Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 2934 ..
MR WHITECROSS (11.52): Mr Speaker, the Bills mainly deal with appropriate administrative tidy-ups and the introduction of pelican crossings. The Opposition will be supporting these two pieces of legislation. The amendments are obviously necessary for the effective running of the roads and traffic section. Pelican crossings are also an idea we are happy to support.
MS HORODNY (11.53): Mr Speaker, the Greens will support this Bill, and I am speaking specifically about order of the day No. 3, not No. 4, with some hesitation. Most of the provisions of this Bill relate to administrative improvements to the Motor Traffic Act with which we have no problems.
The issue that concerns us, however, is the introduction of the pelican crossings, which is provided for in clause 9 of the Bill. What concerns me is the implications these crossings may have for pedestrian safety. I understand that pelican crossings still involve having red, amber and green lights at a pedestrian crossing which can be triggered by pedestrians, but that the red light period is reduced, at which point the amber light will begin flashing for a couple of minutes and eventually turn back to green. During the time of the amber flashing light motorists will be able to pass through the crossing, provided that there are no pedestrians on the crossing.
The Minister's presentation speech implied that these pelican crossings will allow motor vehicles to pass through pedestrian crossings faster because they do not have to wait until the green light comes on. This might be good for motorists, but my concern is for the pedestrians and cyclists who use these crossings and who should have a right to do so safely. There is a danger that people who arrive late at a crossing, just when it is turning to amber, will have to attempt to cross the road after cars have started moving. There is also the danger that pedestrians already on a crossing when the light turns amber will be intimidated by motorists wanting to move off as soon as possible. This is of particular concern to children and the elderly and other people who may not feel very confident about crossing major roads.
My office did have a briefing on these crossings, and the assurance was given that the safety of pelican crossings has been comprehensively studied and that their use was covered by national Austroads guidelines. My office was also informed that there were no particular plans to systematically replace existing controlled pedestrian crossings with pelican crossings and that pelican crossings would be installed only where totally appropriate. In particular, they would be used only on two-lane roads and never on roads of four or more lanes. I would like to put on record my concerns about the pedestrian safety of pelican crossings and seek the confirmation of the Minister that pelican crossings will be used only in a very limited number of circumstances where pedestrian safety is not compromised.
MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services) (11.56), in reply: I thank Mr Whitecross and Ms Horodny for their comments. I assure Ms Horodny that the No. 1 concern of all traffic engineers all over the world is the safety of pedestrians and the safety of people. For Ms Horodny's edification, pelican crossings are used all over Australia and, in fact, all over the world, so we are not coming up with anything that is new.