The other bloggers and I have been looking at simple “piece of cake” solutions that Auckland Transport can implement to improve the quality of life for pedestrians. The idea is that the solutions can be quickly and cheaply implemented. Work is going on behind the scenes to progress the ideas raised and we will be talking more about these soon,however I wanted to share and get feedback on one of these.

The change is simple and only requires a bit of paint. What’s more we’ve already seen some examples of it cropping up in both the central city and in the suburbs so it’s not even revolutionary. The idea is to paint light-controlled pedestrian crossings red, as has been done at the recently installed pedestrian crossing on Victoria St:

Coloured Ped Crossing

The crossings painted red are much more visible than simple white lines on the road, sosurely must be better for safety. As a driver it acts as a great alert to tell you that something has changed, and you should be more cautious. That is exactly the kind of environment we want to be creating, not just in the central city but in many other places around the region. It can also work well for Barnes Dance style crossings, such as in the image below from California (I also like that the diagonal crossing is fully marked out):

The biggest problem is that over time the paint degrades due to vehicles driving over it, as you can see is starting to happen in the first image. However there are many more advantages to this idea. A frequent issue at intersections are drivers who, perhaps out of confusion, use the crossings as the vehicle limit line – stopping right on the edge of where pedestrians are walking. Painting these crossings red might help to address this issue by making it clearer which lines are specifically for the crossing. It might also assist in reducing the number of cases where people enter intersections during congestion and subsequently block them, because it would be easier to judge how much space is available.

What I really like about this change is that it can be implemented at every intersection without there having to be a debate around the priority of different modes at intersections. And lastly, I love that it adds some colour to our urban environment.

What you think? Should we paint all of our crossings red? Are there any downsides? Do you have any other simple suggestions for making existing crossings safer?

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  1. If it’s road safety improvements you are after I’d increase the thickness of the paint used on all road markings, whenever it rains the markings disappear especially at night.

  2. You know that paint costs about $350 / sq.m and only lasts about 6 months. So yes it’s good to stop cars parking on the crossing but no, it’s not all that cheap.

    1. Paint’s not that expensive; more like $50/m2. Some more hard-wearing alternatives include:
      – Coloured asphalt (~$100/m2, redo every 4-5 yrs)
      – Epoxy glue-covered chipcoat (~$70/m2, redo ~7yrs)
      – Coloured thermoplastic (~$80/m2, redo ~10 yrs)
      (your mileage may vary regarding costs and timings)
      General gist is: pay more upfront, but it lasts longer so lifetime costs are lower

      1. Might need to temper those proposals with regards to underlying pavement/surface condition, skid resistance, noise, availability of materials and batching etc. with the exception of the colored AC (as long as it was laid with a paving machine) I would seriously doubt the time frames in real world use particularly in high volume roads.

        I assume Dan’s reference was more towards the installation as shown in the photo which is similar to bus lame surfacing and is much more hardy than the paint used in road marking. It is much more expensive which is why it used quite sparingly to outline areas rather than laying vast areas of it, also imperfect pavement surfaces will result in early life failure of the road marking, leading to costly repairs.

        1. To be fair I don’t know a hell of a lot about lifetimes for paint, but one thing as a guy who cycles – the less thermoplastic around the better – that stuff the minute water gets on it, its like riding on ice!

  3. Cost could be a problem. The green paint used on cycle lanes ended up being far more expensive than expected from what I can recall as it needed to be replaced often due to buses driving over it. This is why there are now only green in places instead of down the entire cycle lane.
    So red paint may seem cheap, but in reality it may end up having a much higher operational cost than you might think.

    1. You can’t use chip seal at intersections. It would be ripping up within a week with the sort of traffic volumes you would get there.

  4. drivers seem to regard advance cycle stop boxes as “theirs”, so sadly, I think that expecting them to stay off red marked ped crossings might be a forlorn hope

    1. We did some research in Chch in 2009 looking at the level of encroachment onto coloured and uncoloured advance cycle boxes/lanes (incl. some before/afters that Council painted for us). Overall effect of colour was about a one-third reduction in the level of encroachments by motor vehs (still ~25-30% encroachment in coloured AS boxes).

  5. The bus lanes on dominion rd used to be painted entirely green though that’s been tailed back to just periodical areas of green paint.

    If cost was no issue than having it implemented on every intersection would be fantastic though for now it should probably just remain in the city centre.

  6. there was a batch of particularly lurid green that raised the ire of Auckland City Councillors at the beginning (if I recall correctly) of the John Banks mayoralty, the outcome was a moratorium on green pavement and the eventual reduction of the area to be coloured

  7. I know a guy who sells coloured concrete. I think some sort of dye is mixed in during the concrete making process and being inherent will not wear off, but of course will gather dirt like every other bit of the roadway.

    And yes- bring back the red chip seal! There are still surviving sections of it if you know where to look…

    1. Most of Pauanui’s streets are paved in red chipseal. It looks pretty good, although it’s not nearly as bright as the red paint in these photos.

  8. Bright yellow might be better – speaking as one of the one males in fifteen who is colour-blind of the type sometimes (a bit misleadingly) called red-green blind. Yellow is a much brighter and more visible colour to me than is red. That red in the picture looked brown at first.


  9. Why not just make sure that the whites lines are thicker, say 200mm as opposed to 100mm, and ensure that they extend all the way to the kerb? Also possibly cameras like red light cameras for blocking the crossing?

      1. Well, the question is about how you travelled to work, so retirees and the unemployed are out by definition. Students are included if they have a job.

        What question do you ask if you want to include non-work trips? Just flat-out ask about every place a person went during the day? That’s pretty nosy, even by the standards of the Census.

  10. Interesting the California picture shows a problem we have here in Auckland too. Drivers apparently not capable of stopping behind the lines and ending up in the crossing area. When I used to catch the train I always had to be careful at the St Jude Street/New North/Blockhouse Bay intersection first thing in the morning that I didn’t get whacked by dozy drivers coming up the hill failing to stop behind the line and ended up parked over the crossing area. Were a couple of close calls there. In the afternoons it was people either blocking the intersection completely or else ignoring the red filter arrow during the pedestrian phase when turning left from New North into BHB.

  11. The main drawback is cost. No matter what solution, it will cost more upfront or more in maintenance. And in a time when departments are forced to slash costs, things like this adds up. It’s not just the cost of paint, it’s all the costs that go into applying the solution as well which costs more than the actual materials. When it comes to council, “Piece of cake” ends up being postponed by myriad committees and other extras tacked on that bring up costs too much and the whole thing gets scrapped.

    Glen mentions research from CHCH which is excellent ammunition. Though I question whether there is any quantifiable safety benefits. Bear in mind that most road improvements are funded from a safety perspective. So encroachment decreases by 30% if we paint the crossings. That is a definite improvement for pedestrians psychologically. But in terms of calculating an actual benefit, you may not have any reduction in accidents, so the BCR for installation could be well below 1. Near misses don’t count in BCR’s. You would be pretty hard justifying expensive paint with a negative BCR to a cash strapped AT.

    I think a more attainable goal would be “Red Paint crossings on Queen St.” Once you get that, “Red paint crossings through the CBD.” then “Red Paint crossings at all town centres”, then “Outside all schools”. It would have to be gradual as you turn capital expenditure costs into ongoing maintenance costs.

    And yes, Thermo plastic is very hard wearing and has much greater visibility, but it is dangerous in the wet for cyclists and motorcycles etc.

  12. Red bricks for crossings (what they use on some roads in Europe) would be classy, and requires less maintenance. A bit more costly though, but it is good for employment.

  13. Ari, I saw the aftermath of a woman being hit and killed by a courier driver on that exact part of the Victoria/Elliot intersection now painted red. That’s also the colour it was on the day. Will never forget the visceral reaction to seeing it.

    I suspect the prevented cost of a death or some injuries factors handily into a BCR of such simple interventions. Bound to be supporting evidence from somewhere that they do more than stop vehicles encroaching after light changes.

    A few less gold-plated truck intersections each year should pay for it.

  14. Again I question whether painting the crossing red would have made any difference to that particular incident. reducing encroachment and stopping a distracted speeding courier van driver are two very different things. There was no crossing there originally. thus the pedestrian would have been at fault for failing to check that the way was clear. while it is a tragedy, you cannot claim painting a crosswalk red will reduce incidents of pedestrians being hit by a car. unless of course there are actual studies that show this.

    Chris, bricks are bad in some cases. they start coming loose fairly quickly on busy roads.

  15. “you cannot claim painting a crosswalk red will reduce incidents of pedestrians being hit by a car. unless of course there are actual studies that show this”

    I agree. Either they support the investment or they do not.

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