Thursday 30 August 2018

Building a safe and legal rainbow crossing

My last blog post included the photo above, which no-one commented on. Many places have of course installed rainbow crossings before Assen, but some careful thought went into this which I think is noteworthy.

Bear in mind that rainbow crossings have two purposes, which are not related to one another:
  1. The political purpose: A rainbow crossing indicates that the city within which it appears supports the rights of LGBT people.
  2. A practical purpose: It must function as a crossing.
Unfortunately, many examples of rainbow crossings do a good job of looking like a rainbow but have a form which is such that they are no longer legal zebra crossings. It is important to get this right for several reasons:
  1. Drivers may not stop for a crossing which doesn't look like they were taught
  2. It may be difficult to prosecute a driver who does not stop and who injures a pedestrian if the crossing is in fact not a legal crossing.
  3. Unusual colours may not be visible at night or in poor weather
  4. If a non legal crossing is installed without the intention of giving pedestrians priority, pedestrians may still think that they have priority and this could cause dangerous situations.
The solution
In the Netherlands, road surfaces can be made of many materials with different colours. These include black, red or green asphalt, grey concrete and red or grey tiles. Regardless of the colour of the road surface, a legal zebra crossing is made of a particularly sized sequence of white stripes which contrast with the colour of the road surface.

A noteworthy design
Assen's rainbow crossing, though it has arrived later those in some other cities, is noteworthy because this design is legally a zebra and difficult for anyone to confuse as anything other than a zebra. At the same time, it's also obviously a rainbow so it fulfills both objectives successfully.

The rules in your country may be different. Whatever they are, please make sure that you build rainbow crossings, and all other pedestrians crossings, so that they have the force of law behind them and so that they are obvious in intent to all their users, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

A further note on zebra crossings in the Netherlands
White stripes on a zebra crossing make it very obvious where pedestrians should be able to cross safely. They usually indicate that pedestrians have priority at this point and that cyclists and drivers of motor vehicles must stop for pedestrians crossing the road. In Assen this is the case. A zebra indicates pedestrian priority. Other pedestrian crossings where motorists have priority do not have zebra markings painted on the road.

Unfortunately, there is an inconsistency in the Netherlands. Groningen and Utrecht are amongst the cities which use zebra markings even on traffic light controlled crossings. This mean that drivers must get used to stopping for a zebra only sometimes - The rule is that a driver must stop for pedestrians on a zebra if they don't see a traffic light. Similarly, a pedestrian must stop at the side of the road next to a zebra and expect drivers to stop for them if they cannot see a traffic light. There is a potential for confusion.

I find it a far better rule to install the zebra markings only where we wish to make it obvious that pedestrians have priority.