Rights and responsibilities: the case of the pedestrian crossing

Auckland, recently: the authorities turned off the sound/buzz on pedestrian crossings in busy roads, for at best dubious reasons. But sound really matters 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:

AT’s operations centre told Tweedie: “In regards to the intersection on Victoria Street and High Street, the audible feature was turned down as there have been a number of complaints by residents in the area claiming that the pedestrian audio feature is too loud and has been turned off by our contractors.”

This sounds….. what? Really?

“Just no.”

“But,” said my friend, look the AT guy [media manager Mark Hannan] says it was buzzing and vibrating all the time except when car was coming”.

“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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