Improve safety at informal road crossings

Informal crossing points are used in areas with light vehicular traffic that fall outside the controlled area of formal crossings or where having a formal crossing would be disruptive for vehicle flow.

Such crossings seek to subtly direct pedestrians to cross at specific locations to raise their visibility to motorists.

Informal crossings have sprung up at places where pedestrians desire to cross, including near bus stops. Some informal crossing points are identified by pavement refuges sited on one or both sides of a road or a central refuge.

In some countries, a continuous sidewalk - with raised crossing area - is another form of informal crossing.

Courtesy crossings, another type of informal crossing, come with dropped kerbs and, usually, a different surface.

A pedestrian waiting at a courtesy crossing must establish eye contact with an approaching motorist to interact and negotiate with the latter to graciously stop for him.

Informal crossings may be acceptable to pedestrians with good vision, the ability to judge and time safe gaps for crossing, and the ability to walk steadily while looking out for approaching vehicles and adjust their pace accordingly.

But it is not so with vulnerable pedestrians, including people with vision impairment.

It also contradicts the kerb drill, which teaches children to cross the road only after ensuring all traffic has stopped.

Informal crossings with traffic calming measures seek to provide a safe place for motorists to yield to pedestrians, if they so desire.

However, unlike at zebra crossings, the motorist is not legally obliged to stop for pedestrians.

There were also instances when a car that stopped for a pedestrian at an informal crossing was hit by another vehicle on the rear.

The authorities should clarify whether informal crossings here have legal status as pedestrian crossings? If not, do motorists have priority at all informal crossings?

Are motorists allowed to assert priority over pedestrians already walking on informal crossings? If a motorist injures a pedestrian at an informal crossing, will the pedestrian, even if he is a vulnerable person, have to bear a substantial share of responsibility?

The use of courtesy crossings at Silver Zones raises safety concerns ("Thumbs up for elder-friendly road zones"; July 3).

Perhaps, it would be safer to implement Courtesy Plus crossings, similar to the Green Man Plus system, that mandates priority to vulnerable pedestrians at all informal crossing points.

Tan Lay Hoon (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Improve safety at informal road crossings'. Print Edition | Subscribe