THE RIGHT PATH

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STORY - IAN HENSCHKE

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]

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