The dangers of Pinchpoints
Many traffic engineers use median pedestrian refuge islands as an engineering device to improve safety for pedestrians. These days they also add extended kerb bulbs (or outstands) to the mix.
These additions of concrete enable pedestrians to safely come a little further out into the street to see the oncoming traffic, then they only need to scamper across one lane at a time, taking refuge between scamperings in the middle island.
These kerb bulb/median island combos are not allowed to be called pedestrian crossings, because under the Road Rules, a "pedestrian crossing" is a crossing which actually gives pedestrians legal priority on the road and is otherwise known as a "Zebra crossing".
You will have seen many of these "improved crossings". Here are some older examples which comprised a simple median island, just big enough for a couple of people to stand in (what about a pram?):
Older style cheap n nasty pinchpoint, and parking is allowed too close to the crossing. Unsafe for pedestrians and bike riders.
Macquarie St, South Hobart. Ditto.
Here is an example of the more recently favoured "improved crossings" which add the kerb bulbs or outstands:
Hill Street, West Hobart
Now, riders call these pinchpoints, because when badly designed (as most of them are) they force riders to move to the right into the path of faster moving and heavier traffic just at the time when the drivers are focussing on moving to the left to avoid the median island and are also looking out for pedestrians. The last thing they are looking out for is a cyclist moving in from the left.
It takes a confident bike rider to check for a break in the traffic, signal assertively that s/he is moving to the right, and then move assertively into the traffic lane. It's obstacles like these on the road that send the message to riders that they are not welcome on the road - they have no Invitation to Ride.
The relevant Austroads guide confirms that kerb outstands and centre blister islands do not increase bicycle safety.
Most pinchpoints do nothing to assist in slowing the traffic, they just provide a lateral diversion, or a new window for the driver in a hurry to aim through. Many do not provide a great deal of assistance to pedestrians, due to carparking being permitted too close to the crossing. Most bike riders will tell you that these pinchpoints make their experience on the road more frightening and increase their risk of being hit by a faster moving and heavier vehicle.
We say enough is enough. It is time for all new crossings to actually help to slow traffic down and to make life safer and easier for both pedestrians and bike riders.
Let's see some examples of how it could be done better:
This example from Hobart looks good - this is outside the Cascade Brewery:
Here the median island is generous, probably 2m wide, but space is allocated for bike riders by extending the painted onroad bikelane through the crossing point. Parking is kept clear of the crossing to improve sightlines.
Here is an example of a crossing which also slows the traffic by providing a chicane. Here a slipway on the side enables bike riders to enter and exit gracefully and relatively safely. Parking is prohibited in the near vicinity of the crossing point.
Chicane, Carrington Parade, South Curl Curl, NSW.
Here's another option which would suit a quiet street:
Boroondara, Vic. Car drivers are forced to slow down and be polite to one another, while riders can slip through the sides.
Here's a Zebra crossing with a median island from the Netherlands. This crossing improves safety for riders by actually widening the car travel lane:
The pinch-point appears from a distance to restrict the space for cars, resulting in drivers slowing down at the junction, but the driving lane actually widens through the pinch point. The cycle-lane has constant width.
And how about a Wombat crossing, which is a Zebra crossing with a table ramp which acts to slow cars down? A good one would include adequate width for riders to maintain their path through the crossing zone.
Wombat crossing, Freshwater, Sydney.
What do you think?