Last week the Herald ran an article about the worsening safety of our roads.

The number of pedestrians killed on New Zealand roads has increased by a whopping 75 per cent this year, as the total road toll also soars.

Ministry of Transport road toll data released this morning showed 244 people have died in 220 fatal crashes so far this year.

On the same date last year, the road toll stood at 213 deaths from 180 fatal crashes.

One of the most concerning trends is the number of pedestrians killed.

So far this year 28 pedestrians have died compared to 16 last year and 18 in 2015.

That our road toll is increasing is appalling and it’s even more disappointing to see that pedestrians are bearing some of the brunt of it. That increasing toll has seen in the 12 months to the end of July, 365 people die on our roads, an average of one person every single day. At its lowest in February 2014, the toll was sitting at just 249. Even comparing the outcome to other metrics, such as comparing to the population or vehicle kilometres travelled shows the same basic trend.

What is particularly worrying in the article and also from the likes of the NZTA on twitter yesterday is the level of victim blaming occurring. Under the guise of “it’s everyone’s responsibility” there’s the suggestion that pedestrian’s are hurling themselves at moving traffic. For example, from the article is this comment which while stating facts, can easily be read that it was the pedestrians fault for not using a formal crossing or traffic lights. This is similar to what you might see if a cyclist was hit by a speeding truck but the only focus is on whether they were wearing a helmet, even though it would have made no difference to the outcome.

“The majority – 86 per cent – of reported pedestrian casualties on urban roads occurred when the pedestrian was crossing the road.

“About two-thirds of these casualties occurred when the pedestrian was not at a pedestrian crossing or traffic lights.”

One of the issues with this is that our urban environment is simply not conducive or friendly towards those not moving around in large metal boxes. In the example below I’ve picked an area at random and marked in red all the formal pedestrian crossings or traffic lights. There also aren’t any ‘pedestrian refuges’ either – an island in the middle of the road to make it easier to cross. In the example below, a person wanting to get from Scott Rd, across St Georges St and to Wilmay Ave, only by using pedestrian crossings or lights would have a 600-700m diversion.

The comments continued further with a section titled ‘Safety tips for pedestrians’. Here are just a few that I’ll respond to.

Safety tips for pedestrians

  • Footpaths provide a safe place for you to walk. Where a footpath is provided, use it.
  • At night, wear light-coloured or reflective clothing, or carry a torch to help you be seen
  • Be careful when crossing driveways, particularly when your visibility is restricted by buildings or fences. Remember, if a driver is coming out of a driveway, their vision will be restricted and they may not see you.

Footpaths – Most people will of course walk on a footpath if there’s one available however even when they exist, they’re often not available, thanks to inconsiderate drivers who use them as parking spots. They do this because the level of enforcement is almost zero and they don’t think about other users, especially those in wheelchairs, with prams or those with other mobility challenges.

Clothing – So now walking is so dangerous that we have to wear special clothes at night. Certainly, wearing bright and reflective clothing doesn’t appear to have stopped drivers ‘not seeing’ cyclists or other road users. Perhaps cars and trucks should be required to be painted in hi-viz colours so pedestrians can see them better.

Driveways – Yes people do need to keep an eye and ear out for cars doing this but once again, it largely wouldn’t be a issue if drivers drove more appropriately. I often see drivers on auto-pilot at inappropriate speeds for driveways and as a result nearly hit pedestrians.

If we really want to get serious about road safety it’s time we adopted Vision Zero. Her’es a good video showing the principles behind it.

Finally, to put New Zealand’s numbers into a comparison, Sweden is the best in the world when it comes to road safety. In 2016, a total of 270 people lost their lives there, however, you also have to remember they have over twice the population as New Zealand. That means that for every 100,000 people in Sweden, 2.7 people lost their lives on the roads while in New Zealand that number has risen to 7.1 people per 100,000 people. If we had the same per-capita road toll as Sweden, the toll would be 125, that’s 240 fewer deaths on our road annually than we have now. That’s 240 extra people each and every year contributing to the economy, to our society and going home to their loved ones.

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128 comments

  1. Thanks for the post, Matt. This is really important. For a traffic engineer’s view of why NZ traffic engineers aren’t improving things for pedestrians, I recommend the paper Peter Nunns mentioned earlier this year:

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5591f57ee4b07952c1a4d8bd/t/58b4c7dd725e25bf6113074e/1488242659802/Burdett%2C+Bridget+-+Paper+26+-+Understanding+pedestrian+safety+in+New+Zealand.pdf

    First, the engineers need to start collecting the right data:

    “If Road Controlling Authorities work together to gather pedestrian volume data across a range of
    intersection and midblock crossing types, these data can be aggregated to better inform risk
    calculations.”

  2. Excellent post. Safety does not get nearly enough profile in transport discussions, which is sad given the massive human cost of these tragedies.

    We simply must move to a Vision Zero approach.

  3. Does this mean 14% of pedestrian casualties happen when they are walking on the footpath? And a third happen when crossing at lights or zebra crossing? Sound quite different worded this way.

  4. People wrongfully contribute the road toll to our increasing population. That is wrong because the population still increased and the road toll fell, up until 2013. Now it’s sharply gone up. The problem is attitudes on the road are becoming worse.

    We also need to push strongly for safer speed limits and calming of traffic within pedestrian areas and stop caving in to self interested lobbyists who value their convenience to travel somewhere 15 seconds quicker than they value the safety and wellbeing of themselves and other road users.

    1. “We also need to push strongly for safer speed limits” Yes. I’ve been told that a couple of Auckland schools each year can have the lower speed treatment applied near them; this is what the budget will allow. I was told this in the context that the schools should keep applying, and eventually their name will come up.

      If this is correct (and if someone knows, please let me know), what does it say about how we prioritise money? How about $10.5 billion put into our Children of National Significance?

      1. I agree with you. I wonder who said that Auckland can only afford to make two schools a year pedestrian-safe?

        If we want to progress the Vision Zero ideal, and I think we should,how long will we have to wait for our government or council to catch up with the idea. Instead, is this something that could be adopted at Local Board level. Honestly most of the changes required, including safe speed limits, are not expensive to implement.

      2. Bike Devonport approached AT and the Police about support for a reduction in the speed limit to 30 km/h in the Devonport Village from Calliope Road. We are talking about a distance of less than 1km and at the ferry end there is already a very small zone that was made 30km/h when the redesign of the terminal happened.

        AT said: We won’t support it unless you can show there are excessive speeds in that area already as otherwise there is no need for a reduction in the speed limit.

        The Police said: We won’t support it unless you can show that people are already travelling at slow speeds otherwise enforcement is too hard. Oh and also we won’t support speed bumps on most roads as the residents complain about people braking and accelerating outside their house.

        It is Kafkaesque in its absurdity. The only way to understand it is to read The Castle in detail.

        Everybody is terrified of any loss of service to people in cars, regardless of all the evidence showing slow speeds are better for businesses as it encourages people to explore the area on foot or cycle and visit more often.

        The system is broken where a car being “delayed” by 30 seconds is worth more than the safety of human beings.

        1. That’s an odd comment from the police saying that it would make enforcement hard. I would have thought it would make enforcement like taking candy off a baby!

          I do agree on speed bumps though, I think road narrowing is the best approach to slowing people down.

          1. It means they won’t support it if they would have to actually go and enforce it, i.e. They would support lowering the speed limit only if it had no practical effect on outcomes and they therefore wouldn’t have to do anything.

          2. And surely its a weird argument from Police because theyre already in charge of enforcing a 50kph speed limit? Or do they only enforce “different” speed limit zones than the “norm” (i.e. anything different than 50kph)? In which case, can we all just disregard the law when in a 50kph zone?

    2. I came across some interesting stats when I looked into speed-related crashes. While about 10-15% of urban fatal/serious crashes involving just motor vehs have speed recorded as a factor, less than 4% of urban fatal/serious crashes involving active modes have speed noted. It does seem to be a systematic issue that ped/cycle crashes aren’t as likely to have speed identified as a factor. This seems rather odd considering that clearly the speed was fast enough to cause fatal or serious injuries…

  5. The council spends up large on footpaths. I guess we have enough footpaths to go to the moon and back. People like the idea of footpaths. At the moment at Lloyd Ellsmore park the council is digging up about 2 km of a good 1m wide path and replacing it with a 2m wide path.
    I don’t know why because I rarely see any body using it. Just like most of the paths in NZ

    1. I use footpaths frequently (for walking, not parking). 1m wide paths just aren’t wide enough to pass easily when someone is coming the other way, especially not with a wheelchair, or a pram.

      And I do wish people would slow down coming out of their driveways. Too many close calls mean I’m always paying attention, especially with the proliferation of (Illegal) tall fences on the boundary. At least a wider path would provide a little more of a safety margin…

    2. “I don’t know why because I rarely see any body using it” – do you spend a lot of time watching that footpath? Have you done a foot traffic count over the day?

      This is the same problem as cycle lanes and bus lanes. Unless they are congested, they are not being used. A very auto centric way of looking at things.

      A private car with one person in it is the least efficient way to move people around a city which is why there is so much congestion. But much more efficient means of transport are vilified because there is no visible congestion.

      Another Catch 22 situation for non-auto related transport.

      1. Even with the significant congestion we have, there are actually quite large gaps in traffic, but you only see them as a pedestrian as all the car drivers are moving in bunches and just see endless cars.

    3. “I don’t know why because I rarely see any body using it” – Imagine for a moment if there were no footpaths and pedestrians actually shared the road. Unlike in rural areas there might be thousands of people all over the roadway – take Queen Street as an example. How do you think this would impinge on the average motorist?
      I think maybe the speed limit might have to be around 10 km/hr just to keep the panel beater bills down. Imagine trying to drive anywhere in a city in a rush and avoid a lengthy prison sentence :).

  6. As a rough guess of $200 for a metre of path I think the $400 000 spent for the 2km could have been better spent on Vision Zero paths elsewhere. eg near a school.

    1. Schools definitely need more pedestrian amenity. Are you suggesting that Council is spending on footpaths in the wrong suburbs or for the wrong type of amenity? Such as, for recreational paths instead of access around the suburbs? Just trying to understand your view…

      1. Agree about schools needing more pedestrian amenity, however something that they need even more is parent re-education – Less parents dropping off little Johnny would go a long way to making schools safer.

        There’s a school about 100m from me. Three times each day, the road becomes heavily congested. Two of those times are school times. On occasion I have call to drive past the school near the stop or starting hours, the drivers who are trying to pick up / drop off their kids are generally distracted, discourteous and sometimes aggressive.

        Whilst it may be uncharitable to say so I think that many parents who do drive their kids to school, then state that there’s too much traffic for them not to, exhibit a profound lack of self-awareness in so doing – Just like so many other drivers who complain about the congestion, whilst still driving their own cars.

        Okay, grumpy rant over 🙂

  7. Yeah I find it amazing how there is so much for rail safety yet you hear very little about road safety, when roads have all sorts of people driving (sometimes even under influences, or conditions, or unmaintained vehicles) and they can go in any direction at any moment at all sorts of speeds. At least with rail you can usually hear trains for some distance (yes – even electric ones, assuming you are not wearing headphones), so you know when they are coming and generally where they are going.

    I feel incredibly unsafe walking in many places in Auckland due to vehicles. When I am walking past driveways during peak times its especially annoying as cars fly in/out of them without any thought of pedestrians even though pedestrians legally have the right of way. Then you get the folks who park on the footpath – even when there is space in their driveway or the road (even wide roads). Then you get those who park in bus stops (a common site in Grey Lynn outbound stop) and you have to walk out into the middle of the road to hail the bus. Just frustrating, with local errands sometimes I just take a bus (where possible) or avoid the travel altogether because of potential walking hazards.

    AT needs to up their game with providing a safe walking environment all-over Auckland.

    1. Sometimes you can’t hear the electric trains until they’re almost on you. Sometimes when walking my dog she’ll will get a fright as one comes screaming in to the station. My dog’s got pretty amazing hearing – Can hear a rustle in the pantry from outside and on the other side of the house 😉

        1. Hi Peter – Try it from the pedestrian bridge over the motorway in Ellerslie 🙂

          Also to be fair, my dog isn’t very big and the concrete barriers must be fairly sound absorbent considering how thick they are.

          1. Yeah but I don’t think you would be too concerned about being hit by a train on a bridge lol.

            My local road over rail bridge vibrates to hell when one comes close, but I guess its old.

  8. AT are pretty good at responding if you call in a car on the footpath. I’ve been waging a war in our neighbourhood over the last few months of pushing a buggy around. There are five regulars who no longer park on the footpath as a result, one of them got two tickets before they got the hint.

    1. Agreed. I regularly call AT about cars parked on foot and cycle paths and they are pretty good. Though it can take up to an hour for someone to get there.

      Since yellow lines were painted on the Lake Road cycle lanes, I very seldom see cars parked and when they are the drivers now look suitably guilty.

  9. It’s one of those areas where actions speak louder than words.

    I used to ride my bicycle to work from Milford. There’s a lot of sausage flats over there, with the accompanying long driveways. It’s a common sight to see people back out of those driveways basically as fast as their car allows. There’s also quite a few families with young kids living in those flats. Shakespeare Road is full of kids walking to school. What could possibly go wrong.

    If you cross a wide road (there’s a lot of these here), and someone enters that road from a side street or driveway when you’re halfway, he will often still cut you off (and bonus points for leaning on the horn). People show no aversion to hitting pedestrians.

    A year ago, as Stuff reported, “Million-dollar Takapuna Beach Playground on Auckland’s North Shore opens at last”. Although some people think a zebra crossing would be appropriate, they lost out to people who think it’s, um… well I’ve no idea who they are and what they’re thinking. But fact is, we can’t have a zebra crossing.

    “That’s 240 extra people each and every year contributing to the economy, to our society and going home to their loved ones.” → I think, despite all the talk, there’s precious few people who actually care.

    1. “there’s precious few people who actually care” This is what’s so depressing. I try to take meagre comfort in findings like in https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5591f57ee4b07952c1a4d8bd/t/56c18ac240261d17781b9373/1455524551069/Graham%2C+Claire+-+Paper+25+-+Non-Motorised+User+audit+-+A+practical+guide.pdf

      “After several workshops with both Auckland Transport project managers, strategy managers as well as senior AT staff involved with revising the Transport Design Manual… There was strong general agreement from everyone we spoke to that consideration of these modes and people were important. Interestingly many considered Non-motorised user needs were already being met and felt assured through processes such as external consultation with mobility and vision impaired groups undertaken for some projects that NMUs needs had been adequately considered. There was also some assumptions made that accessibility audits of some kind were being carried on all projects, which we found to be not the case.”

      I think this shows that the AT staff, for example, do care, they’re just not aware of how poor the pedestrian landscape and the processes to improve it are.

  10. As an example of the wrong priority and message being sent, I was walking along the south side of Quay St. last Friday (just after hearing Labour’s commitment to Vision Zero at Queen’s Wharf) when an obnoxious klaxon started sounding to alert me to the fact a car was about to emerge from a carpark and cross the footpath. But the car park is a private facility, and so the access counts as a driveway and pedestrians have right of way. The klaxon should sound in the parking building to alert drivers that there are pedestrians passing and they should wait before exiting.

    1. To be fair, both parties need to exercise caution and be pragmatic in how they react.

      The klaxon should jolt any (mobile device) zombies into awareness, the driver may well already be paying attention but as you know, those driveways tend to have very poor visibility and the average person’s reaction time is sufficiently bad that if a pedestrian is close to the wall they _will_ get hit.

      As a pedestrian, I’d rather have the klaxon warn me to be vigilant than be lulled into a false sense of security. Pragmatism is what we need to exercise, not dogmatism.

      1. Yes, but the entrances to these sorts of carparks often have poor sight lines. Something needs to change to force both a change in design and a reworking of the existing buildings to ensure the drivers can do what they are required to do by law, which is to give way to the pedestrians.

        Meanwhile the obnoxious klaxon supports them to drive in an arrogant way.

        1. It seems that we agree on the outcomes, but with a different path to the outcomes.

          Something like this: https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.8459216,174.7667536,3a,75y,195.76h,87.12t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sROUgDrmUm3woesVmcsE9qA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 would go a long way to calm the traffic.

          As for driving in an arrogant way – I’m wondering how much selection bias is going on. I walk (and drive) around one very small part of the CBD some mornings. For the most part I see drivers being courteous to pedestrians. I wonder if that’s due to the large number of lawyers, accountants and insurance workers in the buildings I walk by? Some occupations attracting a certain type perhaps?

          I still like the klaxons though. But that’s mostly due to my disdain towards zombies. I almost had a zombie walk into me last night, because they couldn’t walk a straight line whilst engrossed in their phone – They had the cheek to look at me as if _I_ was in the wrong (his expression was initially of open aggression at the inconvenience), this is not an isolated result in my experience.

          Zombies are antisocial and we need to work together as a society to make it clear that such behavior isn’t acceptable, IMHO.

          1. I’m with you about cell phones… don’t have one myself and have managed (so far) to keep my kids from having one too (although I’ve probably reached my limit with the 17-year-old.) I have a different view of the zombies, though, because they may be doing a service. 🙂 Having spent quite a bit of time with children, I’m aware that sometimes, a child can be in quite another world, nutting something out in his or her head, oblivious to surroundings. Also, through life, I’ve known people to have times when tragedy or upheaval or just plain worry about the world has them upset and maybe depressed, and not taking in their surroundings. These children and sad people – and probably many others – are working on autopilot, and one of the basic assumptions in autopilot is that footpaths are safe, roads are not.

            I think we evolved to need to fight or flee from danger – but rarely, not having to be on edge every few seconds because there’s a killing machine around. I’m quite happy if zombies help establish that people have the right to just walk – and I don’t mean randomly across roads, but I do mean on footpaths past driveways.

            The photo you show has a good solution. Plenty of driveways don’t, and they need to change. Because of the zombies? Maybe, and the children, and people having a bad day. 🙂

      2. “those driveways tend to have very poor visibility and the average person’s reaction time is sufficiently bad that if a pedestrian is close to the wall they _will_ get hit.”

        Then it should be illegal to operate that car parking building.

        1. Mate, I’m having a hard time understanding your motivation. If you looked at my streetview image in the thread, you’d know that the building owner has been responsible in adding speed bumps big enough to be effective. Incidentally, I went for a job interview in that building once. They gave me a visitor park (which due to time constraints with my day job, I did use) and I can tell you that you take those bumps pretty damn slow.

          I can also tell you that a person who is oblivious and hugging the wall can still walk into your car, unless you have somebody from reception (for my interview, the sole charge and located near the top of the very tall building) act as a spotter for you!

          1. My motivation is to ensure that children don’t die, I understand that for many motorists that motivation is difficult to grasp.

            “I can also tell you that a person who is oblivious and hugging the wall can still walk into your car”

            Correction: it is still possible to illegally drive into a pedestrian that is legally using the footpath, the motorist is at fault, you should assign the active role to them.

            With regards to your specific example, you will see that the building is cut back on the left hand side as you exit the driveway, this allows you to stop, and observe pedestrians for up to one hundred metres up the road, by designing their building with a similar feature on the right hand side, a similar effect could be achieved. This would allow you to consistently exit the building without killing or injuring a child.

  11. City and city frienge has continued to intensify and become pedestrianized, yet the streets still remained last decade car centric designs.

    The street design manual should be updated to have a few new standard street designs:
    1. Urban street : pedestrianized street with desirable paving, walkability, and inviting placemaking
    2. Lifestyle street : shared path with bike lanes and beautiful landscaping
    3. Suburban street: Safe driveway design with bike friendy paving and calming landscaping
    4. Arterial road: Plant trees and protected cycle lanes with transit lanes as standard. Road are constructed using noise absorbing surface and noise barrier.

  12. I agree with the fact there are places where there are no safe places to cross and at times if you are with a school child it is hard to get them to jaywalk with you because they have been taught to use the proper crossings but when there are no proper crossings within reasonable distance it is a must do. However if I am walking alone and there is a group of pedestrians I just step into oncoming traffic without looking and I don’t care if they honk at me and as for crossing the road unless its a scramble crossing I just start crossing green man or not

  13. One thing I’ve noticed in recent news reports is a disproportionate older people being hit at intersections with minor roads. Many of these reports look suspiciously like a turning vehicle charging through the intersection without due care while somebody less mobile and more vulnerable to injury is crossing.

    I know there was a campaign to change the road rules to explicitly require turning motorists to give way to pedestrians (http://www.livingstreets.org.nz/Rules%20for%20Drivers%20to%20Give%20Way), and recall reading some comments that it was progressing at official levels. Hopefully that is still the case—change is well overdue.

    1. 2006-2015 data shows 18% of fatal/serious injury accidents are for people aged 65+. In 2013 this age group accounted for 14.3 percent, so yes I think you’re right. Older people also have much longer recovery times, with an average stay in hospital of 15.8 days, cf children of 2.9 days and in between ages staying on average 6.3 days. (This is from the paper I quoted in the first comment above, plus the 2013 Census for the 14.3% figure.)

  14. The fact that in most of Auckland city centre it is still completely legal to drive at 50kmh (you won’t get a ticket unless over 60kmh) is absolutely ridiculous. I doubt it even makes cars get anywhere quicker and it quite obviously puts lives at risk. There really is no reason at all for the speed limit to be that high.
    Would a pedestrian hit at that speed while crossing a road in the city have the right to sue Auckland Transport? They should – its plain negligence.

    1. The law is that you should drive to the conditions – Including a safe speed for the environment that you’re in.

      Regarding your theoretical pedestrian, they’ve only a 45% chance of survival if hit at 50k. Assuming they’re the minority that survives, probably wishing they hadn’t, they’d not be able to sue because of ACC.

      With regard to surviving… You would most likely suffer permanent injuries that also result in chronic pain and reduced physical function. As a driver (and sufferer of chronic pain, not road accident related), this is something in my mind at all times – Perhaps the NZP need to change their current road safety ad to one showing the impact on individuals and families when they do survive an incident.

      1. The law may be to drive to the conditions – but have you ever seen a police officer giving a ticket to someone driving 50kmh in a 50kmh zone due to high pedestrian count? I haven’t…

        1. Not a valid argument in itself – How many times do you see police officers in cars/bikes on those same streets, lying in wait for a crime? Can’t ticket somebody if you’re not there…

          Good example of the police not being there to catch a crim: Queen St. I’ve walked Queen St countless times and seen countless cars speeding. Only twice have I seen anybody caught for doing so. The last time was very satisfying though – New looking Lambo screams off from the lights, speeds up to about ~40 (hard to be accurate as a ped). He didn’t notice the unmarked cop car behind him. Queue dozens of satisfied onlookers staring at the driver getting a ticket.

  15. On the road design front, a particular dislike of mine is the diagonal striped central medians that permit vehicles to perform right turns from them into side streets. Dominion Road is one of many places that has these. I have always felt they are great for cars but really unsafe for pedestrians. Unlike a raised median a pedestrian has no protection in these painted medians whatsoever. A car could pull into them wishing to turn and be looking ahead for a break in the traffic, not even noticing a waiting pedestrian trying to cross the road till too late. Also, they do not change the perception of the road pavement width, and hence tend to encourage a higher traffic speed.

    So I think this treatment may be OK for warehouse and industrial areas, but completely inappropriate for residential and retail areas, where pedestrians want to safely cross the road.

  16. We need a Larger Object Law. This states that the driver of the larger and faster object is automatically responsible for more care in all situations, i.e. truck user > car user > bike user > Skateboarder > larger pedestrian > smaller pedestrian…. works well overseas.

        1. That’s either the annual subtraction from the global population due to car crashes or the length of your appendage that your car attempts to compensate for…I can’t decide 😉

  17. “Be careful when crossing driveways, particularly when your visibility is restricted by buildings or fences. Remember, if a driver is coming out of a driveway, their vision will be restricted and they may not see you.”

    They are basically excusing drivers for illegally mowing down less on footpaths. If a driver cant see if their is a ped in the vicinity they should go more slowly. Imagine if they said “When passing a side street in your car, be careful of cars exiting as they may not see you.”

    1. TBH, I think that you’re intentionally taking this in extremis.

      Even with due care and diligence, travelling at a slow walking speed, it is 100% entirely possible to hit a pedestrian who is going at a fast walk and/or hugging a fence or building edge (assuming the ped takes your dogmatic stance that they _always_ have right of way).

      The statement isn’t about transferring responsibility from one party to another – It’s about being pragmatic and realising that (ideal or not) there are times that a driver may have restricted visibility to the point that it is simply _impossible_ to go slow enough that a perambulating pedestrian can be seen and avoided.

      What’s with the faux outrage and gnashing teeth? Or, to take you at face value, would you rather be righteous and dead or pragmatic and alive?

      1. “Be careful when crossing [intersections], particularly when your visibility is restricted by buildings or fences. Remember, if a driver is coming out of a [side road], their vision will be restricted and they may not see you.”

        See the problem?

        “It’s about being pragmatic and realising that (ideal or not) there are times that a driver may have restricted visibility to the point that it is simply _impossible_ to go slow enough that a perambulating pedestrian can be seen and avoided.”

        If a person choosing to perform a maneuver leads to a situation in which they could not even notice themselves committing the manslaughter of an innocent bystander, then they shouldn’t do it. They should find someone to act as a spotter, or choose another travel mode.

        1. Your response is a prime example of being dogmatic to the point of impracticality. “Somebody should act as a spotter”, alright I’ll bite. House at the rear of my section, driving her pre-schooler to the doctor – Who is she going to use as a look out? She can’t realistically choose another transport mode.

          Don’t say lower the fence – That would mean buy-in from three other parties (one of which has been extremely problematic previously) and spending several thousand dollars (volcanic rock wall on one side), all to nullify a persons responsibility to be paying attention? Having right of way does not give you the right to act irresponsibly (at best) or to commit actions that a right-minded individual would consider suicidal, like walking into the path of a reversing vehicle coming out of a long driveway, with very little distance to spare.

          I expect people to make mistakes, or sometimes act in a manner I consider stupid. I make allowances for this in my plans. I don’t expect people to always be on their “A game”. People make mistakes. Drivers are people too.

          As a pedestrian I’m always aware of my surroundings and careful of driveways – Yeah, I have right of way and will enforce that, but not if the car is so close that it’s not reasonable to expect the driver to be able to stop. That’s being pragmatic, your approach is little short of continuing to walk, then moaning and attempting to sue (unsuccessfully) because physics states it was impossible for the car to stop – Meanwhile the driver is probably traumatised and you’re now set for a lifetime of pain.

          1. How realistic is it for a 5 or 6 year old walking along the footpath to be constantly paying attention to driveways? There should never be a situation where you drive out of a driveway and not be able to avoid hitting someone.

          2. Yip, there are places in Europe where the kids cycle to school from age 5, and it is safe! Because time and money have been spent to prioritise their safety. It’s a mindset and built environment change required here, not pedestrian education.

          3. “She can’t realistically choose another transport mode.”

            Taxi, sorted. No murdering children on the footpath. Alternatively she could reverse into the driveway, or park on the street. Heaps of options when your objective changes from ‘drive to doctor’ to ‘get to doctor without killing neighbour’.

          4. @ Sailor Boy – No on street parking, problem still exists. Still need a spotter. Life is complicated.

            @ jezza – I agree, not realistic at all for a young child to be paying attention to driveways. However simple physics means that situations can occur where hitting a ped is a certainty unless the ped stops walking. If you don’t want to accept that, I could draw a diagram showing car and pedestrian locations, throw some numbers at it and still show it being impossible to stop the car. Even if the car is going at crawling distance if you wish to go to absurd extremes. The laws of physics don’t change to suit the circumstances or the morality therein.

            At the end of the day, the ped stopping their progress into the path of a vehicle where the driver is not yet able to see them (we’re talking cars here, not vans with no bonnet) isn’t about pragmatism or right of way, it’s about not acting with blind stupidity.

          5. Do you have any google streetview examples of driveways that are obscured by immovable objects such as houses? I can’t imagine there would be many in Auckland to be honest as most houses are set back from the road a bit. I’m not thinking fences, they could all be removed if these driveways (or fences) were made non compliant.

            Either way driveways that make it possible to hit a five or six year old even when taking maximum care should be non-compliant.

          6. “@ Sailor Boy – No on street parking, problem still exists. Still need a spotter. Life is complicated.”

            Then the car should never leave the driveway without a spotter. Simple. The driver of the car is breaking the law by exiting their driveway unaided. If they wished to drive without a spotter they should have chosen to live somewhere else.

          7. @ jezza – You asked for street view… Then you shifted the goal posts (houses not fences). I’ll move them back to the original argument. None of the fences are over 2m tall, the maximum without council consent. Not that it would matter with the new target of young child instead of adult pedestrian.

            My local area – Ellerslie. Check out Main Highway, near the business park. Near the cafe.

            Morrin St, near the southern end of the race course. Near the top of the rise.

            Heading back towards Ellersile along Ladies Mile, the first block after Morrin and near the church.

            To address your argument about removing the fence, or changing the compliance rules – Rubbish. There’s no reason why people on any of the above roads should have white picket fences (and the increase in road noise as a result) simply because of the absurd assumption that a child will see a car coming out the driveway and still run into it. This isn’t meant as a put down, but my dog has better road sense than that and a 5 y/o kid is supposed to be more intelligent. Add to that, the fact that no parent with half a brain would let their kid walk to/from anywhere unattended without first teaching them to not walk into the path of moving vehicles. The law over right of way wasn’t any different 30-40 years ago, only the emphasis on taking responsibility for your own safety.

            I used to walk 4km home, crossing 6 major roads and countless driveways when I was only 7-8 years old. ~1.5km and 1 major road when I was 6 and that personal experience is why I say the discussion is now truly absurd.

          8. “The law over right of way wasn’t any different 30-40 years ago, only the emphasis on taking responsibility for your own safety [as a pedestrian and ignoring your responsibility for the safety of all others as a motorist].”

          9. @ Sailor Boy – “The law over right of way wasn’t any different 30-40 years ago, only the emphasis on taking responsibility for your own safety [as a pedestrian and ignoring your responsibility for the safety of all others as a motorist].”

            Oh come on, don’t put words into my mouth, that’s pretty low. Look at my other comments and you will see that I have said that everybody needs to accept that others make mistakes, that the laws of physics don’t change. Never have I advocated the driver shifting their responsibility onto the pedestrian. To take your extension, the same could apply to holding at a green light when a truck barrels through the red, or going anyway “because the truck is in the wrong”.

            I’m not trying to be rude, however it appears that either you didn’t even study 3rd form physics or you’re adopting an aggressive dogmatism fed by some personal tragedy. Either way, I’ve spent too long involved in this discussion and your behavior is more akin to that of a troll than a person engaged in a genuine and respectful exchange of ideas.

          10. I didn’t move the goalposts, you just rightfully pointed out that some obstructions might not be fences in you response below at 8:50am:

            ‘However you’re making an assumption that it’s a fence, not part of a building. Also assuming that you have the legal right to do so (townhouses/apartments anyone?).’

            I can’t think of many situations in suburban Auckland where housing is right up against the footpath, along Main Highway they are certainly set back a bit.

            There is no reason someone couldn’t still build a 2m high fence if they wish, all that would be needed would be for the fence to be at a 45 deg angle within say 1.5m of the driveway or set back from the road a bit. That would allow plenty of view.

            It is absurd that we allow driveways that require someone to nudge their way out onto a footpath before they can see pedestrians, we would never accept this situation if it were a road where the footpath was.

          11. “Never have I advocated the driver shifting their responsibility onto the pedestrian. To take your extension, the same could apply to holding at a green light when a truck barrels through the red, or going anyway “because the truck is in the wrong”.”

            No, to take my extension, the truck driver (heavier vehicle, required by law to stop) should be blamed and imprisoned when they run a red and kill another motorist in a car (lighter, more likely to be injured, but has right of way).

            To take your extension the person at the green light should slow down enough at every light that they can stop when they see a truck running a red light without stopping.

            I am not arguing that pedestrians should continue walking along a footpath when a motorist is illegally crossing it, I am arguing that motorists should be charged for the crime they are committing (careless driving) if they reverse blind out of a driveway and charged with manslaughter when they kill someone.

            Imagine that an arborist is chopping down a tree on a street and they fail to effectively exclude vehicles from the fall area. We both agree that a motorist should stop when they recognize the danger, however you seem to be arguing that:

            “Even with due care and diligence, [carefully felling a tree], it is 100% entirely possible to hit a [motorist] who [you have failed to see] (assuming the [motorist] takes your dogmatic stance that they [should be able to safely travel on the road while following the law]).”

          12. A comparison with 40 years ago is a good idea. Back then, there was no infill. Fewer driveways per 100m. Fewer cars per capita, fewer km driven, fewer trips made. So fewer cars coming out of each driveway. Less car dependency because the impact of all the motorway building was still kicking in. More actual pedestrian crossings. Fewer f**k-off fences, as I call them. More kids playing on the footpath because with the lower traffic levels, it was a more pleasant place to be, the kids only had 2 activities a week instead of 6, and they weren’t having as much screentime or homework. So they had more of a presence and drivers were more careful. Plus AT hadn’t altered driver psychology with the ‘pedestrians must give way to traffic’ madness. Add all that up and the situation today is quite different.

            The changes required are massive and yes, they need to include property owners actually having to make physical changes to their boundaries. But it’s just one of many changes required.

          13. Vehicle speed in and out of driveways is an issue. Driveways. Driveways are generally built to allow higher than necessary entry / exit speeds because they seem to presume everyone owns a Ferrari and needs a flat entrance of the road.

      2. Might be time to lower the fence if there is a real risk of hitting someone coming out of a driveway due to poor visibility.

        1. However you’re making an assumption that it’s a fence, not part of a building. Also assuming that you have the legal right to do so (townhouses/apartments anyone?).

          1. Jon, don’t be pragmatic to the point of not encouraging in a new mindset and design philosophy. Too many people are stuck in what Auckland is, instead of what Auckland could be. I don’t put you in this category. But to be able to call for a better built environment, and a better driving culture, we actually need to talk about rights. We don’t have a moral standing to redirect funds and reallocate road space, otherwise.

          2. @ Heidi – I like your comment, it was well thought out and presented. I agree that we shouldn’t go so far towards a pragmatic approach that we discourage a change in mindset or design philosophy.

            I want Auckland to be built more inclusively. I want there to be a better environment.

            Perhaps it’s my engineering background coming to the fore (life is complicated, things are never black & white and theory does not always equal practice), I also want people to realise that everybody sometimes makes mistakes, physics don’t change to reflect authority and that to build a better world, we need to work cooperatively and try to temper how we interact with each other.

          3. 🙂 We’re very close in position, really. Perhaps I’m biased by conversations with too many neighbours who simply put everything down to personal responsibility. So they think a parent should just not take a small child to walk along a narrow footpath next to heavy speeding traffic, rather than seeing that the built environment is what’s at fault.

  18. If we are to follow Sweden’s lead, then we better bump up the speed limit on our motorways to 110 or 120km/h, and reduce the speed limit on our worst rural roads to 70 or 80km/h.

    1. No justification for putting the speed limit up when we have a road toll like ours. Tiny travel time savings aren’t more important than lives. NZTA doesn’t like different speed limits that are only 10 km/h different, saying that “at higher travel speeds drivers have trouble differentiating speed differences of just 10 km/h” so you’d have to make it 120 km/hr and at that speed, things can go wrong so much faster.

      1. “No justification for putting the speed limit up when we have a road toll like ours.”

        People don’t die on the Waikato Expressway or TEL. If putting the speed limit up on SH1 encourages traffic away from the SH2/27 route south and if TEL encourages traffic away from SH36 to Whakatane, then raising the speed limit will reduce the road toll.

        Raising the speed limit on the best roads may also encourage better compliance on other roads.

        1. Those are the best reasons I’ve heard yet. Now show me the research, such as examples of where such a diversion worked and didn’t just induce more traffic in the process. Make sure it includes a healthy component of study into how an even higher speed limit influences driver psychology. Eg, the normality of the feeling of driving at a higher speed, the feeling of entitlement to speed in other places, and to not having those pesky slower drivers on the road who are attempting to learn their way on the network. Then show me the research into carbon emissions.

          1. There is actually a lot of research into how speed limit regimes psychologically effect people, unfortunately, most is paywalled. Probably the best example is that Sweden has the best road safety in the world and always aligns the speed limit and road design. Interestingly, they rarely use 4 lane motorways. They make far better use of 2+1 and 1+1 arrangements.

          2. This year I can get past a few of the paywalls, so if you or someone else has some research to recommend, do let me know (even in another post). The carbon emission and induced traffic considerations will guide me in the meantime. 🙂

          3. Carbon emissions and induced traffic certainly don’t support bypasses. I’m not saying that we should build 4 lane expressways everywhere. I am saying that where they exist, we should apply higher speed limits and on less safe roads we should reduce speed limits .

            I don’t have any of the research to hand right now, but when I come across it, I’ll make sure that I share it wit you.

          4. I guess my point (other than the psychology aspects) is that higher speed limits, if they do shorten travel times, also induce traffic. Just as rephasing traffic lights do. And if they induce traffic, they also create extra carbon emissions. Perhaps a small consideration, but only so because the travel time improvement is small too… any reason you can see that this is not so?

  19. The root of the problem here in NZ is the attitude where everyone assumes cars have the right of way – which in turns means drivers assume they are always in the right.
    In the UK and other countries in Europe, a pedestrian has the right of way when crossing a T-Junction regardless – whereas in NZ the car has the right of way.
    UK drivers are far better drivers and I believe this is because they get used to giving way to pedestrians by default and do not own the road.
    This is one of the key NZ Road Rules which needs to be changed ASAP in my opinion.

    1. Yes, UK drivers are better at giving way to pedestrians. But they are better at giving way to other drivers too. I think it comes from having so many other people in the road environment; they’re just used to people crossing and cars needing to pull out / pull in…and especially turning right out of a side road, through a gap in a line of traffic. Anyone else notice how hard it is to do this in NZ when the roads are busy, because no one leaves a gap? If people stopped a couple of car lengths (or even a car width!) short of the car in front when the queue stops and they’re in front of a side road, then people could get out and it wouldn’t hold up the car in the traffic queue one little bit. But no-one seems to think of this, or they maybe think it isn’t proper??

      This probably applies to other countries in Europe too, but I haven’t driven there much. I assume that the difference in NZ is that we’re not so used to sharing, it not having been very necessary until more recently. (Obvious exception: merging like a zip. We do that fine.) No doubt more courteous driving will come, at least in the cities, as people get more used to it and see the benefit next time someone lets *them* pull out. There’s a lot more thanking going on in the UK too, when people do let you in. I think that if people got used to making thank-you hand signals or the little indicator blips they do in London sometimes to say thank you (right, left, right), people who are courteous would feel happier about it and repeat it more often.

      Related point: With the higher density of road users of all kinds in the UK, does this not lead to greater safety in itself? For instance, I was always happy weaving my bicycle through lanes of traffic in central London, even years ago when there wasn’t much specific provision for cyclists. Yet I don’t much like cycling in Auckland, except on dedicated cycleways, because in London you were moving faster than the cars and in Auckland they’re a lot quicker than you! No question it’s more dangerous to cycle here, even without any perceived or actual difference in driving skill, courtesy or attitude. So I guess that’s a benefit to heavy traffic right there 😉

      1. In the UK (and London in particular) you have to pretty well off to drive a car, so car drivers are mostly well educated. In NZ pretty much everyone drives including the village idiot(s).

        1. That had never occurred to me and I’m not sure that it’s true. It always amazes me just how well off people are in London. The estate that my stepdad lives in is wall to wall late model BMWs, Audis, Lexuses. (That’s council estate, aka social housing; rather than country estate, aka mansion, or estate car, aka station wagon). You just don’t see the sort of beat up old cars you do here. (Maybe the emissions limits and testing are a factor as well as wealth).

          The cost of living there is very low compared to here in almost all regards (though maybe petrol and insurance for new drivers would be a relevant exception). So being well off enough to drive a car covers a lot of people. Actually, I’d say very few would be excluded. Though of course it is very feasible, and cheaper, not to drive in London.

          I’m not sure the link between wealth and education is that strong, nor the link between either of those and driving skill, courtesy or attitude.

          PS for clarity, I like living in NZ much better and people are generally more pleasant (contextualising my earlier comparative posts and comments about how people are less courteous in cars here).

  20. Something to bear in mind is that the “Road Toll” (i.e. annual fatalities) does not give a very good measure of road-safety. The injury rate is more meaningful.

    Consider this: Two near-identical road accidents. The first results in a fatality. The second in a life-changing serious injury. Only the first counts towards the road toll. The difference between a fatality and a serious injury may simply be:- Someone took longer/less-time to call the ambulance; The casualty was in better/poorer overall health; The victim was thrown onto grass/asphalt; Split-second timing meant the victim was impaled/not-impaled, etc.

    Each of these scenarios represents a serious injury-crash. Whether a fatality occurred or not is of little relevance to the overall measure of danger.

    Here are some historic accident figures¹, beginning with the all-time worst year 1973:

    Year . . Fatalities . . Injuries . . Inj/Fat
    1973 . . . .843 . . . . 23385 . . . 27.74
    1983 . . . .644 . . . . 16491 . . . 25.61
    1993 . . . .600 . . . . 15108 . . . 25.18
    2003 . . . .461 . . . . 14372 . . . 31.18
    2013 . . . .254 . . . . 11781 . . . 46.38
    2014 . . . .295 . . . . 11219 . . . 38.03
    2015 . . . .319 . . . . 12270 . . . 38.46
    2016 . . . .328 . . . . 11528 . . . 35.15

    Although both fatalities and injuries have tumbled spectacularly since 1973, the Injuries-per-fatality rate has climbed, reaching a peak in 2013 which corresponds to the record-low-fatalities year.

    So if safety is judged in terms of injuries, 1973 was not so bad, and 2013 was not so good. The “improvement” that authorities often like to trumpet during periods of declining fatalities, does not mean the roads have become proportionally safer.

    And then there is the “near-miss” rate. This goes largely unrecorded on the roads, but on the railway for instance, every near-miss incident is logged. A truly safe means of transport is not only one that has few accidents, but one that strives to reduce risk of accident also. In this regard, roads are streets-behind. Many areas of risk are just ignored.

    ¹ Sources:
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Documents/Pages201520to202420from20Motor20Vehicle20Crashes20in20New20Zealand202007.pdf
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/roadcrashstatistics/motorvehiclecrashesinnewzealand/

    1. Some crashes in 2016 would have caused death in 1973 as the medical care was a lot less. The ambulance staff are much better trained and equipped and the hospitals are better staffed especially the provincial ones.

      1. I’d say air ambulances, airbags, abs brakes, lighter cars, crumple zones and medical advancements are probably the biggest improvers, not to mention less people now walk or cycle. Think of being hit by a holden kingswood or crashing in one vs a modern day toyota corolla, it all contributes to a perceived improvement in the private motor vehicle system

        1. Yes. And for each improvement in safety for the driver, comes a little less perceived danger and perhaps less care as a result (risk compensation). Which may increase risk for other road (and adjacent space) users. Meaning that it’s probably time to improve road design, with all users in mind, rather than just car design.

    2. The purpose of recording near-misses is when actual adverse events are rare and we need all the data points and scenarios possible when trying to improve safety. This is clearly not the case for roads when we have 11,000 actual events to analyse, so I don’t think near misses are that important.

      I think the disconnect between injuries and fatalities will be because of rescue helicopters and improved healthcare. We save a lot more people that wouldn’t have made it previously, of course many of them will not have a great quality of life afterwards.

      1. Near misses are important in that they provide information as to areas in which accidents are a risk, before they necessarily happen. In a “sensible” transport system we would be acting on things like unsafe speeds in driveways, doors which can swing open and hit cyclists, large numbers of hub-caps that fly off at speed, parking behaviour that obstructs footpaths etc.

        But you are right, there is more than enough information about these hazards already. It just doesn’t get acted upon.

    3. So yes, Waiukuian and Jezza, we save more people who get smashed up in road crashes than we used to. But that doesn’t mean the roads have got proportionally safer. People continue to get smashed up but maybe just don’t die so much.

      The mode of transport is still horribly dangerous and official attitudes to risk are woefully out of line with those concerning other public and societal activities.

      1. I think you are correct. It would be ideal to get stats on serious injuries but I’m not sure they are as easy to come by.

        There is also another interesting trend forming where the number of fatalities has increased at a greater rate than injuries in the last few years, almost a complete reversal of the trend. Maybe the excessive investment in RONS has been crowding out wider improvements on the road network such as intersections and passing lanes?

    4. I think it’s also interesting to note that improved design for pedestrians (and cyclists) in a particular location needs much more information than death and significant injury rates: pedestrian numbers, where people with mobility aids choose to cross, what features increase pedestrian numbers, accessibility. The success of a new design can more readily be measured by increases in pedestrians than by the (hopefully) rare death and serious injury statistics in that location.

  21. Useful to mention here chance of death per kilometer in a bus is 1/10 of driving in a car. And 1/10 lower again per km in train. Sorry have not got quote for this

  22. I just watched the video. It’s really good and well worth the eight minutes. I go back to an earlier point that I made the last time ‘self-explaining’ roads came up: These sort of roads are more comfortable for car drivers to use as well. There’s less worrying about conflicts or competitions with other users. And less feeling of being artificially constrained from doing what the road ‘allows’ just by warning signs and speed limits – the speed feel natural because of the road design. And they are presumably no less efficient at moving traffic?

  23. Is the higher death rate from a higher percentage of SUV and ute’s on our roads, they would be more likely to kill pedestrians at any speed and then some have bull bars which in my opinion should be banned.

    1. The proliferation of SUVs is in part due to their falling cost (as with most vehicles) and their continued position as a mark of success. The SUV (Nissan Surf excepted) is an aspirational vehicle that sets the owner as one who is successful, of upper middle class or higher – Or so the buyers of those seem to think. I know one person who purchased an expensive SUV solely because they thought of it in terms of class elevation.

      Work to change or dismantle the class system and you’ll go a long way towards reducing the desirability of these beasts. EVs and the resurgence of public transport will eat away at these machines amongst the class driven too, even if the class oriented only take to these in a game of one-up manship to be more green than their peers – Which is fine. I don’t care why people adopt public transport or move to EVs, only that the do.

  24. Well this is just gold. Pedestrians constantly break the road rules and think footpaths, roads and train lines all belong to them. The only victim blaming here is blaming drivers for the stupidity of pedestrians.

    Just this very night walking home I saw a pedestrian near Grafton Bridge try to commit suicide. Couldn’t wait the extra 5-10 seconds for his turn to cross the road so strode out with noise canceling headphones and never looked at the oncoming traffic. Only a superb piece of driving averted a trip to the establishment on the other side of Grafton Bridge.

    The Police never monitor pedestrian behavior, choosing to pick on drivers. So it’s little wonder pedestrian behavior is out of control.

    In light of these damning statistics it is time for this blog to take the lead and drop the holier than thou attitude it takes to non-motorists. It’s also time for the Police to stop taking sides and to prosecute all road users including pedestrians and cyclists.

    1. Those headphone guys are the minority to be fair … mostly there is no crossing to be found, so prople have to wade into traffic between cars. There is plenty of evidence for that, just look at the map at the top of this post,

    2. I saw a motorist blast through a red light without looking the other day. Whereas your pedestrian nearly killed himself, this asshole nearly killed six innocent bystanders.

    3. Was the pedestrian crossing within 20m of a pedestrian crossing? Were they crossing against a red signal? If not then they weren’t breaking any laws

  25. Decades of safety campaigns on driving under the drink & speed limit. It’s time to put some of that energy into driver safety TOWARDS pedestrians.

  26. I came across an article from US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health that makes for interesting reading – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217548/

    Among the common-sense findings was a potentially counter-intuitive result: “Both descriptive and logistic regression results showed that pedestrian injury severity and mortality varied by age of the pedestrians involved in the crash. Adults had higher risk of severe injuries than children. This finding was consistent when using various injury severity outcome measures (ISS, MAIS, AIS, FCI, LLI and Mortality).”

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