Monday, 28 January 2013

Jaywalking is an Urban education problem

In our modern conurbations, the interaction between pedestrians and motor vehicles on our roads, are inevitable. Unless a cost effective method can be devised whereby pedestrians do not have to ever cross any roads, then this interaction between pedestrian and motorist, is here to stay.

This means that pedestrians will forever be at the mercy of motorists, and perhaps vice versa. For this reason, the pedestrian crossing was invented. The problem is that, although many western and/or developed governments invest a lot of time and money into providing pedestrian crossings and educating pedestrians from a young age how to effectively use these pedestrian crossings, there are inversely as many, (if not more) developing countries where pedestrian crossing are either not provided, or pedestrians are simply not educated in how to effectively use them.

Jaywalking is an Urban education problem, that appears to be more prevalant in developing countries. It is a term generally used to descibe the illegal or reckless crossing of a road by a pedestrian, between road intersections and / or outside of provided safe pedestrian crossing zones, without yielding to cars.  In most developed countries, it is illegal to cross the road in front of moving vehicles, if there is a pedestrian crossing within 100m from the pedestrian and there are often signs strictly prohibiting this practice. It is also punishable with a fine, when caught by police. In Singapore for example, jaywalking is punishable with up to 3 months in prison.

Pedestrian crossings are provided as specific and designated safe crossing zones for pedestrians. It is a point on a road, where the pedestrian has the right of way over any vehicles. Once a pedestrian enters this crossing zone, all vehicles, including public transport such as buses, are obliged to yield to allow the pedestrian to cross at these designated pedestrian crossings. In developed countries, hitting a pedestrian with a car on a pedestrian crossing, has very serious consequences for the motorist.

It appears as if Switzerland holds the pedestrian’s rights in the highest regard. Motorists in Scandinavia, New Zealand and Germany also have some of the most consideration towards pedestrians.

On the contrary, in some developing countries such as South Africa, the pedestrian crossings provided, are more often than not completely ignored by pedestrians. It appears as if pedestrians here have absolutely no cognisance of the intention of these demarcated  crossing zones. In fact, crossing the road unsafely in between cars, at times a mere 5 or 10 metres away from a pedestrian crossing, seems to be the prevailing culture in South Africa. It is therefore no wonder that pedestrian fatalities in developing countries far exceed those of developed countries.

In the next video clip, this pedestrian would rather risk life and limb, by running accross the road in-between moving vehicles, than to walk another 10m to the nearest safe pedestrian crossing zone.

Jaywalking has the further effect of diminishing the pedestrian’s rights, in the event of being hit by a motorist, especially if there is a provision to cross the road within 5 metres from such an accident scene.

Jaywalking just simply is not worth the repercussions! Millions can be saved annually in hospitalisation and vehicle repair costs in developing (and developed) countries, if pedestrians would simply just use the crossings provided and if motorist would similarly respect these zones.

1 comment:

  1. Here in Australia jaywalking is a problem too. Pedestrians are generally allowed to cross the road exepct at light controlled crosswalks on red ped signals and within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing or intersection with pedestrian lights. But even within 20 metres of intersections and ped crossings, and even in absence of parking spaces on these stretches of road, fences to enforce this law are still rare.
    We oblige all turning vehicles (except at roundabouts and including PT), to give way to pedestrians at or near an intersection regardless of when they enter.

    Most of our pedestrians lights are red whenever the vehicle light is also red, but only go green with the vehicle lights if the button is pushed before the vehicle light turns green, most aren't autostart, even though signals directed at turing vehicles don't give any indication as to whether pedestrians are allowed to cross in front of them, and even hitting a pedestrian. But at some intersections in Canberra pedestrian lights do automatically go green whenever the vehicle lights go green.