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The pedestrian crossing that links the hospital to the shops on Ruahine Street has now gone digital. The decision to investigate and upgrade the crossing came about as the result of pedestrian and rear end crashes at the crossing.
Glenn Connelly, Palmerston North City Council's Senior Transportation Engineer said Ruahine Street is an inherently busy road. “It is a minor arterial carrying between 15,500 and 18,000 vehicles per day. Users of the crossing have varying capabilities; including patients and visitors to the hospital as well as students from Ross Intermediate and Freyberg High School.” As a result the digital signals were selected as the safest and preferred treatment for the crossing. The signals have the extra benefit of giving advance warning to queued traffic that cars would be stopping ahead. While drivers can't see pedestrians when approaching the crossing in a stream of traffic the traffic, signals can be seen for over 300 metres.
“To increase pedestrian safety, video detection sensors have been installed, which allows dynamic control of the signals. This system is a first in Palmerston North,” Glenn said. “The pedestrian sensors have predefined detection zones which are superimposed on the video image and pedestrians are recognised as soon as they enter the vicinity.”
To use the crossing pedestrians need to stand in the sensor zone which is indicated by yellow tactile tiles on the footpath. This means pedestrians no longer need to push the button. A pedestrian can just stand on the tiles and the crossing phase will be called. Cameras ‘watch' people as they cross the road and if they walk quickly the crossing time on the signals is reduced and cars can move off sooner, but if there is a big group or a pedestrian walking slowly the pedestrian phase will be extended to allow safe passage. The signals also look for a gap in the stream of approaching cars if practical to avoid drivers needing to stop quickly. The pram crossings have been improved with the grade of the kerb ramps corrected to provide better access for wheeled pedestrians, such as prams, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The same type of sensors will be installed on Fitzherbert Avenue at the Palmerston North Girls' High School crossing to replace the existing sensors and improve the operation and safety.