Do vehicles cross pedestrian paths of travel, or do pedestrians cross vehicle paths of travel? We probably assume that unless it is a designated pedestrian crossing, vehicles have the right of way. “Giving way” is complicated. Drivers must exercise duty of care, so whose fault is it if there is a collision with a pedestrian? Janet Wahlquist of WalkSydney, says road rules should put walking first. That includes wheeling as well.
The published advice in NSW is: Drivers must always give way to pedestrians if there is danger of colliding with them, however pedestrians should not rely on this and should take great care when crossing any road.
However, the above statement is not supported by a road rule, according to Wahlquist. Does this mean a slow moving person can’t cross the street because they might cause a collision? The law gives the benefit of doubt to the driver who can choose whether to give way or not. A person walking into a car makes no sense, but a car hitting a person is life threatening. Wahlquist references the UK Manual for Streets which reverses our ideas of who has right of way.
A recommended hierarchy of street users from the UK Manual for Streets.
Public policy aims to promote walking (and wheeling) but preference is still given to motor traffic. However, drivers and pedestrians alike are not aware of the current road rules of who gives way to whom and under what circumstances. This is particularly important for slow moving pedestrians who fear a collision if they are not quick enough to cross the road.
The title of Wahlquist’s article is, Why road rules should be rewritten to put walking first. The article presents a good arguments for putting pedestrians first. The article was originally published in The Conversation.
Intersections as continuous footpaths
“We believe all intersections without signals – whether marked, courtesy, or unmarked – be legally treated as marked pedestrian crossings. (It might help to mark them to remind drivers of this.) We should think of these intersections as spaces where vehicles cross an implicit continuous footpath, rather than as places where people cross a vehicular lane.”