Bottom of the foodchain

I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while now. Haven’t had time to refine it as much as I’d like, but it’s time to just get it out.

We probably don’t need footpath reports on the radio…

…but we do need more consideration of pedestrians.

I think people would jaywalk less, and I suspect there would be less vehicle/pedestrian accidents, if traffic engineers didn’t constantly put pedestrians at the bottom of the food chain.

Pedestrian crossingLong delays for the green man are the biggest problem, and in fact a seemingly relatively simple solution would help a lot.

The issue is that pressing the button after the parallel road traffic has started, in almost all cases, doesn’t get you a green man. You almost always have to wait for the next sequence.

It’s incredibly frustrating for pedestrians, particularly when you might have missed the green by mere seconds. Inevitably the temptation for some people is to jaywalk. And some will find the perceived time to walk somewhere excessive, and choose to drive in future.

It’s doubly frustrating as it’s completely needless — often there is time within the existing timed sequence to give the green man. And if there isn’t time, then it’s arguable that it should happen anyway and the sequence should be extended by a few seconds to cater for it.

And before you say it’s impossible, at some locations you can get a green man after the parallel road traffic has started.

The traffic engineers just need to implement it at more places.

Original Tweets:

  • Delays exiting Flagstaff stn due to one western end escalator to concourse stopped #MetroTrains — 9:05 AM Jun 9th
  • Also delays due to William St narrow footpath + people using those stupidly huge golf umbrellas, but you can’t blame that on #MetroTrains — 9:06 AM Jun 9th
  • People wouldn’t jaywalk as much if traffic engineers didn’t constantly put pedestrians at the bottom of the food chain — 10:17 AM Jul 3rd

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

14 replies on “Bottom of the foodchain”

I don’t know why all pedestrian lights don’t just give the green man automatically, instead of needing a button press. MOST of the lights in the CBD behave like this, and it doesn’t cause any problems that I can see (in fact, the only problems I notice in the CBD are on the few lights that don’t do this; because people expect that they will they quite often don’t bother pressing the button).

In places where the phase has to be longer to allow time for pedestrians to cross, the green man isn’t automatic. If you push the button a short enough length of time into the parallel green phase for the system to give you the required minimum green man time, it will give you the green man. But if you push it too late, there isn’t time to allow you a green man. There has to be enough time for the green man, and for the flashing red man. The flashing red man has to be displayed long enough for someone to cross the road. At many intersections with lots of lanes the green phase will be too short for pedestrians to cross unless it is lengthened specifically. And the capacity to extend a green phase to add pedestrians to it after it has started is not available in all of the controllers.

If you were a little old lady and started crossing on a green man that was too short, you would run out of time before the flashing red man finished and then you’d be in trouble.

VicRoads will be able to tell you whether specific intersections have the ability to initiate a green man during the parallel green phase. I haven’t found any yet that won’t do it when there is enough time for it.

If you reckon you have time to make it across, just go 20 metres up the road and cross there. That’s legal.

It is not as if the technology is not there, but it takes something or someone to drive it to happen. The name VicRoads indicates where they start their thinking from.

The intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth street is very pedestrian friendly, so much so that a green arrow is only on long enough to let 2, maybe 3 cars through per sequence. I like how it is the only intersection where you can cross diagonally.

Jon, would you correct someone who said “I’ve got much friends”?

It’s exactly the same… and grates just as much as ” there would be less vehicle/pedestrian accidents” to someone who knows how to speak English correctly.

I wasn’t having a go at Daniel – it’s just that I’ve noticed that he makes this mistake often, and as a public spokesman it adds to his credibility if he doesn’t make grammatical mistakes.

I work Lonsdale x King so use flagstaff all the time & know exactly what you’re talking about… the worst is little lonsdale which is pretty much only one person wide…. so of course people walk two abreast then get narky when you try to get around them!

While it is annoying to have to wait (either as a car, person, tram), it’s important to remember the laws of physics are ALWAYS enforced – no exceptions.

So, Philip, you agree with Daniel – VicRoads considers pedestrians to be of lower priority than drivers.

To paraphrase what you said, to prevent a small delay to cars at traffic lights, VicRoads have decided to impose a much longer delay on pedestrians. (i.e. to make the cycles shorter, the pedestrian cycle is not automatic and a pedestrian arriving just after a green cycle starts must wait for an entire cycle before getting a pedestrian cycle).

However, something is still not right. Why is there a minimum green pedestrian cycle time? If a pedestrian pushed the button and the green man lit up for only a second before changing to flashing red, why is this a problem? The pedestrian still has the entire flashing red cycle to cross the road. It is no different to the situation where the green man is automatic, and it changes to flashing red just as the pedestrian steps off the kerb.

Exactly; there would be no problem if you hit the button and got a second of green man before a flashing red man, but most of the time when you hit the button and the parallel green phase is already running, there isn’t time for the full dose of flashing red man. So you won’t get a response until the next cycle.

Pedestrian congestion is not an issue at most intersections – vehicle congestion is. The cycles are set to give the most efficient vehicle movement possible. If that didn’t happen, the roads would be even more chaotic than they are now. Stationary traffic in all directions might make it easier for some pedestrians to make their way across the roads, but it wouldn’t help all of them and the overall result would be increased pollution and a greater number of frustrated people.

Remember it only affects the pedestrians who happen to arrive in the first 20 seconds or so of the cycle. Anyone after that isn’t going to stand around for much of the parallel green phase and if they try to cross after that then they’ll be arguing with opposing traffic and that will get them nowhere. Of course vehicles are the priority. They’re the reason the roads exist. If we didn’t have vehicles on the roads we could have narrower roads and more of them, much like an old European city. But we have vehicles and if we don’t accommodate them we will have mayhem.

“But Daniel Bowen, from the Public Transport Users’ Association, says … There will be a time when we have *less* trams than at present, and it’s going to get pretty squashy for passengers in peak hour.”

Fewer – Daniel – Fewer. It’s not that hard, and I really think it reduces your credibility as a spokesperson when your grammar is off.

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