“I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands just by crossing the road,” says a disabled woman who wants safer crossings around Wellington.
Catherine Soper lives with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. She sometimes waits up to 15 minutes to cross the road safely in Roseneath, where she lives.
She had a crush in February as she crossed the road from the bus stop near her home.
She had crossed halfway and then realized that a car was coming. Instead of stopping, despite Soper holding a red and white cane, the car swerved around her and three other cars followed her, with one car beeping her to pull away.
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The lack of pedestrian crossings along busy roads was “so frustrating”, she said.
Soper first approached Wellington City Council in 2020 with a request for a safe pedestrian crossing near his home.
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After being contacted by Thinga council media spokesman said there were plans to install a new zebra crossing in Balaena Bay as part of the Evans Bay walking and cycling paths project.
“At this stage of planning, the crossing may be near 98 Evans Bay Parade and the bus stop. We will communicate with local residents once plans are finalized and before construction begins. We expect work on this section of Evans Bay Parade to begin later this year.
Soper was cautiously optimistic about the news.
“It’s good to know that they are planning to do this but I obviously hope it happens as soon as possible because when I first contacted them in early 2020 they said there had plans in place, but now it’s 2022 and nothing has happened.”
The call for safer pedestrian crossings also comes after a coroner recently released a finding that the death of an Auckland wheelchair user could have been prevented.
Four years ago, William Wiki Teoi was hit by a car while crossing East Tamaki Rd in Ōtara and later died at Middlemore Hospital of heart failure in March 2018.
The 84-year-old had attempted to cross the busy dual carriageway because a nearby pedestrian crossing was not accessible in his wheelchair.
At the time, Auckland Transport announced that it would upgrade the crossing and renew the road markings. So far none of these things have been done.
TA spokeswoman Natalie Polley said she acknowledged the coroner’s findings and called Wiki Teoi’s death an “absolute tragedy”.
Polley said the security upgrade was in an advanced stage of development and AT expected to update the community on the progress in the coming months.
Soper said hearing about the Auckland pedestrian’s death was “horrific”.
“If something’s wrong, it could easily be me.”
Vivian Naylor is a wheelchair user and accessibility consultant.
She said the time it takes to install a pedestrian crossing depends on several factors, including the proposed location of the crossing.
Usually a pedestrian count is done to find out how many people were likely to use a level crossing in the area.
“But we don’t know who isn’t using the area because frankly they don’t feel safe,” she said.
“And any crosswalk that isn’t a crosswalk on a busy road requires a lot of skill and a great ability to judge the speed of oncoming traffic. Can you physically cross the road before this vehicle lands on you or very close?
“It’s not just people with disabilities… it’s more than that. If you don’t have the ability to see the distance, you can’t judge the distance and speed at which a car is coming, or you don’t have the physical ability to move quickly, and that applies to people of all age groups crossing the roads is really difficult.
She said cost was also a factor in deciding whether or not to install a crosswalk.
“It’s always money and resources and everything that gets in the way,” Naylor said.
“Unfortunately, that takes energy, coordination and commitment, and it shouldn’t be that way. But if AT is working on numbers, the numbers don’t justify it, there is another place where it looks like the money should be spent that is more urgent than this, it will just be pushed aside.
She said people could provide feedback on accessibility to Auckland Transport’s Capital Projects Accessibility Group, of which she is a member, to raise awareness and draw the group’s attention to accessibility issues. Alternatively, people can contact CCS Disability Action for feedback on accessibility issues.