Call to give pedestrians right of way

By Mathew Dearnaley

Greater protection from vehicles needed at intersections.

Grey Power believes drivers should be put on notice by a rule change. Photo / Richard Robinson
Grey Power believes drivers should be put on notice by a rule change. Photo / Richard Robinson

Pedestrians have suffered almost a quarter of all deaths on roads around Auckland this year, fuelling a call for greater protection from vehicles at intersections.

Seven out of 27 people killed were pedestrians, and four were aged 60 or more, according to statistics issued by Auckland Transport for the 10 months to October 31.

One pedestrian was also among 12 people killed on motorways or other highways around the region.

That compares with just one cycling death in the region and has prompted Grey Power to support a call from walking federation Living Streets Aotearoa for motorists to be required to give way to pedestrians at intersections, as in countries such as Australia and Britain.

The Government is resisting the call, saying recent rule changes for vehicles turning against opposing traffic need more time to settle in first, and there has been a significant reduction in national pedestrian road deaths in recent years.

Those declined from 49 in 2007-08 to 33 in the financial year to June 30.

But Grey Power president Roy Reid said yesterday that he supported the Living Streets proposal, as too many drivers turned corners at speed without considering whether there were even official pedestrian crossings ahead. That, combined with slower reaction times among older pedestrians, was a recipe for death or injuries and he believed drivers should be put on notice by a rule change of a need to stop if necessary.

Living Streets president Andy Smith said he had met Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges on the issue, but came away disappointed at opposition from Ministry of Transport officials.

"They are telling the minister that the New Zealand public are too stupid - that we have already changed the rules and they can't possibly handle another change," he said.

That was despite praise from Mr Bridges in June for the contribution of motorists to what the minister called a smooth transition to the new rules, which were introduced in March and included giving left turning vehicle the right of way over opposing traffic.

Mr Bridges told the Herald yesterday he was open to the ideas of Living Streets, but agreed with officials that the changes already made needed "a significant amount of time to bed in" while results were monitored.

He believed that by simplifying decision-making, the changes were helping motorists to become more aware of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians crossing intersections.

They also followed a rule change in 2009 requiring drivers to give way to pedestrians who are obviously waiting to cross at designated crossings, rather than just those who have already stepped off footpaths.

Mr Smith called on all road users to make eye contact with one another to ensure maximum safety.

The national road death toll was running at 268 - 20 more than for the same period of last year.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 31 Jul 2014 13:59:29 Processing Time: 538ms