Wellingtonian Editorial: Why hammer motorists?

Last updated 10:25 11/10/2012

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OPINION: Will Wellington motorists soon be required to push their cars along the Golden Mile?

Wellington City Council is intending to reduce the speed limit in that area to 20kmh, which is farcically slow.

The reason for the change is "pedestrian safety" and has been prompted by the distressingly high number of road accidents involving pedestrians since the realignment of Willis and Manners streets.

It is a bizarre situation.

The council spent upwards of $11 million altering the roads so buses could save a few seconds on the journey from Courtenay Place through the Golden Mile.

Now the speed limit is to be lowered and the journey will probably take longer than it was before the changes.

The council has made a right botch-up of its road changes and motorists are paying for it.

It is amazing how often the council whacks motorists, actually.

The reason for the rash of accidents isn't that cars or buses are travelling too fast. It's because pedestrians are misbehaving.

They're either jaywalking or crossing the road without looking properly. There's little doubt pedestrians are being hit because they are not familiar with the new flow of traffic and are therefore looking in the wrong direction as they step on to the road.

There's nothing any driver can do if a pedestrian steps out right in front of the vehicle.

The council has made several important mistakes with its new road set-up.

A key one in Manners St was making the footpath too wide and the road too narrow.

Serial protester Benjamin Easton has been banging on about this for months.

His persistence can be irritating, but he's right. Why would any designer choose to make a major road so narrow?

To his credit, Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon not only realised why pedestrians were being hit, but did something about it.

He forced the installation of the hideously ugly metal barriers along parts of Willis St. They have irritated pedestrians and have probably cost shop owners in the area money in lost custom.

But they may well have saved a life or two, which is surely more important.

McKinnon locked horns with the mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, over the issue. She seems not to be in favour of barriers, but presumably she's not in favour of more people being hit or even killed, either.

In the absence of anything more constructive from the council, McKinnon's was an important stopgap measure.

However, there's no denying what an eyesore the barriers are, and that something more attractive needs to be done.

The Wellingtonian is strongly supportive of the suggestion nearly a year ago of councillor Leonie Gill to install nautical ropes along the problem areas.

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They would be attractive and would act as a psychological barrier for pedestrians intending to foolishly cross a road at the wrong place.

Gill put the suggestion forward in the annual plan, but it went nowhere.

Officials were not supportive and she did not get enough backing around the council table. Why not is a mystery.

Since then there's been a pedestrian death and more accidents.

The council should reconsider her idea. After all, the solution is to modify pedestrian behaviour, not hammer the motorists yet again.

- The Wellingtonian

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