COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Why did the children run across the road? Because Ireland’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) keeps asking the wrong questions.
A series of tweets about the behaviour of children crossing the road last week earned the RSA something like 80-90 quote tweets, where members of the public responded nearly all negatively.
The RSA’s focus on the behaviour of road users, especially on children, is outdated and asking questions like these is loaded. The ongoing RSA victim-blaming has lead many involved in looking for safer roads to give up on them or for victim groups to at least be highly critical of some of their research and advertising.
The phrasing of the tweets on Thursday, screenshots below, gives you a lot of insight into the RSA’s view on the rights of pedestrians. The law in Ireland is that motorists have to yield to pedestrians who have already started to cross the road, regardless of location. So, when children get halfway across a road and then they feel they have to run the rest of the way because of oncoming traffic — that’s because they feel at risk.
if children start to cross and motorists do not slow down enough or stop if needed, the children are not the ones in the wrong. So, using “admit to” here is highly inappropriate. The fact the RSA still has the tweets online days later shows you how little they care.
We’ll have more in another article soon on how it seems that the RSA is trying to retrospectively back up claims it has made for years without much support. But, for now, let’s think about road behaviour and how it’s impacted by the design of our roads and streets.
Maybe after looking at these two maps below, the RSA could answer the question: Why do children feel like they needed to run across roads?
As we’ve mentioned before, IrishCycle.com and the Road Safety Authority share our hometown — Ballina in Co Mayo.
The first map shows Ballina, with the busiest roads in orange and the slightly less busy ones in yellow. The lines shown are the main roads and streets in the urban area where (1) there is significant through-traffic or trip generators, ie reasons for people to travel to beyond going to a house etc, and (2) there’s at least some reason for people to be regularly crossing these roads. The full map key/legend is below.
The maps in this article are a rough overview. This first one should give a general sense of where the formal crossings are located — I’ve included signalised crossings, zebra crossings, and the raised crossings which seem to work without signals.
That’s not to say all of these crossings are great, for example, many of the zebra crossings marked in green would work better if they were raised zebra crossings. But zebra crossings work better than many people think.
Scroll down for the second map too…
Below is the second map showing all of the junctions without any formal crossings (blue circles with white squares), and the junctions/roundabouts which have formal crossings missing on one or more sides (red markers).
Again: It a rough enough of an outline. I’m sure it is not without the odd error. But the odd error does not make up for the huge number of junctions without crossings. This is not to say that all of these junctions should have fully signalised crossings or zebra crossing, but the bias is currently towards far too few crossings.
A few notes: The above map does not include other locations between junctions where it might be useful to have a crossing. It only includes junctions between different roads and streets, housing estates, and other public locations (ie it does not include entrances into private businesses).
It is also not an accessibility map, many of these junctions have drop kerbs and tactical paving which make up crossing points (and many don’t), but the map shows where such locations are not formally marked such as with a signalised crossing, a zebra crossing or a raised crossing.
There are various different solutions including a mix of adding zebra crossings, to adding raised crossings, to reducing traffic levels on some streets or lowering the speed limit in some places.
But it’s hard to get to the solution when the RSA is not asking basic questions such as: Why did the children run across the road?
As an aside: All is not rosy in the town centre
Just to be clear, the overview images might give the impression that all is rosy in the town centre. This is far from the case.
Below is an example where the two maps above are merged, so, we see the location of crossing and missing crossings are shown at the same time.
There’s a school in the centre of this block and the ~870 metres of roads around the block are a mix of national primary routes and busy shopping streets which double as through traffic routes. But there’s only one formal crossing over to the school side, at the bottom left-hand corner.
The bottom left corner also has one side of the junction with no pedestrian traffic lights (Street View link). The top left and top right corners have missing crossings at roundabouts — missing crossings at junctions/roundabouts are often an added danger because some motorists think people are reckless for not crossing at the crossings. This is the case even when it’s impossible to get to the crossings without crossing first where there is no formal marked crossing.