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Peds Rule Re-post

The issues of pedestrian priority came up at the Auckland Conversation with Skye Duncan last night (and I think at the IPENZ conference). This was originally published 25 July 2013.

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).

78 comments to Peds Rule Re-post

  • Bryan

    “At intersections and driveways” – pedestrians already have right-of-way at driveways, although many drivers don’t appear to be aware of the law (or just choose to ignore it).

  • This isn’t a pedestrian thing, but I was shocked when I first arrived and discovered that cars, seeing you reverse out of a parking spaces, would speed up and swerve around you instead of stopping and letting you out – IN SUPERMARKET CARPARKS (!!!!). That is such weird driver behaviour.

  • KP

    We’re pretty bad at giving way to pedestrians compared to the States (where if you just look at the road cars stop), but we’re a hell of a lot better than Argentina…

    It’s quite interesting that pedestrians here don’t have priority like they do in the UK considering our laws are based on theirs. Perhaps motor vehicle laws are so recent that old English laws aren’t as applicable.

  • Nick

    I agree this should change. Coming from the UK originally myself, it’s also really struck me how timid most pedestrians are in NZ.

    In the UK, and other countries I’ve visited in Europe, pedestrians assert much more ownership of the road space, whether or not they strictly have priority in law. But here, people cower from cars, won’t cross a road at a red pedestrian crossing even if there are no vehicles in site, and stick religiously to narrow footpaths.

    For example, on High St why don’t people just spill over the road space anyway and treat it like a de facto shared space, getting out of the way as required for vehicles?

    Obviously people shouldn’t put themselves in harm’s way, but just grow a pair!

    • Reader

      This is a really interesting perspective. As someone who grew up here I guess I’m just used to it, but I would never call myself a timid pedestrian. But having said that I would never consider walking up the road on High street, not out of fear, but more just because I’ve not given it much thought and ‘it’s a road and roads are for cars not pedestrians.’ On the other hand I have no problems with assertively taking my space on shared zones.
      Also interesting that when I was a kid we were always taught to cross midblock when walking to school because intersections were dangerous places for pedestrians, a habit which I still have today.

      • RJ

        This is how we do it in The Philippines…We even wait for our public tranport on the road, for us we don’t care whether we’re blocking the road…they’ll honk if they need to….We’ll even wait on a pedestrian crossing for our bus or jeep…which sort of doesn’t surprise me why vehicles don’t stop for us since a pedestrian crossing there is a place to wait for our transport whether its bus, car, taxi, jeep, tricycle etc.

    • Joe L M

      Interesting observation Nick, I definitely noticed that too in the UK. Still it’s hard to blame the pedestrians, case in point I’ve noticed cars and courier vans on High Street and also on the shared spaces honking every time a pedestrian appeared ahead of them, presumably so they wouldn’t have to slow down… you can hear them do it all the way down High Street.

  • Chris R

    I absolutely agree that the rule needs to be changed ASAP. Maybe AT don’t think it makes a lot of difference to walkers, but the difference in the walking experience in countries that have mode equality is astounding.

    Those diagrams remind me that would be great if every side road didn’t have those massive kerb radii, as well. Walking down the main road from the train station, I have to look nearly 180 degrees behind me at every side road in case there’s a car planning to turn in front of me. Somehow other cities manage to get along without every intersection being wide enough to accommodate two trucks turning at once.

    • +1. For instance, this one on Millwater Parkway

      That radius must be well over 15 metres. And that is not exactly a big arterial.

      So what do trucks and buses do in other cities without these big blobs on their intersections? They often have to enter the opposite lane when turning. Which is no problem because usually other drivers have the courtesy to give them the space they need.

  • Aenveigh

    In Melbourne, my experience of the rule is about 95-99% of drivers know this rule (or are at least courteous enough to give way to peds even if they don’t realise it’s a rule), but it’s the 1-5% of either willfully obnoxious or genuinely unknowing drivers you have to watch out for.

  • BJM

    So great at uncontrolled intersections. I’m all for this. My main gripe is with traffic light controlled intersections (not including countdown timer controlled intersections).

    Would this resolve the issue of left turning cars driving through red flashing pedestrian crossing signals? The number of times I’ve been hurled abuse by drivers who upon seeing the green person turn to red flashing (usually about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way across at a not particularly slow pace) assume it means pedestrians should not be on the roadway, and honk and toot for me to get out of the way. This is in the central city where I live. AT;’s response once by email was, we can’t change the length of time it stays green-person for because it interrupts the flow of vehicle movements.

    Why can’t a simple change from red-flashing to green flashing crossing signals be made so pedestrians feel safe and confident in continuing to cross. or would this change apply to controlled crossings too? The red flashing crossing signal sends the wrong message to motorists because red means stop to them, where as the signal in pedestrian land which it is controlling means keep going….

    • James B

      I’d like to see greater use of Barne’s Dance in the city centre especially. Several times while driving through the city (yes, I’m a marauding motorist on occasion) I’ve missed phases despite being the first car in the queue due to a continual flow of pedestrians who start to walk across on the flashing red. A Barne’s Dance would guarantee that at least a few cars got to use a phase and that pedestrians won’t feel quite so pressured to cross on the flashing red if they also have to make a second crossing.

      • Nick

        I know that this site tends to laud Barnes Dance intersections as being great for pedestrians, but I’m not really convinced. Yes, they’re good when crossing diagonally, but at most intersections I don’t want to do that, I’m just going straight across one road. My experience is that in those situations a Barnes Dance results in a longer wait. Why do we have to wait until everyone can cross before anyone can cross? Seems inefficient.

        • Concurrent cross is great in a no turning for vehicles environment. Like say when [!] we pedestrianise Queen St and Victoria and Wellesley are all about east movement [as should be the case now] and Queen is there for north-south Transit movement and every which way ped movement, then there is a strong case for reverting to concurrent.

          With every turning option enshrined by AT, stupidly, in my view, then Barnes Dances are really the best answer with high ped volumes

      • Ross

        Hi James,

        A bit off topic, but I’m keen to know why they’re called a Barne’s dance crossing? When I first heard it I assumed it was a barn dance, as it’s a similar movement to that sort of dance… But everyone calls is Barne’s?

    • Mike

      Red means stop to everyone. A flashing red signal means that pedestrians must not start to cross an intersection. Too many pedestrians seem to be ignorant of this rule. It’s the pedestrian equivalent of red light running.

  • SimpleSpace

    good luck with High St, people. Dude last night complaining to Skye, Ludo et al that “we love ‘our’ street [High St], why are we constantly fighting you [council] changing it?”. Turned out the ‘we’ is the retailers and, he reckons, apartment dwellers. What’s that – 20 business? 100 people? So these people consider the public space is theirs vs tens of thousands of citizens who would like to consider the city streets belong to them, even if they don’t own/rent a piece of it.

  • It has been interesting living in Vancouver for the last year with these sort of policies in place. Overall pedestrians having right of way is a positive thing don’t get me wrong, but it comes with some new/interesting habits and behaviors that have taken some getting used to!

    As a pedestrian (or on a bike), I will often look to cross a busy 2 lane road, spot a big gap behind some cars coming up soon when crossing would be easy, only to find cars coming to a stop for me and I awkwardly have to cross in front of the mini traffic jam I have caused…. It’s a nice gesture, but sometimes not necessary or efficient!

    (As you hinted some people would comment on) Some pedestrians do take a few things for granted more, like walking out across roads without looking (usually back block intersections), while they may have right of way that doesn’t count for much when you don’t give drivers ample warning or indication you are about to cross, or which direction you are about to cross.

    At traffic lights usually there is a pedestrian crossing sign for the entire length of the green light in the same direction. When things are busy though this leads to people constantly crossing while the light is green and therefore little allowance for turning cars, maybe 1 or 2 get through at the end, sometimes none. Pedestrians don’t seem to be very aware of this and don’t often seem to make any effort to cross quickly even when they are pushing the limits, IE started crossing when the red man was already flashing.

    • Not sure for BC, but in Alberta the rule is that pedestrians are supposed to point before crossing to indicate their intentions. However, I would note that most people don’t do this. The only thing that I find with this rule that is really annoying as a driver is when someone standing right at the edge of the road looking like they intend to cross but aren’t.

  • silvia

    To me it’s quite straightforward; the pedestrian, bicyclist or vehicle that goes straight ahead should have priority over the one turning. Which also means that cars should have to give way, and therefor stop at the end of their driveway, before crossing a sidewalk when pulling out of their driveways. Even more so when high solid fences prevent pedestrians and other sidewalk users from seeing them.

    • Bryan

      Re driveways, it is already a legal requirement for drivers to give way to pedestrians when crossing a footpath (including when entering carparks), and the Road Code makes that perfectly clear. 🙂

      • I think the road code also says you’re not supposed to use your phone and drive, but holy smokes motorists aren’t obeying that one!
        (just about taken out this morning riding to work by a motorist using both hands to operate phone whilst steering with knees – this is downhill, into traffic, in the rain)

      • jezza

        It’s worth noting that the road code is not an exact copy of the road rules in the Transport Act 1962, there are a lot of laws it doesn’t cover and others it has that are more common courtesy, such as keeping left on dual carriageway road or motorway. However, I believe the giving way to pedestrians on footpaths is a law.

        • Sailor Boy

          Part 2.1, you must keep left on any roadway where practicable.

        • Bruce

          As Sailorboy said it is actually the law to keep left. It’s a pity that the police don’t enforce it and are more interested in giving tickets to people doing 105km/h on the motorway.

          • jezza

            Having read Sailor Boy’s post I would agree with you, definitely more value policing this than the exact speed limit.

          • Nigel Owen

            I agree, I think we would do more to improve road safety by focusing on bad driving habits and other rule breaking: stopping at red lights, stop signs, pedestrian crossings, keep left, following distances, slowing down in wet/poor conditions etc.
            The police seem to be operating on the theory that cracking down on someone driving a couple of kms over the speed limit on a straight road on a nice day will translate into that person becoming a better driver who will start obeying all the rules that aren’t being enforced.

  • It would be interesting to see some figures on pedestrian deaths and accidents at intersections between the different systems.

  • Rich

    That ‘I’m walking here!’ moment was completely improvised… much like our pedestrian road rules

  • Alex F

    As a motorist I often find myself giving way to pedestrians anyhow out of courtesy. Making the law the same as per other countries seem like a sensible idea and removes all confusion

  • Ted F

    Could the “No Fault Insurance” be a factor here (ACC). Where there is not a lot of thought given to consequences whereas in the likes of USA if you damage someone else then you are liable to be sued.
    The damage to the vehicle is likely to be minimal and the damage ot the pedestrian is probably going to be picked up by ACC

    • jezza

      It might play a small role but I think the majority of drivers still want to avoid injuring or killing someone if they can. I think it is what we grow up used to doing that has a much bigger impact, even if the law was to change it would take some time for habits to adjust.

    • In any case, drivers here are still criminally liable, which may be more of a concern than mere civil monetary damages.

      • Sailor Boy

        Up to 5 years in prison for injury or 10 for death.

        • The criminal side of things doesn’t seem to be applied very often.

          I agree with the comments above that with ACC makes people are more reckless. I think that lack of requirements for vehicle insurance also create a lack of care. To give an idea about insurance implications in Alberta, Canada (insurance is required for vehicle registration) I know someone who damaged a parked car’s wing mirror and didn’t stop. When they returned to leave a note there was a police officer present and they were ticketed with failing to stop. Their monthly insurance costs rose for first party insurance to over $500/month, they took third party insurance only for $300/month. If you hit a pedestrian these are the sorts of increases or more will occur. This leads to people being much more courteous when they’re driving. So why does NZ not have compulsory third party vehicle insurance?

  • Daniel E

    I’d have to say I’m reluctant to give my support for something like this. I’ve encountered this many times in the city where pedestrians just walk out, crossing a road at an uncontrolled intersection without looking, often with headphones on. I’m concerned that this could spill over into other areas, especially if there’s poor visibility from a turning car’s point of view. e.g due to a truck/van parked on yellow lines. If the peds have the right of way, they may just walk out without checking and as they feel empowered, expecting that all traffic will give way to them. Pedestrians still need to realise that they will not win if they walk out in front of a car, regardless of who has the right of way. You’ve heard of situations in Wellington of pedestrians walking out in front of buses, often resulting in very serious injuries.

    • Sailor Boy

      For the same reason women shouldn’t be allowed out at night because they might reasonably expect other people to follow the law and not rape them. What you are doing is called victim blaming, pedestrians already realise that many motorists will happily kill them and don’t need to be reminded solely to try and limit pedestrian liberty.

    • You just have to look at the rest of the world to see if that will cause massive carnage. The answer seems to be “No”.

  • RB

    Daniel beat me to it. Even without changing the rules I daily witness idiot behaviour by pedestrians who just walk out without looking, often with headphones or other distractions.

  • Dayne

    Great post, I particularly loved reading those bullet points. They pretty much reflect my survival rules for walking to&from work.
    I “commute” just over 6km each way, mostly on foot, and my survival rules per bullet point work out a bit like this:

    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
    DL-Rule1: Never assume the car coming down the driveway, particularly the ones you can hear and not see will stop, mostly they just don’t.
    If you can, scare the bee-jeezuzz out of them by yelling “BANG” as they don’t stop.
    It’s kinda fun and makes up for the inconvenience of having to slow down for yet another vehicle.
    If you’re not up to that, or the driver is just not the kind you should mess with, then just dob them into the police for breaking the law.
    Otherwise it could be me, you, or somebody’s kid that gets it one day.

    People walking are constantly looking way over their shoulders in a state of paranoia for cars to turn across their path,
    DL-Rule2: Some sneaky rat, be it a cyclist, a car, even a truck or bus will try and get to that turn before you. Eyeball the driver/rider and “negotiate”.
    That eye-balling often ends up with the vehicles slowing to let me go first, except for cyclists – they can’t stop.

    Pedestrians increasingly cross mid-block in order to avoid the debacle of our intersections.
    DL-Rule3: Always cross mid-block – don’t waste your life waiting at the intersection lights or for traffic flows to abate. There’s almost always gaps, flush-medians that can be used mid-block.
    If you must cross at an intersection, learn the tricks to getting across without waiting.
    There’s always a trick.

    Sad to refer to them as survival rules, but that is where we are right now.

  • Owen Frewin

    Potential carnage. How are motorists supposed to see pedestrians at night unless the peds have lights?
    I doubt whether all intersections will be lit well enough..

  • Sounds great in theory. But teaching road-sense to kids will be a lot harder if they sometimes have right-of-way and sometimes don’t. For example a kid coming out of a side road at a t-junction and wanting to cross directly to the opposite side of the main road. From their perspective, they’re going straight ahead (remember: kid-logic applies). But from the perspective of a driver heading along the main road, they’re crossing perpendicular so don’t have to be given way to. Footpaths are for pedestrians, roads are for things with wheels. If a road goes across a footpath (ie at a driveway), the thing with wheels gives way. If a footpath is broken by a road, the pedestrian gives way. Makes teaching a lot simpler.

    • patrick M

      Yes, but then you have footpaths that appear to be broken by a road, that isn’t actually a road, just looks like one. A perfect example are the vehicle entrance ways into the carparks of Supermarkets and Malls. Easiest way to tell these are not roads is to try and find a street sign. Also the fact they are “Vehicle Entrance” ways is further evidence of them not being roads. So for a “road” to brake a footpath, shouldn’t said road have a street sign or some other sign declaring it at least a PRIVATE road.

      I see many supermarkets, malls, and petrol stations where the owners have designed the entrance ways to look as much as possible like a road, probably to make the motorists experience of entering said private property as easy and rapid as cruising down the main road. It’s easy to see the changes they have made: ending footpaths with a slope down to this “road” is the most prevalent.

      So how exactly are our children going to be educated about these situations? Maybe it’s just safer to DRIVE them everywhere.

    • Chris R

      You can still teach them always to wait and not cross unless there’s a gap or the cars stop for them. Then introduce the specifics of road rules when their ‘kid logic’ grows up a bit. Also, to be honest, if a kid is still too young to distinguish between a side road and a major leg on a T-junction, I’d be worried she or he is too young to be crossing at uncontrolled intersections at all. Kids have kid spatial awareness as well as kid logic.

      If you know any parents in Canada, the UK, the US or Australia, why not ask them how they teach their kids about give-way rules? It would be a shame to resist a change which would lead to a safer environment for everyone (slower, more courteous drivers) because of concerns about how to educate kids in the new rules, but there doesn’t seem to be notable carnage at T-junctions in other countries so they’ve probably found effective ways to do it.

    • Nigel

      We teach kids to look both ways before crossing a road. to always stop and make certain the way is clear and/or any cars have seen you and have stopped to give way to you (if you have the right of way) this applies to pedestrian crossings. We teach them to always check for cars when crossing drive ways and vehicle entrances. If the rules change what we teach our kids doesn’t change. what changes is we educate drivers to start looking for pedestrians/kids and giving way to them! I am already in the habit of looking out for pedestrians (I was taught to do this when learning to drive). If the rule changes it won’t be much of an adjustment for me.

    • Pete

      I agree 100%. I teach my kids to never assume they have the right of way when crossing the street. Even at the pedestrian crossing near our house, cars will stop say 50% of the time when we are clearly waiting to cross. If and when our driving standards are up for it I think Matt’s proposal is a good idea, until then it’ll just cause more confusion and accidents.

  • Ari

    Makes sense. Won’t happen any time soon. More pedestrians will get run over. Guaranteed. Zebra crossings are notorious for injuries because pedestrians assume right of way (they may only cross when it is safe to do so) and get run over by the driver that doesn’t expect them there.

    Thus, in our zero-harm avoid all accidents at all costs type environment, this law change is unlikely to happen. Pedestrian amenity be damned, safety at all costs. Lets fence off all the roads while we are at it.

    • Any driver that approaches a ped crossing not expecting a ped to appear is a very poor driver.
      Consideration and sharing are the keys to everyone being safe.

      • Nigel

        Agree, . I was taught to always be on the look out for potential hazards. This means constantly checking for pedestrians, cars or anything else that may cross that may cross my path. Pedestrian crossings are highly visible and there is no excuse for not slowing down and checking for pedestrians. I consider it dangerous to drive through a pedestrian crossing without slowing down even if there isn’t a single person in sight.
        I really wonder about driver education are people not taught this? or worse do they know these things but are simply too lazy to care?!
        I wonder if what is more important than rule changes is an education/attitude adjustment for a lot of drivers.

      • patrick M

        Further, in 2009 The Government made an amendment to the Land Transport (Road User) Rule specifying that even if a motorist presumes a pedestrian is about to dash out on a pedestrian crossing they now must be prepared to stop immediately – see rule 34 (a) (ii) –
        . Thus those old diamond road markings now are reminders to motorists that they are approaching a crossing and must be prepared to immediately stop, and to drive at a much more cautious speed, if a pedestrian even looks like they are about to enter the crossing. You remember, that rule that changed to making it compulsory to indicate left as you are about to exit a traffic circle!

      • Damian D

        I was shocked when i first moved to Auckland at the number of people that either don’t seem to know the pedestrian crossing rules, or don’t just seem to care!!

        the rules are quite clear…

        “A driver approaching a pedestrian crossing must give way to pedestrians, and to riders of wheeled recreational devices or mobility devices, on the pedestrian crossing; or obviously waiting to cross it and who are not behind a school patrol sign; and if necessary, slow down and stop the driver’s vehicle for that purpose.”

        It would be great to see pedestrians given priority on side roads add in some education and we could see a much needed change in attitude towards pedestrians, safer for all!

      • Often it may be safer NOT to stop because there’s a maniac trying to overtake you who doesn’t give a shit about pedestrian crossings

        • Mike (the longstanding one)

          “Often”? And safer for whom? Not the poor pedestrian, who risks getting run over by two maniacs not giving a shit!

  • Ak-Sam

    The correct design solution is to indicate where pedestrians have priority by:
    a) continuing the footpath across the road
    b) painting parallel white lines or a zebra crossing across the road

    This is cheap to implement and removes any doubt.

    If zebra crossings do not provide pedestrian ‘right of way’ then I think that is a rule that must be changed.

    We dont need pedestrian priority as a blanket rule because there are many situations where:
    – peds should give way to vehicles (eg arterial roads)
    – where vehicles can’t reasonably give way to peds (eg near-zero sight distances due to objects between the footpath and carriageway)
    – where the road geometry is ambiguous (eg 3-way intersections or roundabouts)

  • The Waitemata Local Board has adopted this advocacy position: “Change Give Way Rule – Auckland Transport to advocate for a change of the give way rule requiring motorists to give way to pedestrians crossing parallel to the priority (main) road at intersections”.

    It is included in our Local Board Annual Agreement that forms part of the Council’s Long Term Plan/Annual Plan.

    Refer Appendix A for each Board

    The Annual Budget 16/17 consultation that is currently underway until 24 March is the opportunity to give Local Board’s feedback on their local priorities including transport advocacy positions

  • RJ

    Take out all the road rules and it can go 2 ways…people drive a bit more cautious or everyone becomes an idiot from the lack of rules…the only rule we should keep is keep left apart from that remove all other roads…don’t even bother repainting lines when they fade…create your own lane would make sense a 3 lane road could become 5 lanes

  • FYI, the feasibility of changing the pedestrian give way rules was investigated by a student of mine in 2014; here is a paper about the findings:

    Generally seems feasible based on traffic modelling and road user surveys; the trickiest issue is getting a handle on crashes.

    It is possible that a law change could come through as a result of current reviews of cycling rules. Off-road cycleways also don’t have priority over side-road traffic, and this is being considered for change. It could be that all users of the corridor behind the kerb line get the same rights of way.

  • Carlos H

    The statement your student made in the second paragraph of the introduction regarding a turning vehicle/pedestrian crossing conflict that “motorist have priorty” is incorrect. Unfortunately a misconception shared by 99.9% of the population. There is no legal obligation for pedestrians to give way when crossing a road – no such law exists. Neither party has priority. This includes a pedestrian crossing mid block perpendicular in front of a vehicle traveling along that same road

  • We’ve received an encouraging update from Auckland Transport:

    “AT will investigate the suggested rule change which is managed by central government. AT will be required to undertake substantial investigation and research to develop a paper that provides evidence and benefits that such a rule change could bring. AT will programme this work for the 16/17 financial year”

  • Keith

    So, I was doing a bit of research on pedestrian regulations today and ran across this post. Then, on my way home, I was taunted by a motorist (and by “taunted,” I mean a driver deliberately tried to make me think he was going to hit me). I was crossing my least favorite intersection at Main Highway in Ellerslie (seriously, do you need more of a reminder than “Main Highway” that this is not a place for pedestrians?).

    The above-referenced paper (Ross) is quite good as comparison of rules between New Zealand, Australia, and North America. It is very informative. However, as the driver of a van pretended he was about to hit me today, I realised that the differences among North American jurisdictions may be more a product of behaviour than legality. And, of course, I cannot diminish the legal differences, since, had I been hit by the van, the North American driver could face jail time for assault with a deadly weapon (the motor vehicle), whereas I was clearly in the wrong for not waiting until absolute perfection in safety to cross the New Zealand intersection (that is, I should have waited to cross until sometime around 10pm when most motor vehicle drivers were safely tucked into bed).

    In particular, Ross discusses accident rates, apparently attributing the differences to technical differences in law and design standards among North American jurisdictions. To be sure, there are differences, but I’m not convinced that they are significantly different from state-to-state or province-to-province. The bigger differences are in urban versus suburban versus rural street designs. To be sure, a really narrow street in Boston won’t find its twin in the West, but a 6-lane arterial in Orange County, California is quite similar in design (and level of pedestrian activity) as one in the western suburbs of Miami, or the northern suburbs of Toronto. There is a body of research that suggests lengths of crossings, pedestrian volumes, traffic volumes, and traffic speeds all play into pedestrian safety. I haven’t seen any research addressing the “behaviour” issue, but I can’t help but think there’s something to this, as well.

    A few of the posts talk about Vancouver, but most Kiwi pedestrians have probably never had that embarrassing “forced crossing.” It’s when you have to cross the street because you stopped to look at something, and motorists politely stop to let you cross, even though it isn’t at a crosswalk, just to be polite. You didn’t really want to cross the street, but you realise that drivers thought you wanted to cross, so they stopped to let you cross, and you have to cross the street to avoid being rude. You wait until they’re out of sight before you cross back to the other side. It seems to happen more often when you’re walking your dog.

    And then I’m brought back to New Zealand when I read these gems:

    Courtesy Crossings: Although not official pedestrian crossings, they do provide a place for pedestrians to cross. Drivers should be courteous to pedestrians using a courtesy crossing.

    I am fairly certain that I do not need to go into all that is wrong with this statement; the deficiencies in their guidance is self-evident (but I can’t resist… A crossing that’s not a crossing? Does “courteous” mean that a driver shouldn’t try to pretend that they’re about to run over a pedestrian?). In any case, I am fairly certain that I will put the NZTA definition of “courtesy crossing” to good use in the future; it’s pretty comical, really.

    As for roundabouts, North Americans don’t have a clue how to use turn signals when using them, but they have managed to figure out that pedestrian crossings at roundabouts are required. In New Zealand, roundabouts are things for pedestrians to avoid.

    Roundabouts: Crossing at a roundabout is not advisable. However if a crossing facility is provided – use it with care as motorists are watching for vehicles.

    The AT guidance for pedestrians at roundabouts is remarkably practical: cross some distance away from the roundabout. Yes, this is where there is also likely to be a lack of a pedestrian crossing and where traffic is probably moving much faster; perhaps they want you to avoid the pain of an injury resulting from a slow-moving vehicle, coupled with the cost of ACC, by going straight to the death outcome. The solutions offered by our transport agencies are non-solutions. In reality, they just don’t want people walking and doing what I did today, slowing down some motorist by 1-2 seconds because that would be economically unproductive for the national economy.

    We have brochures telling tourists how to drive safely in New Zealand; I wonder if we shouldn’t have a brochure telling tourists how to walk safely here, too.

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