Let’s walk on the right side

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Let’s walk safely out there, urges a Tamahere resident.

Wear bright clothes when walking
Wear bright clothes when walking

“As a walker and driver I am amazed at the number of people I see walking around Tamahere wearing dark clothes, without a torch, reflectors or “fluro” safety vests and apparently unaware of the safety code for walkers. I have had to take avoidance action on occasions, especially at night,” she said.

Her plea comes as the Waikato region road safety group urged care after five pedestrians died in the Waikato region over recent months, the most recent near Gordonton on July 12.

Waikato Regional Council travel behaviour change coordinator Jo Carling said these deaths were a solemn reminder of people’s vulnerability when walking on or near roads.

“Children and older people in particular are the most vulnerable to injury. Children tend to be more spontaneous in their movements and lack the ability to accurately judge vehicle speeds when crossing roads. Older people may not be fully mobile and may also suffer from impaired hearing or vision.

“Our winter road safety campaign has now entered its third month. The campaign encourages all road users to increase their visibility, especially at night or in adverse weather conditions,” Ms Carling said.

“Pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, such as those travelling on bicycles or motorbikes, can maximise their visibility by using lights and wearing reflective clothing during the day and at night.

“Pedestrians need to be aware of the immense danger they are in when crossing the road in between cars, or trying to beat traffic. It becomes even more dangerous when the pedestrian is wearing dark clothing.

“People should use footpaths and pedestrian crossings when they are available. On country roads, people should walk well back from the road on the road verges towards the oncoming traffic.”

The speed at which a vehicle hits a person can determine the outcome for that pedestrian.

“A pedestrian struck at 32 km/h has a 95 per cent chance of survival, but that survival rate drops to 55 per cent when struck by a car travelling at 48 km/h. At 70 km/h the likelihood of survival is virtually zero.”

Tips for safe walking.

Be Visible: Wear bright colours when walking in daytime. When walking at night, wear light-coloured clothing and reflective clothing or a reflective vest to be visible. Drivers are often not expecting walkers to be out after dark, and you need to give them every chance to see you. Be just as cautious at dawn or twilight, as drivers still have limited visibility or may even have the setting or rising sun directly in their eyes.

Walk Facing Traffic: Where there is no footpath and you must walk on the side of the road, choose the side where you are facing oncoming traffic. This gives you the best chance to see traffic approaching closest to you and take evasive action when needed.

Keep the Volume Down: Don’t drown out your environment with your iPod. Keep the volume at a level where you can still hear bike bells and warnings from other walkers and runners. Your audiologist will also thank you.

Walk Single File: Unless you are on a footpath separated from the road or a wide bike lane, you should walk in single file. This is especially important on a road with lots curves, where traffic has only a split second chance of seeing you. While it can be enjoyable to walk down the road two to three abreast chatting merrily, drivers don’t expect it and you don’t want to lose your best walking buddies.

Stay Aware of Bikes and Runners: Share the road and path with bikes and runners. Bike riders should alert you when approaching from behind with a bike bell or a “passing on the left/right.” Listen for them, and move to walk single file, allowing them to pass safely. Runners should also call out for passing. Bike-walker collisions can result in broken bones or head injury for either — and you aren’t wearing a helmet.

Cross Safely: Cars often zip along our country roads at speed. Remember those road crossing rules from childhood: look both ways before crossing any road. It keeps you safe and sets a good example to any watching children.

Be Predictable: Make a practice of staying on one side of the path while walking rather than weaving randomly from side to side. Watch your arm motions, or you may end up giving a black eye to a silently passing walker, runner or biker.

Hang Up and Walk: Chatting on a cell phone while you walk is as dangerous as chatting while driving. You are distracted and not as aware of your environment. You are less likely to recognize traffic danger, passing joggers and bikers or tripping hazards.

Walk Dogs on Short Leashes: Dogs can run out into traffic or get into a dog fight either off leash or on a very long leash. Don’t trip up other walkers or bikers with poor control of your pet. Keep your pet and yourself safe by learning proper leash walking.

Know When to Stop Walking: Heat sickness, dehydration, heart attack or stroke can strike walkers of any age. Learn the symptoms of medical emergencies and carry a cell phone to dial for help.

One thought on “Let’s walk on the right side

  • July 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm
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    As coordinator of Living Streets Hamilton, a pedestrian advocacy group which is a branch of the national organization Living Streets Aotearoa, I of course agree with Jo Carling’s very sensible comments about acting safely and dressing visibly as a pedestrian.

    However, I think that NZTA also has to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of pedestrians. We have had a spate of tragedies on Waikato roads involving pedestrians, and it is routine to conclude that anything that goes wrong is the pedestrian’s fault. I agree, sometimes it is. However, sometimes pedestrians are left with no alternative to indulging in stupid and dangerous behaviour, unless they have a lot of spare time and are very fit.

    The young man who died on Ruakura Rd recently was trying to get to school. There is no safe crossing point on Ruakura Rd apart from the one at the intersection with Peachgrove Rd. The point where he tried to cross, having sensibly walked through the Ruakura campus, which is very safe for walking, is 1.4km further along. He could take a 3km detour to get back to the lights and come back to where he started,or he could run. Even then he would have been walking unsafely on the verge, as there is no footpath on that side of the road. In his case, tragedy occurred. In the aftermath, there were a lot of comments from people who know the road well, who said that tragedy was inevitable at some point. One adult said she felt so unsafe walking in the area due to the number and speed of the vehicles, that despite living literally across the road from her workplace at Ruakura, she takes the car each day.

    If this road had been classified as a city road, the speed limit would be that which has now been applied as a temporary measure by the Hamilton City Council: 50kph. The only reason they have been able to do this is that there is a construction site intersecting Ruakura Rd, to allow the building of yet another highway. Normally, the road is classified as a country road despite its location in the middle of a new subdivision, and it falls under the jurisdiction of NZTA, who believe that an 80kph speed limit is how it should be. As Jo accurately observed, had he been hit at 50kph, he probably would have survived. At 80kph, he had almost no chance.

    Similarly this year, two elderly pedestrians were seriously injured in Cambridge, trying to cross Queen St, which is part of the major bypass around the town centre. It is regarded as a state highway, despite being in a highly populated area. It is difficult to cross and has no proper facilities for doing so. People will take risks when they are faced with large and time-consuming diversions to avoid them. Perhaps we need to recognise this and design for it.

    At the moment, we have death by design.

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