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Spending noughts on crossings

Upgrades to crossings may take up to five years to complete. PHOTO/FILE

Close to 20 pedestrian crossings are still waiting for safety improvements. GEORGE SHIERS reports.

Urgent safety improvements to pedestrian crossings can’t come soon enough locals say, after a person suffered serious injuries in a crash on Greytown’s Main St.

The crash between a vehicle and a mobility scooter user happened at a pedestrian crossing shortly after 2pm on Tuesday.

Wairarapa Hospital confirmed on Wednesday one person remained in hospital in a stable condition.

The crossing, located outside the town’s library near the intersection of State Highway 2 [SH2] and McMaster St was flagged for safety improvements in May last year. However, the upgrades are yet to begin.

Waka Kotahi NZTA said ‘detailed design’ work was under way for 19 Wairarapa crossings, including the one involved in Tuesday’s crash, as part of the government’s Road to Zero strategy.

However, the upgrades could take as many as five years to complete.

Greyfriars Motel owner and wheelchair user Ian McDonald said Tuesday’s crash was an accident waiting to happen.

“I can’t believe it has taken this long.

“It’s been coming. The number of times I’ve had to stop halfway across…”

He said mobility scooter and wheelchair users were particularly at risk, being low to the ground, which hindered visibility for both motorists and pedestrians at the crossings.

“You take your life in your hands.”

McDonald said although the issue was nationwide, the crossing near McMaster St was not the only one in Greytown with obvious issues, citing the gap between the footpath and pedestrian crossing near the Hastwell St intersection.

“It’s convenient to use but it’s like crossing the Grand Canyon. You go down and then up.

“There’s been a couple of times when the old front wheels have lifted up. It’s a bit scary.”

He said better warning signs for motorists and increasing visibility at crossings were urgently needed.

“It’s not rocket science.”

People First Wairarapa branch president Peter Knighten said it was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“Cars and motorcyclists need to be cautious of people on mobility scooters.

“But we also need more visibility, more pedestrian crossings and more signs.”

Knighten said he would be bringing up the issues around visibility at the next People First meeting.

“Hopefully, the safety improvements get made but it will likely take some time.

“I am going to start pushing on them.”

NZTA regional manager infrastructure delivery Jetesh Bhula said improving safety for pedestrians was a priority and any incident where a person was killed or injured was taken very seriously.

The transport agency identified 22 locations on SH2 and SH53 in Wairarapa where raised pedestrian crossings could be built. To date, three crossings have been built in Masterton, Featherston, and Carterton.

Bhula said the new crossings would be brighter and bigger.

“They include a significantly wider platform allowing more room for people crossing in both directions, as well as for people with restricted or assisted mobility.”

He said the entrance to each crossing would be level with the footpath and receive “standard lighting elements”.

He said the programme aimed to complete construction on the remaining 19 crossings by 2027.

From 2009-2013 there were 13 crashes at pedestrian crossings on SH2 Wairarapa. Of those, one person, a 64-year-old pedestrian, was killed when struck by an SUV at a crossing by SH2 and Frederick St in Carterton in July 2009.

On SH2 there were 20 zebra crossings, eight median refuge islands and two raised pedestrian crossings.

On SH53 Wairarapa’s only other state highway, there were four zebra crossings. There were no crashes at pedestrian crossings on SH53 from 2009-2013.

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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