Lights may replace North End crossing

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Traffic lights are being proposed by the New Zealand Transport Agency to replace the busy zebra crossing at Oamaru’s North End but opinions vary as to how effective they would be.

Submissions are sought from the public on the proposal and close on January 24.

Tim Arthur’s business Arthur’s Antiques is directly opposite the Thames Highway pedestrian crossing at the North End Shopping Centre.

If the proposal went ahead, he was likely to lose a car park directly in front of his shop.

“It annoys me taking out car parks, since it will affect my business.”

He said the problem was not the zebra crossing, but the speeds at which traffic travelled.

“In six years, I’ve yet to see an accident on the crossing. It’s cars going too fast and nothing to do with people on the crossing being hit.”

He said the accidents that did occur tended to be as a result of cars stopping for pedestrians and being rear-ended by a following car.

“There are regular accidents and I’ve swept up glass dozens of times. I think lights are not a bad idea but it could cause more accidents.”

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said their records showed a total of 27 crashes had occurred at or near the crossing in the past five years, with around two-thirds of them cars being rear-ended.

Mr Arthur was disappointed that after five years of seeking a response from NZTA regarding concerns over the crossing and speeding traffic, he and other business owners had never been consulted.

Brian Fraser, of Frasers Four Square Supermarket over the road from Arthur’s Antiques, said he would go along with the traffic lights proposal.

“I’ll wear that,” he said.

Raelene Guthrie, of Razors Edge, said she was pleased NZTA was looking at improving the situation.

“I think the general feeling in the North End is that slow down signals either end would be a better result. Cars are coming through too fast. I think it’s a good time to consider a group submission from the business owners.”

NZTA’s proposal has been welcomed by Jenny Firman, chairperson of the Oamaru advisory committee of CCS Disability Action.

“Lights are definitely needed. My personal view is to have lights from both ends as you head into the North End.”

Under the proposal, another car park opposite Mr Arthur’s business would be removed to improve visibility for approaching traffic.

NZTA spokesperson Murray Clarke said the proposal was about improving road safety in this area.

“The installation of infrared detectors would make it more efficient and help ensure smoother traffic flows, by cutting down on the amount of times the signals are unnecessarily activated.”

Mr Clarke said an NZTA staff member would visit business owners today with information about the proposal.

Asked why the submission timeframe was brief, NZTA senior communications advisor Bob Nettleton said staff had been going backwards and forwards to Oamaru and the plan had just been firmed up.

By CHRIS TOBIN