The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

7 Mar 2017

Pedestrian give way rules: “We’re thinking about it”

And now for some good news: the NZTA is investigating road user rules for people walking and cycling. In other words, this Unique Piece of Kiwiana Heritage is going obsolete.

Pedestrian give way rule — as of March 2017 *1

The report opens (emphasis mine)

MWH and ViaStrada were commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency to establish the necessary evidence to consider implementing the Road User Rules identified:

Consider. Careful there. As we all know, walking and cycling (and taking the bus for that matter) are things only the poor or homeless, and other Unworthy people do, and they don’t have the right to interfere with the Normal Decent people in their cars. The consequences of changing these rules could upset the balance of road users here.

Enough toungue in cheek talk. the rapport shows a lot of pictures and explanation. For people from Europe most of these are bleedingly obvious, but to the average Aucklander this stuff is alien. The first two proposals are the big ones:

Giving pedestrians and cyclists precedence over traffic when separated cycleways cross side roads

Here’s the context: Imagine you’re driving a car along Onewa Road. There’s a few traffic lights, but apart from that you have right of way from Birkenhead all the way to the motorway. The smaller side streets have to give way to Onewa Road.

On a bicycle or when walking however, there’s a catch.

You’ve got to be kidding me:

Every side street forms a little gap in the shared path. There’s more:

D’oh! This just has to be Auckland.

I had to blink a couple of times when I first saw that. The reason is our unique approach to pedestrian priority *1. You have to give way to any cars coming from any direction at every side street. This is not a legit right of way. It’s quite the downgrade from what you get when in a car.

But that’s how it has to be, due to that pedestrian priority rule. Or rather, non-priority rule.

That rule is now going to change (at least that’s the plan), and moving along an arterial without those constant interruptions will no longer be a privilage for the motorized.

So, when is the ribbon cutting

One and a half year ago, the ribbon whas cut on the pink pale pink pink path. It was a big progress over the status-quo over there. But mostly it benefits people close to the CBD. Even that other glamorous project, Skypath, is not going to help you if you’re in Albany or Manukau.

What about this law change? This will improve walking and cycling all over Auckland. Which easily makes it my top pick for biggest walking and cycling improvement thus far over here. It however lacks the glamour points usually associated with ribbon cutting ceremonies. It’s unfair.

Plenty of appropriate places though. We can do it on Onewa Road, after those retarded Begin/End signs come down.


(*1) 

Actually the official road code, vague and ambiguous as ever, doesn’t really say anything about it. But in practice there is no doubt about the priority rules, and the forest of BEGIN/END signs on shared paths are a direct consequence.

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