Council looks at crossing signs

The public backlash from an accident in August in which a 10-year-old boy was knocked off his scooter on a Richmond courtesy crossing has led the Tasman District Council to consider erecting signs at the crossings telling pedestrians: "Look before you cross".

However, councillors attending yesterday's engineering services meeting questioned the validity of the move, after a report by transport manager Gary Clark, which said there were more accidents involving pedestrians who did not use the crossings.

A search of the NZ Transport Agency database showed there had been no accidents, before the August accident, on courtesy crossings since 2003, but there had been six in Queen St between Salisbury and Gladstone roads. In five of these, the pedestrians suffered minor injuries, he said.

The August incident happened after two children approached a courtesy crossing. One child stopped and the elderly driver expected the other would too, but instead, the boy continued across the crossing on his scooter.

The police had decided not to prosecute the driver, deeming that both parties could have been at fault, he said.

Councils had different approaches to the need for and use of courtesy crossing signs, Mr Clark said. The councils of Blenheim, Nelson and Wellington did not have signs, but Tauranga and Hanmer Springs did.

"Usually, the signs have gone up because of public interest."

Richmond's raised courtesy crossing worked well to meet the aim of slowing traffic to about 30kmh, which lowered the chance of a pedestrian being killed to about 5 per cent, he said.

In addition, pedestrian signage changed the expectation at the crossing, with drivers expecting pedestrians to take extra care.

Richmond councillor Glenys Glover asked why the council was considering the question of the signs, when Richmond's raised crossings worked well. She also queried the cost of the signs.

Chairman Trevor Norriss said it might be better if the council did not erect the signs and, instead, spent the money on another road-safety initiative.

The committee decided to retain courtesy crossings in Richmond and asked Mr Clark to report back about the potential cost of the signs to its February meeting.

Today, Mayor Richard Kempthorne said he believed signs should go up, but was mindful of cost implications.

Tasman District road policing manager Jenni Richardson said today that, as a general rule, the police supported anything which made crossing the road safer.

Mr Kempthorne said he had suggested the council go to primary schools in the area and ask principals to point out to pupils, especially boys, not to rush out on the crossings.

Since the August accident, a council staff member had experienced a similar case, where a boy on a scooter had shot across the crossing in front of her.

"If she had not braked, he would have been hit," said Mr Kempthorne. "The message is: ‘Boys, just look'."

Both drivers and pedestrians needed to be cautious and not treat the crossings as if they had right of way, he said. The council had not asked the boy and driver involved in the August accident whether they thought signs should go up.

A Nelson Mail online poll in September was almost evenly split at 40 per cent between those wanting the courtesy crossings removed and those who said they should be clearly marked.

The Nelson Mail