Wellington's Golden Mile needs safety review, coroner says
The safety of Wellington's Golden Mile should be reviewed after a woman died crossing a busy road, a coroner says.
In findings released on Monday, coroner Garry Evans found that Wellington woman Venessa Ann Green died in Wellington Hospital after she walked in front of a bus on June 28, 2011.
Green had been jogging down Willis Street southwards on the harbour side near the intersection with Bond St at 1.10pm when she tried to cross the road in front of a Go Wellington bus, apparently without looking.
The bus driver braked and tried to avoid Green. But the coroner said the driver would have had less than a second to react and was unable to avoid hitting Green at a speed of about 25kmh. Police said the driver was not at fault in any way.
In a statement to police, the driver said he had not even see Green properly but "something caught my eye".
"It all happened so fast. I remember hearing a banging noise and seeing the lady on the ground."
One of the bus passengers told the coroner she did see Green briefly before the collision. She had appeared "fixed straight ahead", and did not look right before crossing, the passenger said.
Green survived initially and was taken to Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit but died later from traumatic brain injuries.
The Gold Mile, the busy section of road stretching from Courtenay Place to Lambton Quay, has the highest rate of pedestrian-vehicle accidents in the country.
The area where Green attempted to cross was crowded with objects, such as trees, signs and benches, including one sign that could have obscured her view of the approaching bus, Evans said.
Following Green's death, her family said they believed the street crammed with objects was a safety hazard and barriers should be installed around bus lanes to prevent another death. But during the inquest, Wellington City Council officials said barriers created their own risks.
In his findings, Evans did not recommend introducing barriers.
However, while Wellington City Council had made improvements to the safety of the Golden Mile since Green's death, Evans recommended an additional audit be carried out this year, to ensure the safety of pedestrians, motorist and cyclists.
Council spokesman Richard Maclean said the council had already hired a consultant to perform the safety audit, which should be completed in the next few months.
Since Green's death, the council had introduced several features to improve safety along the Golden Mile but had stopped short of barriers or banning jay walking, he said.
"I don't think people think that is an acceptable solution."
Whatever measures were introduced, Wellington's pedestrian density in the CBD, higher than anywhere else in New Zealand, and narrow streets meant there would remain a bigger risk of collisions between walkers and vehicles.
"There is always going to be an element of risk to crossing the road. We do as much as possible to lower that risk."