Stop-go aid for students until crossing designed

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 29/05/2012
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MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ
LOLLIPOP MAN: Road workers on Park Rd provide an after-school traffic-stop service for Palmerston North Girls' High School students.

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Palmerston North Girls' High students have a dedicated stop-go person to see them safely across Park Rd before and after school while a traditional zebra crossing is replaced with a kea crossing.

The school and police have seen the site as a danger spot for years, with hundreds of students attempting to cross a busy arterial route at peak times.

About three years ago, the school started rostering teachers to patrol the crossing, ensuring students waited and crossed safely in groups.

"Drivers were all tooting their thanks when we first put teachers out there," school principal Melba Scott said.

"We want to keep everyone safe, and it is good public relations. It is important to have a person to manage the flow, to give the traffic a chance, as well as the students."

She said sun-strike sometimes made managing the crossing particularly difficult.

Council transportation planner Sandi Morris said the adult patrols had been a great help while design solutions were investigated.

City council engineers say shifting the pedestrian crossing away from the Linton St intersection and replacing the white zebra lines with pedestrian islands, extending out from the footpaths, will provide the safest solution.

Programmes team leader Rob Campbell said zebra markings gave pedestrians the impression it was safe to step out at any time, which was not true.

Because it was little used except at peak times, motorists who used the road frequently were inclined to become complacent and not expect to have to stop for pedestrians.

The kea crossings made pedestrians more visible, more aware of approaching vehicles, and left them a shorter distance to be exposed to the traffic.

Ms Morris said finding the best location for the new crossing had been a challenge because of the number of vehicle accessways along the street.

The plan was to move it away from the Linton St intersection, but not so far as to discourage students from walking the extra distance to use it.

"We're pleased to know there will be something there, in a safer place," Ms Scott said.

Construction started last week, and would be finished in about a fortnight.

In the meantime, the council has asked contractors to provide stop-go signals before and after school to create a break in the traffic for students to cross safely.

Ms Morris and police education officer Senior Constable Emily McMellon said they would encourage the school to keep putting staff at the crossing to supervise students when the new facility was in place.

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Ms Scott said that decision had not been made yet.

The important thing would be to ensure students used the crossing rather than trying to dash across the road wherever they spotted a break in the traffic, she said.

- Manawatu Standard

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