Simple measures could make crossing SH1 in Bulls much safer and Government should swing into action to reduce the number of pedestrians killed on roads, Lynley Hood says.
The Dunedin author and researcher is losing her vision and helped start VICTA (Vision Impaired Charitable Trust Aotearoa New Zealand). On October 13 VICTA launched a petition, asking for an inquiry into the failure to recognise and respond to the high road toll of elderly and disabled pedestrians.
The petition closes on January 31. It's available to download, sign and post at http://www.visualimpairment.org.nz.
This week Dr Hood responded to the Wanganui Chronicle story about danger to people crossing the state highways in the Rangitikei town of Bulls. A pedestrian was injured there on December 28, and returning resident Bevan Nathan said someone would be killed if nothing was done.
The town has one pedestrian crossing, on SH3 near its primary school, and one pedestrian refuge in the built up area near the BP service station. Dr Hood said it would be helped by another pedestrian crossing like one she used in Lower Hutt at Christmas.
It had strips of "grippy" concrete in the road leading up to it, giving drivers a visual cue as they approached. Drivers always stopped when they saw her hesitating before she stepped out on it.
In a January 2 article published online by SCOOP, Dr Hood outlined the plight of pedestrians.
She said there were 348 pedestrians killed on New Zealand roads between 2006 and 2015, and only 90 cyclists killed during the same time. Government has more than $350 million invested in a Cycling Safety Action Plan. There is no pedestrian safety plan.
Of the pedestrians killed on roads, 30 per cent were aged 65 or older. That's 104 people, more than the total of cyclists killed.
There has been little response to her article, to her annoyance. But she also wrote to the Chief Coroner, who showed more interest.
Elderly people make up 13 per cent of New Zealand's population. That percentage is expected to double by 2036, which means the pedestrian death rate could also double.
Older people need to walk for exercise, Dr Hood said, and they have to cross roads. They are more unstable, move more slowly and are likely to have sight and hearing problems.
When crossing a road they have no protection, and they are generally poorer judges of speed and distance.
What's needed is some commitment by Government to pedestrian safety, she said.
"There are a lot of young traffic designers who would leap at the chance of tackling the challenge if Government put some money into it. We're not all petrolheads."
Footpaths also need attention, she said. They're used by scooters, skateboards, mobility scooters and Segways as well as walkers and there are no standards set for their width, smoothness or gradient.
"It's just awful, shoving everything that isn't a vehicle onto a footpath."
No city wants more cars, she said, and a re-think of walking would make cities more sustainable, healthy and liveable. Dr Hood experienced this in May on 2.5km of Paris expressway "pedestrianised" with seats, playgrounds and cafes.
"We were there on May Day, and half the population was promenading along the Seine."