A bunch of walking and cycling research just dropped on the NZTA website. This report by MHW and ViaStrada looks at several possible road user rule changes (PDF). The first consideration is fundamental to supporting high quality cycling facilities, and the second is, well, fundamental to living in a city in 2017.
Here is the first: Giving cyclists precedence over traffic when separated cycleways cross side-roads
The first rule addresses the absence of clear guidance on separated cycleways at signalised and unsignalised intersections (see image below). While a person in a cycle lane has precedence over turning traffic, there is no consideration for the priority of a cyclist on cycle path (shared path, etc) which is a facility that doesn’t sit in the carriageway (between the kerbs). There is also lack of clarity around kerb and flexi-post separated cycle paths.
This is how the new report summarises the proposed changes:
- People cycling on a separated cycle facility along a road corridor would have precedence over traffic entering or leaving side roads (signalised or priority-controlled)
- Vehicles turning across cycleways from the adjacent road would have to give way to the cyclistTraffic on side roads also obliged to give way to the cyclist
And this is what the report recommends with regard to implementation:
- Give priority for crossings at signalised intersections universally across New Zealand via a change to the Road User Rule (unless signs or signal phasing prohibit it at certain locations)
- Priority across unsignalised intersections should be either universally across NZ or only where signs/markings allow it, possibly only in lower-speed (urban) areas.
- A key change needs to occur around the definition of “roadway”. The roadway needs to include all cycle paths and cycle lanes, regardless of the form of separation.
For comparison in the Netherlands right-of-way is clear and unambiguous supporting the wide scale development of cyclepaths (sidepaths). They use an extended version of an almost universal rule where turning traffic gives way to through traffic. This is how the rule is defined as described by Peter Furth:
Unless signed or signalled otherwise, motor vehicles and bicycles turning off a road, whether turning right or left, must give way to cyclists and pedestrians traveling along that road in the same or opposite direction. For this purpose, cyclists and pedestrians are deemed to be traveling along a road if they are traveling on the roadway or on a path or sidewalk within 6m of the roadway edge.
The report also discusses some interesting supporting solutions such as the flashing amber yellow arrow. I could see something like this being very useful in order to allow a longer straight through green phase for cyclists (see also, Invisible Infrastructure: Turning the Corner Campaign).
Here is consideration of the second rule change: Giving pedestrians precedence over traffic when crossing side roads
New Zealand is a global oddball with this one (see image below). It’s pretty straightforward. Pedestrians crossing an unsignalised side road do not have precedence over turning cars. While pedestrians have priority at intersections when facing a green disc or with a green man, the report says:
No similar precedence currently exists for pedestrians facing traffic turning or crossing at unsignalised intersections.
At this point, I’m concluding that there is not an explicit requirement for pedestrians to give way to turning traffic, but rather the absence of a rule, along with an established norm where pedestrians are expected to jump out of the way of cars, or step backward after starting to cross (see also Peds Rule).
Interestingly, the report also mentions that pedestrians are given priority “at a ‘pedestrian crossing’ (aka ‘zebra crossing’)”. Pedestrian precedence at zebra crossings is not surprising, but in the context of a sideroad crossing the use of a pedestrian crossing is rare. The few I can think of are located across one-way streets like here on Symonds Street and Wakefield Street.
So this is a bit of a plot twist. The discussion has grown to include traffic control devices (signs, markings) as well as road rules. More on this later.
This is how the report summarises the proposed changes:
- Pedestrians walking alongside a road corridor who wish to cross would have precedence over traffic entering or leaving a side-road.
- The pedestrian priority could apply only when the pedestrian crosses from one footpath (or shared path) adjacent to the main road to the continuation of that footpath on the opposite side of the side road.
And this is the recommendation for this rule:
- Do not adopt this rule universally at this stage without the presence of suitable signs/markings
- Implement initially at limited trial sites in New Zealand via the introduction and legislation of new signs/markings to allow this, ideally at very low-speed (30-40 km/h) areas first
- Monitor behaviours/performance of trial sites for consideration of wider uptake
The report recommends the introduction of new signs and markings, something akin to North American parallel crosswalks or the less common ladder crossings. Here are the examples provided.
Introducing new crosswalk line markings seems like a reasonable first step before introducing universal road user changes. Once people understand the road rules, priority can be mediated by simple stop limit line in many places, and with crosswalks where needed (near schools for example).
There is also a suggestion that existing pedestrian crossings can still be used, but suggests that the current practice requires that they are set back from the intersection. There are a few of these around Auckland. They seem really confusing compared to a stop line and a crosswalk.
For comparison, here is an intersection in Toronto.
Overall the report is very comprehensive quoting specific road rules where available and also the Traffic Control Devices Rule and other legal precedents. After reading this report I’m convinced that very few people in New Zealand would even know what the road rules are!
It is also very exciting to see this work progress. I think it offers the biggest opportunity for wide-scale improvement of walking and cycling conditions in New Zealand.