Asia Minute: Sydney’s New Idea on Pedestrian Safety

Jun 6, 2016

Credit City of Augsburg

Hawai‘i is one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians—especially for older residents. That’s been the case for several years—even when people are using cross-walks. There’s an experiment planned in Australia that might offer some ideas---but it’s expensive. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

You’ve seen it—maybe as recently as today---someone crossing an intersection on foot, head hunched over a cellphone….seemingly clueless to his or her surroundings.  In Australia’s state of New South Wales, the number of pedestrian deaths jumped nearly 50% last year.   It’s not all related to smart phone use—but safety officials say there’s definitely a link.

There are disturbing studies about this topic—many of them done in Australia.  The executive director of the Center for Road Safety in New South Wales says pedestrians listening to music are four times more likely to take risks when crossing a road.  A 2014 study from the University of Queensland found people texting while walking are off-balance---and less likely to walk in a straight line.

So city officials in Sydney have come up with an experiment—placing traffic lights IN the pavement—on the road.  The theory is that would make the flashing lights impossible to ignore—even for someone staring at a screen on a mobile device while walking.  Sydney’s going to try this at a handful of locations for six months—at five pedestrian crossings in the city’s central business district.  It’s part of a broader pedestrian safety campaign of the state government.

The cost of those lights?  A little less than $200,000 US dollars.