THE RIGHT PATH
DO YOU KNOW your road rules? When you exit a driveway you must stop before the footpath and give way to a pedestrian or child on a bike or scooter. You’re saying ”yes I knew that”, but do you know when you should give way to pedestrians in other situations when driving in traffic? And do our street signs and road markings encourage us to drive past the point where pedestrians cross the road?
Not long ago, a mother was walking to her local kindergarten to pick up her son. Her other boy, a three year old, was riding his scooter with her. As they got closer he shot ahead, despite her call for him stay alongside. A car came out of a laneway to pull up at a stop sign that was not placed where the lane met the footpath, but placed after the footpath at the edge of the road.
The car hit the boy. He fell to the ground next to the sign. It’s not a case for the coroner, but a case of a damaged finger, a traumatised child, a horrified driver and a mortified mother.
The boy’s angry father contacted the council. Soon after, the stop signs and line markings on all the lanes in the area were moved back to where the footpath and road meet, not the road junction. The council blacked out the white lines at the road's edge.
I saw the new stop positions and road markings and wondered why all signs on all roads aren't placed this way.
At stoplights, cars pull up before the footpath, not at the edge of the road.
I asked a judge for his opinion on road markings. He wouldn't be quoted but said stop and give way signs and road markings should be placed before footpaths and not after them as pedestrians have a right of way. I checked with a legal firm specialising in traffic law. It also agreed. Is this why the council acted quickly? The traffic lawyer said if another incident happens where a lane meets a footpath and someone is killed, injured or permanently disabled, the council could be sued for contributory negligence for failing to act after the dangerous situation had been brought to its notice.
So here is a task for all council and department of transport officials: check your signs and road markings and get a legal opinion.
Start with ones near schools, pre-schools and day-care centres. If your signs and road markings are not positioned before the footpath, move them back. If you don’t – as Clint Eastwood would say – go ahead and make a lawyer’s day. Maybe you’re feeling lucky?
I now check every sign and road marking and watch how drivers treat pedestrians. Some pull up to let them cross, but most drive up to the edge of the road and block their path.
I spotted one stop sign right next to Rose Park Primary School that was placed back before the footpath, but two stop signs at the bottom of the hill near Burnside Primary School are placed beyond the footpath.
It's a small job to move them and redo the lines so drivers would pull up earlier. They’d then have to check for children coming down the hill before moving forward. If we fixed up all signs like this it would make crossing roads from footpaths safer not just for children but for everyone.
We could then do what they did in the Northern Territory and Queensland 20 years ago: change the law to allow everyone, not just children under 12, to ride bicycles on footpaths. Tasmania and the ACT also allow this.
The Northern Territory lets adults ride without a helmet on footpaths and has the highest bicycle usage in Australia per capita.
Maybe don’t go that far, but let's shift the signs and go for the shared path option.
Before you say it won't work, remember that adults are legally riding on footpaths in two states and two territories. Adelaide could become a better bike city and traffic flow would vastly improve.
Most footpaths are underused and wide enough.
You would ride into the city single file using half the path on the same side as inbound traffic. You would apply the same principle on the way out.
A recent NSW report looking at this suggests there be separation lines and enforced speed limits of say 1015km/h on the shared paths. It also recommends that cyclists have lights on at all times and make an audible sound as they approach pedestrians.
Those who want to risk life and limb and go faster could still take their chances in the traffic.
Is this the right path? If you think so perhaps let Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan know at mul[email protected]