Far North comes of age with first traffic lights in Bay of Islands

Paihia's traffic lights signal the end of traffic worries in the Northland, Bay of Islands, town.
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Paihia's traffic lights signal the end of traffic worries in the Northland, Bay of Islands, town.

It's an area renowned for its scenic beauty, warm weather and laid-back lifestyle.

But, in a sign Northland's Bay of Islands is not just a land of fairytales, the area has welcomed its first set of traffic lights.

The traffic signals on Marsden Rd in Paihia were installed by the NZ Transport Agency to protect pedestrian safety, while keeping traffic moving through the town centre.

Tourists flock to the water-front town of Paihia in the summer months.

Tourists flock to the water-front town of Paihia in the summer months.

Also known as State Highway 11, the road was often busy in the peak summer tourist season, particularly when cruise ships visited the town. 

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A long queue of cars would back up on the road in summer, while tourists walked across the pedestrian crossing, said Paihia resident Val Cadell.

Paihia is better known for its picturesque beach than its traffic problems and a new set of smart traffic lights aims to ...
Chris McLennan

Paihia is better known for its picturesque beach than its traffic problems and a new set of smart traffic lights aims to keep it that way.

​Volunteers used to control the pedestrian crossing in summer but last year that was stopped due to health and safety concerns, she said.

​However, Cadell believed the lights were not really needed in winter, when there was less traffic around.

The lights, which started operating on Friday, were designed to encourage pedestrians to cross unless the red signal told them not to, said NZ Transport Agency's system design manager, Brett Gliddon.

"The signals use detectors to measure pedestrian movements and help people cross the road safely," Gliddon said.

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"This improves safety for pedestrians and removes frustrations for motorists because it means traffic isn't waiting for periods when there's no one crossing."

The lights were the first traffic signals for the Far North district, with the nearest other set of lights in Whangarei's Kamo, some 65km south.

Cadell said it was the end of an era with the Bay of Islands getting traffic lights.

"The Kerikeri people are laughing because they've got a much bigger population than we have here," she said.

But the lights were needed for safety, according to Kelly Selby, manager of Frank's Pizza Bar & Cafe - a little way up the road from the crossing.

"People were just walking across and not even waiting for the traffic to stop," she said.

Having the traffic lights was a big improvement, Selby said.

"I feel that cars can go and people are safe."

 

 - Stuff

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