the moment – there’s no law whatsoever governing who has right of way outside marked crossings. In theory, if you walk straight across six lanes of traffic, there’s no legal reason why you should give way to the cars than the other way around. The status quo is just maintained by fear of being run down.

    • Kent Lundberg

      Thanks Steve. Updated with Hoffman.

    • SF Lauren

      Steve, actually there are laws for uncontrolled intersections. There are also laws for non-intersections going onto roads such as private accesses and kerb cut downs. There are also laws about crossing carriageway and changing lanes.

      • Steve D

        I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear – there’s no rule governing right of way between pedestrians and vehicles outside marked crossings. Obviously there are lots of rules about vehicles giving way to each other!

        Yes, there’s a law for kerb cuts/driveways (motorists give way to pedestrians), and pedestrians crossing the road have to cross at right-angles to the kerb, and so on. But with the ironic exception of zebra crossings, there’s no road rule that applies to pedestrians crossing a road that requires them to wait for a vehicle to pass.

  • Max

    Yes, yes, yes. Cycle Action Auckland has also called for this (http://caa.org.nz/safety/on-the-way-to-copenhagen-ii-side-road-priority/), because this also benefits shared paths & Copenhagen Cycle Lanes (which in NZ law would be “off-road” paths).

    “The issue I have with just changing the law is that pedestrains will start thinking they are now safe because of the law but car drivers will stay doing things as normal looking for other cars rather than pedestrains. In the end we may get more incidents.”

    That’s what education and enforcement is for. This wouldn’t just happen one Monday morning with no warning (and pedestrians would need a long time to learn the deference beaten into us anyway). Not changing a rule because there may be change-over upheaval is not an option when that rule needs to be changed….

    • Kent Lundberg

      Max, apologies, I should have put CAA in their as well. Great stuff and synergies across a range of interests.

    • Max

      Sorry, that was meant “…would need a long time to UN-learn…”.

      Also, my visiting mother from Germany told me that she was almost hit on her first day here, because she assumed that people would give way to her in this situation. Made me a bit ashamed of how backwards our rules are.

    • Sanctuary

      Take a look at Carrington road and the turn off into Unitec as a concrete example of the dangers of the first option.

      1/ Carrington road is one of the busiest in Auckland, and right turning drivers into the Unitec Campus have to watch the approaching traffic carefully for a chance to turn right.
      2/ for the entire length of the Unitec campus, the southern footpath is shielded from the road by a hedge.

      So you have the ultimate lethal scenario – drivers focused on the traffic, and pedestrians emerging from behind cover to cross the intersection thinking they have right of way. It is bad enough in daylight, let alone twilight. This isn’t a case of “…car drivers will stay doing things as normal looking for other cars…” it is a situation where you are asking human beings to provide exceptional situational awareness in a high stress situation.

      I’ve almost been hit three times in exactly these circumstances, i.e. walking towards Mt. Albert station along the footpath on the south side of Carrington Road and having vehicles taking advantage of a brief break in the traffic to rapidly turn right into the Unitec campus gates. Most people are not Top Gun pilots, and we should expect them to show the situational awareness we normally only expect from experts.

      • wtl

        Surely in this case the change would make it SAFER rather than the other way around. You’ve pointed out examples where a pedestrian (yourself) has crossed when you thought it was safe to do so, but still nearly got hit. At least with the proposed change, at least it would make drivers think twice about pedestrians before turning. I really do not believe that pedestrians are going to suddenly ignore vehicles to the detriment to their own safety even if they do have the right-of-way.

      • Bryce P

        remove this section of hedege for a start. http://goo.gl/maps/Y3nPG Then, remove part of this stone wall http://goo.gl/maps/SgtG6 and finish of off with a paved crossing area back far enough for a single car to stop.

        • Bryce P

          Also, is that driveway a road? It looks like a road but I would think it’s actually just an entrance for the driveway which means pedestrians have ROW now but the signage indicates ROW for cars. Just another example of how drivers have been ‘trained’ not to give ROW to pedestrians.

          • Bryce P

            It also looks like there are 4 driveways along there. Why not reduce that to 2 and have lights at both. Safer for all involved.

      • Steve D

        Yes, most people aren’t Top Gun pilots, which is why they shouldn’t be trying to slip through tiny gaps in traffic without looking where they’re going, and moving far too fast to be able to stop if they see a hazard.

        • Sanctuary

          You can bang on as long as you like about demanding drivers do this or that, but frankly most the comments here so far are just anti-car sentiment dressed up as (bad) argument. Common sense should tell you what drivers are and are not capable of.

          “…Yes, most people aren’t Top Gun pilots, which is why they shouldn’t be trying to slip through tiny gaps in traffic…”

          Any psychologist will tell you human decision performance deteriorates when under time pressure. To put it simply, time pressure increases task difficulty which can lead to errors of judgment. More often than not, drivers turning right in the face of oncoming traffic are making multiple stage decisions precisely at the same time as they are under significant time constraints that will affect that decision making process. THUS, WHETHER OR NOT PEDESTRIANS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY THE CHANCES ARE WHEN UNDER PRESSURE MOTORISTS WILL NOT NOTICE THEM PRECISELY WHEN THEY WILL BE DRIVING FASTEST. It proceeds from this simple observation that giving pedestrians the right of way on busy roads is to simply give them a false sense of complacency.

          You can’t make laws that fly in the face of basic human decision making psychology, even if you do hate cars.

          • swan

            So are you advocating for removing pedestrian right of way across driveways etc then Sanc?

            I agree that the hedge situation you describe sounds dangerous (mainly because it is unusual). But I dont see how that specific situation should be generalised to all intersections.

          • Max

            Sanctuary, all that only makes sense if you believe that the best response to the problem you have correctly identified (driver information/decision loads) is to retain the status quo, in which pedestrians may be safer at an individual point, but are otherwise screwed over. Pedestrians are safest indoors, sitting on their sofa. Do we want that? No.

            As for “anti-car” and “hate cars”, I consider that a straw man argument. If by believing that the pendulum has swung WAY too far over to enabling cars, and wanting a greater focus on peds, if that makes us “anti-car”, then so be it. We aren’t, but in either case that discussion is going nowhere, especially if you try to use it as a throwaway to oppose viewpoints you don’t like.

          • Steve D

            WHEN UNDER PRESSURE MOTORISTS WILL NOT NOTICE THEM PRECISELY WHEN THEY WILL BE DRIVING FASTEST

            It’s exactly when you’re under the most pressure, and when you have to juggle the largest number of separate tasks, that you need to

            SLOW

            THE

            FUCK

            DOWN.

            You seem to think that people will always be terrible drivers, and you’re right. We will be, including you and me.

            But that doesn’t have to translate into killing pedestrians – if you compensate for your limitations, don’t outdrive what you can see, and don’t take chances at intersections. If you’re turning right, you should wait for a gap in traffic that’s long enough so that the oncoming car has time to stop, if necessary. You should take the turn slow enough that you can stop, if there’s someone in the way. You should be scanning for hazards, and unless you’re sure there aren’t any, don’t go fast enough that you can’t react.

          • NCD

            +1.
            Slowing down is saving London 200 lives a year, and will save a further 700 once they spread their slow zones across the city.
            http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b4469

        • swan

          Precisely. What Steve said.

      • wtl

        Any psychologist could tell you that people care for their safety. To put simply, even if the rules say that they should be safe, they will be aware that others not following the rules may put them in danger. THUS, WHETHER OR NOT PEDESTRIANS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY THE CHANCES ARE THEY WILL LOOK OUT FOR DRIVERS BREAKING THE RULES. It proceeds from simple observation* that pedestrians will be naturally cautious on busy roads and will not become complacent simply because of a rule change.

        * e.g. pedestrians are cautious at zebra crossings

        I really can’t see anyone here hating cars, just arguing for pedestrians to have the SAME RIGHTS as cars.

      • SF Lauren

        I agree with you sanctuary. A very good comparison is red light running.

        People know full well that when the light turns amber they are meant to stop but in only 10% of signal phase changes do people actually stop correctly, and in many cases one car will actually run the red as well.

        Now based on the arguments we are hearing people never break the law in such a way, and further more we are meant to believe that when the light is green people slow down and check to make sure nobody is running the red light.

        Now given we have hundreds of crashes every year due to the above not happening you would need to be dreaming to think that everyone is going to see every pedestrain and that each pedestrain will cross with the caution of a bomb disarmer.

        • Sailor Boy

          “each pedestrain will cross with the caution of a bomb disarmer”

          This already happens, why woukld it stop?

          • SF Lauren

            How in the world do you arrive at that wild conclusion?

            Have you ever actually been outside of your bedroom before? Back here in the real world pedestrains make crazy and dangerous manoeuvres all the time just to shave a few meters or seconds off their trip.

            We have to completely fence off motorways and constantly observe them with CCTV cameras just to try and keep pedestrains off them.

          • I sometimes leave my bedroom. I find a more accurate statement would be:

            “Motorists make crazy and dangerous manoeuvres all the time just to shave a few meters or seconds off their trip”

          • SF Lauren

            I agree that motorists aren’t all that great either but they do take greater care than your average pedestrain.

            The slow speed makes the risk of serious injury when you have a head-on crash with another pedestrain rather rare and quite often pedestrains can be engaged in animatted discussion or admiring the dresses in the shop window next to them making walking into power poles and small children a common occurrence.

          • Sailor Boy

            “I agree that motorists aren’t all that great either but they do take greater care than your average pedestrain.”

            Know I know you are talking rubbish. I get passed by 50 cars a day on blind corners on the wrong side of the road. I see maybe one or 2 pedestrians stepping out into traffic without looking and I probably see 10 times more pedestrians.

  • RJ Y

    If this is changed, this would be great…not sure if its the case here in NZ but if pedestrian is J-Walking and the driver hits that pedestrian is the driver at fault? if not then it should be changed to the same rule they have in the back home in the Philippines…it was something like “Regardless where the pedestrian is crossing if you hit them while driving then your at fault” this is the loop hole in our must cross at a proper crossing rule

    • Starnius

      I would see it more as a FEATURE for a walkable transport environment, rather than a loophole. Means drivers have to take more care if they have to be afraid of legal consequences of hitting peds.

      And for those who consider that “unbalanced”, or “unfair” they should realise that pedestrians are the ones putting their lives at risk. THAT is unbalanced.

      • Steve D

        We should be treating car accidents closer to the way we treat gun accidents. If you accidentally shoot someone, under any circumstances, you’re going to have one hell of a battle to convince anyone that it wasn’t your fault. But when it comes to car accidents we so often blame the victim, especially if they were doing anything even slightly against the road rules.

  • Luke E

    I’d hope most people already look at the intersection to make sure no one is crossing before they turn into it. Especially in suburban areas, I always look to make sure there aren’t young kids running around and crossing without looking (which I saw just the other day). Surely if we can look for pedestrians, we can let them cross first, too?

  • Bryce P

    This has to happen. Thanks for highlighting this Kent (and Max via CAA). Step 1.

  • wtl

    This is a very good idea. I frankly don’t buy the arguments that the such a change would be very unsafe. For one thing, pedestrians are not going to suddenly become blasé about their safety if the rules is changed. At the moment, even though pedestrians have the right-of-way at driveways and zebra crossings, they still look out for cars to ensure their safety. The main point about this change is that it is only treating pedestrians equal to other road users – turning traffic should give way to (and look out for) pedestrians going straight.

  • John Polkinghorne

    Is ACC a supporter of getting the rules changed? They should be keen on any move that could bring down the accident rate.

    • Ari

      I would really like to know this. I suspect if they did the research they probably wouldn’t support the change. If my taxes didn’t have to pay for people’s healthcare, then I wouldn’t have as much a problem with this rule change.

      • Kent Lundberg

        The research? You mean the connections between sedentary lifestyles and health care costs?

      • So the two commentators who think it’s best as it is: traffic engineers, nothing personal, just saying. Looking at the world from the point of TRAFFIC. Again nothing personal, I know it’s a small sample, but it is a 100% correlation.

        • Max

          Sorry to screw up your math, but I favour it, and I am a traffic engineer. Pedestrians ARE traffic.

          • Sailor Boy

            You mistake the assertion. The assertion was that all who oppose it are traffic engineers, not that all traffic engineers oppose it.

        • SF Lauren

          I assume you are referring to me here Patrick. In which case you will be best to read the second post on this topic where I said they should install zebra crossings.

          This would achieve the goal people are looking for but in a safer way. Based on my suggestion being based on safety and international practice anyone who opposes my suggestion is actively campaigning for reduced pedestrain safety and therefore must be under the impression that they think it is acceptable for people to die so that you can get your way.

          • Bryce P

            I would fully support zebra crossings as a cheap way of emphasising the point. I would love to see the formula that they use to determine traffic volumes vs ped volumes vs speed to work out if they can install zebra crossings. It appears very random to me and determined more by whomever is working on a specific project :-)

          • Steve D

            Well, we could do both – make a give way rule, and paint a crossing at every unsignalised intersection to help the change sink in.

          • Steve D

            Backing up the change with some paint could really help – think of the change a few years back where cars have to stop 5 metres short of zebra crossings. No-one would have complied, except that there were lines painted five metres out from every crossing. Now most people stop in the right place, even though few people actually know there was a law change.

          • Bryce P

            ‘order more white paint’

        • Swan

          Patrick I am fairly sure SF Lauren is not an actual engineer.

      • John Polkinghorne

        Hmm, we seem to have opposite ideas about whether accident rates would go up or down if the law changed. I was going with down, although there could certainly be some arguments for it to go up. At any rate, like Kent says, there are strong health benefits from getting more people walking.

  • Bryce P

    Samoa changed from LHD to RHD overnight without any major issues. Surely NZ drivers can cope with this small change. Another country did this as well….ah yes, Sweden had LHD cars but made them drive on the LH side of the road until the early 70′s when they changed it to the standard RH side.

    • Ari

      Samoa: 77 cars per 1000 people. NZ: 700 cars per 1000 people. Of course we can compare Samoa with NZ….

      • Sailor Boy

        Sweden has 500 and we managed the intersection changes fine last time, it is just more evidence piling up.

      • Bryce P

        And the complexity in a change to give way rules is much more minor than changing the side of the road you drive on. I was just saying that changing laws doesn’t automatically mean a grand catastrophe. Also, the total number of cars is not a good measure. The actual traffic counts are what matters.

  • It is a national issue, not just Auckland. Queenstown and now Wanaka are being overtaken by cars, with diminishing safety for pedestrians in what should easily be ped friendly areas. The traffic calming recently put into place in Wanaka is a shocker. Massive speed bumps, with no zebra xing signage, and outstandingly hopeless road lane narrowing in the shopping streets that look like the ovbious place for a Ped to cross, but instead they have planted gardens and fencing to prevent ped access. See it to believe it.
    We have ended up as we have, becuase no local authourity seems able to break the mould. Waitemata Community Board would be a good place to start…..

    • Bryce P

      Waitemata are already in on this. Maybe we need to convince AT that it’s a good idea? They appear to hold a bit of sway. Perhaps a private members bill from a friendly MP?

  • It would be a nice change but pointless to implement here because the NZ Police barely enforce the rules we already have. It’ll be like how the ban on driving and talking on mobile phones has totally stopped anyone doing that ever again….

    • Starnius

      The enforcement would come once pedestrians get hit, and are suddenly in the right = driver getting convincted instead of stupid stories in the Herald of mothers having to pay for damage their children did to cars they got run over by. You don’t need the police to enforce that, the courts would.

      • Harvey Specter

        That kid came out from between two parked cars, not at an intersection.

        And the damage was done by his scooter. Given the normal damage with car v kid, I assume he wasn’t actually hit but got a shock from such a close call.

        This rule would have dont nothing in this situation other than to confirm the driver was in the right.

      • That won’t work because people don’t think that way. Most drivers are barely thinking of what they are doing right now let alone what the consequences of their actions now might be later on.

        About half the pedestrians getting hit now are already in the right but that doesn’t stop them getting hit (taken from here: http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/pedestrian-crash-facts-2012.pdf).

        Adding new rules that aren’t enforced won’t help. Improving the overall standard of driving skill would probably be better and part of that would be the Police better enforcing all the rules we already have. Then they can start adding new rules when people might have a hope of respecting them.

        Start making people responsible for their driving and they’ll become better drivers. Make it so you have to be a good driver to even be on the road. If someone gets caught doing something wrong don’t just fine them, make them re-sit the test. If they’ve been driving for years hold them to a higher standard. I am sure the inconvenience factor of having to pay and re-sit the driving test would have much more effect than simply fining people. When people get caught doing things there is too much of a “well, everyone else is doing it too” attitude. That’s what needs to be changed. Changing the rules, even though it’s a sensible change, won’t change driver behaviour.

    • Steve D

      It’s more about creating a new social norm, like we’re (somewhat successfully) doing with shared spaces. Drivers at the moment have the attitude that everything between the kerbs is their rightful property and pedestrians should keep out. This kind of denies the reality that if you stick to the footpath, you can never leave the block…

  • Adam W

    This is something we need at a national level.
    Having spent 4 years in the UK, I was so surprised when cars were giving way when I was walking across a road.
    I thought the drivers were being very friendly, and they were in a sense but they were also following the law.
    The arguments by Sanctuary just don’t add up in the real world from my experince.
    Its such a simple change that would have a massive effect on helping change the aggressive nature of NZ drivers.
    Low hanging fruit.

    • Guy

      Similar situation with some States in the USA – some, not all. In New York the traffic is obviously fairly rambunctious, but my recall of Los Angeles is that I’ve never felt safer as a pedestrian than there. If you did something so obviously lunatic as to walk out and cross the street, cars would stop – some distance away – giving you a wide swathe. They would sit there and wait for you to finish crossing. Happened several times. Unconfirmed as to the legal situation, whether they were fearful of a mugging, or a car-jacking, or even just cautious about a possible law suit if they were to hit me – or if they were legally obliged to give way to mad kiwi jay-walkers, but give way they did. Despite the car-mad state of LA, it can be good for pedestrians at times.

  • Sailor Boy

    YES PLEASE!

  • Harvey Specter

    Good idea but it would should have to be marked with paint, even if that is just two lenghtwise lines, rather than a full pedestrian crossing.

    One think that isn’t clear – if a car is waiting at the T intersection waiting to turn left or right, I assume they would also have to give way to the pedestrian? (or else they would get stranded half way across).

  • Sacha

    Thanks, Kent. Table crossings really improve accessibility for disabled pedestrians, pram-pushers, etc – especially when many of our footpaths are too narrow for kerb cuts to fit properly. Tables also slow traffic very successfully compared with paint.

  • Ari

    You do realise that ACC levies are a tax? I thought it was implied that I was talking about ACC, not the healthcare system as a whole.

  • Sacha

    ACC is social insurance, whether you believe in society or not.

    • Ari

      ACC is social insurance paid for by ACC levies which are a tax on employers. For the record I prefer that ACC be retained wholly as a public entity, operating for the best interest of society, not shareholders. It is far from perfect, but is a lot better than most countries.

      • Sailor Boy

        Tax is also applied to employees and petrol sales and vehicle registrations and general taxes. Completely agree that it is a good system though.

  • mm

    so what happens for the straight through (not turning) traffic – will they not have to give way at all to pedestrians then?

    • Steve D

      It depends on which model we adopt. They don’t have to give way in Australia, but do in the US.

    • Bryce P

      Straight through needs a different approach in the form of actual crossings – whether they be split with a raised median (car has ROW) or zebra crossings (where ped has ROW).

  • Ari

    This rule would be dangerous to implement because of the false sense of security it provides. :P

    If there are any NZ road safety engineers out there, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Yes I am a traffic engineer and you are free to disregard anything I say. But bear in mind that I am actually here to listen and discuss the interpretation of the facts. The same cannot be said of those who have actual authority to make these sorts of decisions. Patrick thinks that because I am a traffic engineer I am just looking at traffic rather than people. In the same respect I could just draw the conclusion that the rest of you are train-loving, car-haters who have little understanding of reality outside your own bubbles. I know this isn’t case and I don’t appreciate conclusions being drawn on me when you don’t even know me. My response comes from only considering pedestrian safety. I have said nothing about how this would affect traffic. I actually don’t think this rule change will make any difference to traffic, but I expect a rise in pedestrian fatalities for a whole number of reasons.

    I should point out that in cases like the US, they have liberal use of 4-way stops. Something we don’t use in NZ. The 4-way stop is more or less a compulsory stop in all directions where it works on a first-come-first-served basis. These types of intersections are far safer for pedestrians to cross at and most intersection have the pedestrian crossing lines painted in.

    I recall reading an australian study which indicated that zebra crossings had higher rates of accidents involving pedestrians, than uncontrolled crossings with similar levels of pedestrians usage. Their conclusion was the very “false sense of security” that Kent seems to dismiss. I have my own reservations regarding the study but that is beside the point.

    Some of you are pointing to the give-way rule change as some shining example. That was more about armoured car vs armoured car accidents not car vs pedestrian accidents. That rule change had little impact for pedestrians unlike this would. It would have a massive impact. And I agree with SF Lauren that congestion has gotten worse just as predicted by traffic engineers. However I think there would have only been a small increase in accidents and that probably would have tapered off by now.

    Some of you point to enforcement and education being key. This is usually the fall back position of people who want to ignore the technical realities. Well please tell me how red-light running enforcement is going? It is abysmal. The police and the courts just can’t cope with the issue. Now you want them to enforce EVERY intersection in the country? Please tell me again who needs a mental check?

    Some of you say that drivers will adjust and I agree they will for the most part. However, currently drivers must give way to pedestrians at controlled crossings, but frequently don’t. hence the proliferation of turning arrows everywhere. How will this rule change solve this issue? It won’t. It will just replicate the problem to EVERY intersection in the country.

    Some of you say that local goverment can lead the change. Only the NZTA can make this law change. You need to convince them. Yes the local boards can do a bit towards this, but ultimately it is trying to convince the NZTA either through logical argument or emotional political pressure. If your first response is to dismiss traffic engineers like myself, how do you think it will work with the NZTA? I don’t think this law change will come about by us convincing the NZTA. I think it is more likely to come about by the Minister of Transport forcing the issue.

    I agree with Sanctuary that some of you claim that drivers will just have to be more attentive,and they will, for the most part. But all drivers cannot be 100% on point 100% of the time. To believe so is dangerous and foolish. All crashes are the result of a combination of factors, one of which could be a distraction or some sort. This rule change may give ROW to pedestrians, but I don’t believe it will make things safer, unless you FIRST address multiple other issues.

    I guess at the end of the day, if a few dozen pedestrians die because of this and some drivers get some community service, it’s ok, because it’s all in the name of pedestrian amenity. Right?

    In our war on cars, perhaps we should spare a thought for the lives of the people we are supposedly fighting for.

    P.S. this reply system is really stupid lol….

  • Lianne

    I’m from the US (California) and before moving to New Zealand, I always had the impression the US was the most car-centric country. After living here for more than a year, I’m starting to think NZ is actually MORE car-centric. Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way at any intersection in California (unless the light is red), and cars respect this. Of course, all Californian pedestrians know we still need to look for cars, but the law allowing pedestrians right-of-way actually has the effect (in my experience and opinion) of making car drivers much more aware of any pedestrians. After all, the car driver isn’t the one who is going to die in a collision with a pedestrian.

    • Steve D

      Yeah, I was taken aback last year visiting San Francisco and Tucson, Arizona and walking around. I’d thought of America as Car Heaven, but I was amazed that drivers would routinely stop to let me across. I wonder if America’s litigiousness and kooky healthcare system helps too – drivers have to worry not just about criminal charges, but being sued for six-figure medical bills and how things are going to look to a jury…

      • Martin W.

        I think Steve you got the fair point, in most countries, when you hit a pedestrian it is at least to a certain amount the drivers fault, usually insurances and police will find always something to prosecute them. Secondly if found you get so high charges and bills from hospitals that you would think twice before going crazy in your car. Just yesterday on Campbell they show how many drivers got convicted for hitting cyclists, Not even half, although i am pretty there would be something to find. But in NZ there is ACC and free health care for accidents so that does people not necessarily frighten off crazy driving.

        Compared even to Europe, yes the U.S. are somewhat car crazy, but they are over and over well behaved when driving.

  • Bryce P

    Of course, the missing point in this is that the roads being turned into, in most of these circumstances, are residential roads that should, given overseas examples, be 30 km/h areas so the speeds of the turning cars will be slower to start with. So, a law change and large swathes of 30 km/h residential zones anyone?

    • Steve D

      Yeah, that’s another pretty critical thing. I’d like to see 30 km/h be the “default” speed limit for urban areas, and the council would need to do traffic studies and public consultation and so on to make a 50 km/h zone, rather than the reverse at the moment.

      Of course, to get that implemented we either need a catchy rhyme, or to go back to Imperial measurements: http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/

  • Noodle

    This is a great idea, even if for no other reason than making SF Lauren’s head explode.

  • This requires re-establishing the old give way rule for motorists turning left, that has only just recently changed.

    I think this is a solution looking for a problem. It’s easy for a pedestrian to simply look before crossing, so there isn’t actually a problem here to be solved. It will however, encourage pedestrians to start walking into roadways without looking, and increase the number of vehicle crashes because it interupts vehicle flow.

    Probably best to leave as is. Provide more pedestrian crossings by all means, but this proposal will do more harm than good.

    • Steve D

      Why on earth does it need the old give way rule back? Australia, Britain, Canada, the US, and much of Europe all have rules along these lines and none of them have our bizarre old give-way rule (although France has a different bizarre rule, I think).

      Anyway, here’s why we need the change:

      Without having a guaranteed right of way, pedestrians have no confidence that cars are going to stop. So there’s a defacto rule that pedestrians must always give way to cars, since to be prudent they need to wait for all cars to pass – including cars that themselves don’t have right of way over other cars, because they are turning.

      It leads to a big problem – it usually takes much more than 3 seconds to cross a road, so while a pedestrian is part-way across a car can start signalling a turn and head down the street – so the motorists still need to give way sometimes, or more often the pedestrian needs to leap out of the way to avoid being killed. (And that’s if the driver indicates at all).

      And moreover, it’s simply unfair. If a car is driving straight along a road, it gets right of way over cars merging from the side. If a bicycle is heading along, it gets priority. The only road users who don’t get priority over traffic turning in or out of side streets are pedestrians.

      • SF Lauren

        Is changing this law going to give blind confidence to pedestrains knowing that any car that fails to see them will demateralise and pass straight through them leaving them safe and unharmed?

        Well I am impressed.

        • Steve D

          Funnily enough, we’ve been using safety as justification for giving over our streets to cars for nearly a century. And the result has been more and more carnage, until finally people gave up walking and the accident rate dropped again, because there were few pedestrians left to kill.

          But the most important part of this change isn’t safety – it probably won’t have much effect in the short run. Australia’s accident rate is pretty much identical to ours, and they have the road rules most similar to ours (other than this change).

          Pedestrians are still going to be cautious crossing the road, because they’ll still be in mortal danger. It’s about all the times when drivers do see pedestrians, but don’t stop, because they know they don’t have to.

          • SF Lauren

            Oh thats right, I should have mentioned but just the other day back in 1886 they changed the law so that it’s actually illegal to deliberately hit a pedestrain with a motor vehicle.

            So now vehicles do have to avoid pedestrains.

          • KLK

            “It’s about all the times when drivers do see pedestrians, but don’t stop, because they know they don’t have to.”

            A very valid point, which is probably why certain commentors didn’t get it, or tried to pass it off with a snide irrelevant remark. You know, the usual.

          • SF Lauren

            KLK, do care to explain to us how pointing out that itsit’s illegal to deliberately hit pedestrains when someone else just claimed is perfectly fine irrelevant?

            Or are you saying it’s fine to purposely spread false information? Or are you under the impression it’s fine to hit pedestrains crossing the road with your car?

          • Steve D

            Yes, but it’s not illegal to intimidate pedestrians by driving at them as though you’re not going to stop. The pedestrians know that you’re probably bluffing, possibly haven’t seen them, and just maybe really are enough of a psychopath that you’ll run them down. If you walk anywhere in Auckland or other New Zealand cities, you get to make that decision every few minutes, or wait until there’s literally no cars within a distance that they could possibly get to you before you cross the road. Given the volume of traffic in Auckland, on some streets that could take until the small hours of the morning. At some other places, it’s literally impossible, because there’s a bend or crest that hides vehicles until it’s too late.

            And if motorists do kill a pedestrian, well, they can almost always get away with it by saying something like “he stepped out in front of me” or “I didn’t see him until it was too late”. There’s no-one to contradict your story. But with a give way law, that’s no longer an excuse.

            My hope with this law is that it will change the behaviour of many of the bluffers, and they will give way. Most cars will stop for you when they’re supposed to, and the ones that don’t probably genuinely haven’t seen you (or are psychopaths).

            But maybe it won’t change much. Have a read of http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2012/04/games-people-play-behind-wheel.html and tell me what you think.

            Incidentally, I already drive as though this was the law, and I’m surprised how many people already walk out without waiting for my car to stop. It’s heartening.

          • swan

            Steve D, KLK,

            Exactly, well summed up. It is just like the situation at driveways and entranceways currently. Pedestrians will go first, but they will make sure the driver has seen them first.

      • “Without having a guaranteed right of way, pedestrians have no confidence that cars are going to stop”

        The changes proposed in this blog do not give that guarantee. Pedestrians should always look before crossing, even at marked pedestrian crossings.

        • Steve D

          Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. That’s not going to change, as you say. It’s the reason why our current system, despite being “equal”, in practice means that cars get priority all the time. This law change isn’t something that’s supposed to change how pedestrians act – it’s to encourage cars to stop and wait for pedestrians, rather than blasting past (or through) them.

          It’ll take time, a serious effort to rebuild streets to calm traffic, and other law changes like 30km/h speed limits, before the culture changes enough to let people actually be able to have a decent expectation that they can use their right of way.

  • Ben

    This comparison of vehicle priority to pedestrian priority is a question of democracy. A vehicle is a person inside a big metal box, a pedestrian is a person on foot. Why should one have priority over the other? The spaces between private property are public space, and should be shared fairly among all the people who use it. For too long, the people inside their big metal boxes have been given preference over others, simply because they are travelling faster or further.

  • Sacha

    More black-white thinking SF. Glad I don’t live in your head.

  • Sacha

    If I thought you were prepared to genuinely pay attention, I would. Let’s just say extreme and polarised interpretations are tiresome and not conducive to a grown-up conversation. Feel free to re-read what you’ve written above and elsewhere in that light.

  • KBilly

    Talk about first world problems. This should be a tui ad “It’s too hard to cross the street – yeah right”

    • swan

      That would not be funny at all though.

      I dont think the first world problems tag really applies to this. Vehicle accidents, traffic, pedestrian injuries etc are problems in most countries.

  • Feijoa

    Auckland needs Shaft to come and level the playing field out:

    Watch out kiwi drivers thinking the road belongs exclusively to them. More to the point, watch out ladies.

    • Steve D

      That’s some bad-ass pedestrianing right there. It’s the sort of the living streets equivalent of a car chase scene.

    • Awesome – now that is the way to cross a street.

      Actually I might go out and try that on Custom Street right now.

      Better call the ambulance first though. It will probably get stuck in traffic.

  • Ari

    like I said earlier, if you can’t convince the average council traffic engineer, then you aren’t going to convince the nzta who are even more removed from the public face of things.

    you are better off trying to get a major political party to advocate this.

    • Stu Donovan

      Ari, I think your comment is interesting because you to seem to presume that the opinions of “average traffic engineers”, such as yourself, are more relevant to NZTA’s view on this issue than the opinions of other professions.

      As a profession, traffic engineers would seem to have expertise on relationships between the physical road environment and traffic safety, e.g. road geometry, surface friction, and braking distances. In contrast, this issue relates more to how different road users interact and respond to each other. For this reason I would have thought the opinions of road safety experts, public health experts, and behavioural psychologists were as if not more relevant to the debate than the opinions of traffic engineers.

      So I’m fairly sure that your scepticism, even if it is indicative of the traffic engineering as a whole (I’m not sure it is), does not necessarily spell the death knell of this proposal.

  • Richard Horner

    JUst because we have bullying drivers does not mean we should not change laws to give them less rights! I am in favour of this change and can’t see why with education and a bucket full of tickets the law would not work here.

    The change would also clarify who has right of way when cycle lanes are separated from the carriageway. At present when the lane is marked at the edge of the general traffic lane the rule is clearly that left turning traffic must watch for bikes going ahead from their left. I believe if the lane is separated from the general lanes it is still a special lane for ahead traffic and cyclists should have right of way over turning traffic but they seem to be treated by other traffic as a footpath and in some cases even have a give way marking. This encourages cyclists to use the road rather than the cycle path because you dont want more conflict at every intersection.

  • Chris S

    I am from Germany and I am totally in favour of changing this rule. When I first came here 7 years ago, people had to stop me from crossing and I’m lucky I never got hit then. Of course I got used to the necessary paranoia quickly, but I still find the current situation irritating.
    Currently as a pedestrian you have to look for traffic from 3 (T-intersection) or even 4 (X-intersection) directions and often guess if a car is going to turn if they’re not indicating (yet), I think you should only have to look in 1 (T) – 2 (X) directions – this would be a lot less stressful. Cars have to slow down or stop to turn anyway, so I don’t think this would affect traffic flow too much.
    In terms of safety after a change of law, I believe most people have a desire to live and would be aware that not everyone is used to the new rules yet. After a short amount of time this won’t be an issue any more – well no more than it is an issue in countries where this rule is already a reality.

    • Melon

      You just made a huge mistake. SF has heard about this; he’s smashed his own headlights and will be waiting near your house tomorrow evening, parked just over the rise with his engine running. You look left, right, then left again. Pity you don’t see the well-camouflaged Dodge Ram straddling two lanes and burning copious amounts of dead dinosaur, just aching to wedge you in its wheel arches. That’ll teach you. Next time you want to cross the road, you’d better bring an SUV.

  • Martin

    Hi Adam

    As a kiwi driving in the UK for 7 years it can gaurentee you it is nothing to do with the law, more that that fact that most British drivers (excepting Londoners who are throughly terrible like many kiwis) are trained to be more courtious. Also notice that the UK has a far lower incedence of accidents involving pedestrian and rail crossings.

  • [...] Peds Rule,  the Auckland Transport Blog proposes that our road laws  regarding pedestrians having right of [...]

  • A little late to this, but I noted some people saying that we need to paint more zebra crossings, and it reminded me of what has happened in Finland.

    Continuing in the tradition of being our Northern mirror-images, Finnish people seem to be extremely considerate and cautious people, until they get behind the steering wheel. Woe betide the pedestrian in suburban Helsinki!

    In an effort to make road crossing safer, an enormous number of zebra crossing were installed. Ok, so now if you’re not crossing at a zebra crossing, you’re fair game. But, this still wasn’t safe enough, so crossing lights were installed at the busiest of the zebra crossings. End result: unless you’re crossing at a zebra crossing, with lights that are green, you can pretty much guarantee that no one will stop for you.

    The lesson should be this: if you grant explicit right of way in limited situations, it’s usually interpreted as implicit right of way to cars for the other situations. The only way to actually make pedestrians safer is to make the implicit and explicit cases the same. Pedestrians still need to be cautious, but drivers must be responsible. Other options are just not that effective.

    • Jacques

      Fully agree with that, best option by far. Let’s say it one more time: drivers must be responsible. Other approaches are just band-aid solutions to the symptoms, not the root cause of the problem.

  • Ari

    Stu, I was merely suggesting that the view of NZTA is dominated by veteran roading engineers. My impression is that a majority of road safety experts tend to also be traffic engineers or roading engineers because of the overlap. I was not saying that the opinion of other professions are less relevant.

    I reiterate that this change is more likely to happen by instruction from the government, than from the NZTA making the suggestion themselves in the near future. These are the only two groups that can push this change through.

    If you can’t make a good argument that the roads will be safer without being couched in emotive language of “equality”, or “they do it elsewhere” then you are better off targeting politicians rather than the NZTA.

  • Jacques

    I totally agree with the concept of a law change, this is what shapes behaviours over time, and what some see as a ‘lack of courtesy’ of kiwi drivers is in my opinion the logical result of the current law and the way it is applied here.

    You don’t see cars running over pedestrians or cyclists in the US like you do here, not because Americans are more courteous, but because they’re afraid of getting sued – but also, they know that, in general, if they hit somebody with their car, the blame will be on them, not on the pedestrian/cyclist. I think this is a very sensible approach – making people responsible for being able to stop their vehicle to avoid a shock in any circumstance, and responsible for the damage it causes to others if they fail to stop. I’m a driver too, and I consider that it’s my responsibility not to hit pedestrians/cyclists, even if they’re not following road rules themselves. I think that changing the approach to responsibility to protect the more vulnerable (pedestrian/cyclist) is a much better way to go about it than to change one case of give way rules.

    This would also stop the silliness of people driving at night and using ‘but I didn’t see you’ as an excuse after hitting a cyclist/pedestrian. Well, if you couldn’t see in front of you, you should have stopped, period.

  • Duncan

    Having just come back from Asia particularly Vietnam , pedestrians have right of way unless it is a big bus. You simply judge it right keep the same pace and cross in a straight line and the traffic just avoids you as they know exactly where you are going to go. Drivers should be vigilant and I cannot see how it couldn’t work here as they should be paying attention to everything around them so seeing someone about to cross the road they should be able to slow down early enough without hardly causing congestion at all.

  • Gian

    drivers here remind me of Homer Simpson: it’s always the pedestrian fault if they are in the path of their cars as in this gag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZzzU3XoOis

  • Marilou

    Yikes, I’ve been crossing like that for the past 7 years as I have visited Auckland and walked all over. Who would think that a turning vehicle would have the right of way over a pedestrian crossing straight across the intersection. You don’t even know when a car would turn as you walk across the street. Crazy. Come on Auckland, you beautiful city, give the pedestrian the right of way!

    • Steve D

      Cars don’t have the right of way now, there’s simply no rule at all. For pedestrians versus cars, the traditional common law rule applies – no one road user has any sort of precedence over any other, and you’re supposed to sort it out like civilized adults.

      In practice that means that cars routinely bully pedestrians into yielding.

  • A law change is definitely needed. We need to protect pedestrians.

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