By Hayley Gastmeier
Poor visibility and speeding drivers mean a zebra crossing on State Highway 2 is an accident waiting to happen, a Featherston business owner says.
Numerous close calls and minor crashes have been witnessed at the Fitzherbert St crossing, which is opposite the SuperValue supermarket.
Residents say pedestrians are hard to see as vehicles park illegally, and traffic is traveling through the town too fast.
NZTA, who manage the state highway, have confirmed they will discuss the community’s concerns surrounding the crossing with South Wairarapa District Council.
Jude Kernahan owns Hey Jude Boutique, which is located next to the crossing that she has been monitoring for over a year.
“If it just happens once you can easily forget about it, but I’m here all the time witnessing it and I know other people who have seen close calls here too.”
Ms Kernahan said the speed at which drivers approached the crossing was an issue, and “the deteriorated signage” was putting senior citizens and young families at risk.
The zebra stripes at the top half of the lamp posts have faded, making the crossing hard for oncoming cars to see.
Cars and trucks often park on the broken yellow lines next to the crossing, blocking waiting pedestrians – and sometimes the orange lollipops — from view.
Recently, Ms Kernahan witnessed a young mother with her children on the crossing, prompting a driver to brake suddenly.
A second car, with a 29-week-pregnant woman inside, crashed into the back of the first vehicle.
Ms Kernahan recalled another incident — “a man speeding had to slam on his breaks for an old lady crossing the road with her trolley”, causing a three-car nose-to-tail.
Heavy trucks regularly “came pelting through” the crossing, she said.
“Featherston is growing rapidly and we need to address this or there will be a fatality.
“This is a highly used pedestrian crossing and we need to bring some more awareness to it.”
Featherston resident Leslie Austin, who gets around town on his wheelchair, said “most people just fly through” the crossing, leaving him “waiting all the time”.
He said there was a general “negative attitude” from drivers having to stop on a state highway.
Featherston Community Board member Robyn Ramsden said on numerous instances, at the crossing, drivers had not stopped for her family.
On one occasion her son “nearly got hit”.
“There was a skidding of tyres that time.
“I’m really cautious of it as I know there has been accidents and I know people drive too fast.”
South Wairarapa councillor Lee Carter said the crossing had been a cause for concern for some time.
She said Featherston was increasingly becoming more active, especially on weekends.
“Of late I’ve noticed a lot more people parking around that crossing and walking to the [Saturday] market and generally using the crossing with all the busy retail we have on the main street.”
Mrs Carter said the town was “rapidly growing and possibly outgrowing existing infrastructure”.
Since 2006, NZ police had recorded seven non-injury crashes in the vicinity of the crossing, NZTA regional performance manager Mark Owen said.
“These crashes involved vehicles being rear-ended as they slowed to let pedestrians cross the road.”
Mr Owen said in the last 10 years there had been no recorded crashes involving pedestrians on the crossing.
He said it was important, however, to note that not all minor and non-injury crashes were reported.
NZTA received one complaint last year about the pedestrian crossing inside the supermarket car park, which is outside of the agency’s jurisdiction.
“NZTA is aware of general concerns about safety along SH2 in the vicinity of the SuperValue supermarket and will be meeting with SWDC to discuss these concerns.”