Rights and responsibilities: the case of the pedestrian crossing

Auckland, recently: the authorities turned off the buzzing sound on a pedestrian crossing on a busy inner city road, for at best dubious reasons. Noise and sound really matter in cities

Here’s the piece on Stuff. A Twitter user and nearby apartment resident Max Tweedie kept calling in the crossing sound to auckland Transport, thinking it broken. But no:

“The buzzer there has been muted for safety reasons because it would be going off continually and could confuse pedestrians who are crossing the much busier Victoria St,” Hannan said.

Hmmm. The confused pedestrians… and yet the Blind Foundation’s access and awareness adviser Chris Orr was unimpressed.

Pedestrian crossing sounds had different settings, such as ones that were sensitive to ambient sound, which Orr said he thought could be a good alternative to muting the sound

That’s not even a question to ask. It’s literally life and death for people who are blind, and at absolutely worst a bit of mild extra background noise for people living in the central city. It’s a city. People need to do things there. Councils should be comfortable pushing back against complaints that are patently against the public good and life of the city (especially where people’s very ability to walk the streets is at stake).

We’re reminded of the lack of rehearsal space starving Wellington’s music community, principally (we gather) because more people are living near the places bands rehearse, and complaining.

Isn’t this “coming to the nuisance” like tort law would have it? Or can we have decent robust protections for the ambient noisiness of city life?

If the town went partially carfree like Pontevedra things would be very different: it’d be much quieter because motor vehicles are reaponsible for the overwhelming majority of ambient noise in towns. (And walkers are a lot safer crossing the road too!)

Related reading:

What do you reckon about pedestrian safe crossing buzzers?
Or about noise in cities? What about towns, and how small is “quiet neighbourhood”?

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