Should Road Rules be Rewritten to Put Pedestrians First | 2SER

I was interviewed on 2SER radio last week on Weekend Breakfast about Should Road Rules be Rewritten to Put Pedestrians First.

Listen here (mp3).

Now, let’s face it most drivers on our roads choose to cheat the concept of ‘giving way when permitted’ to other vehicles at the best of times.

However, what happens when we’re talking about giving way to pedestrians in unmarked areas? What do our road rules say and what does the law state? We were joined by Professor David Levinson from the University of Sydney’s Transport Engineering School of Civil Engineering to give us his perspective on the issue.

TransportLab News: January 2020

Welcome to the inaugural issue of TransportLab News. This is the periodic newsletter describing what the University of Sydney’s TransportLab group has been up to. You can follow us at Twitter or LinkedIn, or on our Website.

Who are we

TransportLab is a group of transport researchers in the Faculties of Engineering and of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney.

Academic Staff

Students

  • Amir Valadkhani
  • Hao Wu
  • Ye Li
  • Bahman Lahoorpoor
  • Ang Ji
  • Hema Sharanya
  • Sabal Sharma
  • Yadi Wang

Long-term Visitors (2019)

  • Valentin Beauvoir
  • Manman Li
  • Masaki Yuya
  • Xia Zhao

Long-term Visitors (2020)

  • Louise Aoustin
  • Jing Chen

TRB 2020

Several TransportLab members (Levinson, Moylan, Cui, Wu, Ji) will attend the Transportation Research Board Conference in Washington, DC. You may catch us at the following:

  • Australia Reception (6:30-9:30pm at Vapiano H St on Monday 13th). It’s for Australians working anywhere in transport, anyone working in Australia on transport, and anyone working with either of those groups.
Monday 01:30 PM-05:30 PM Marriott Marquis, Independence Salon C (M4)

Wu, Hao, El-Geneidy, Ahmed, Stewart, Anson, Murphy, Brendan, Boisjoly, Genevieve, Niedzielski, Michał , Pereira, Rafael H.M., and Levinson, D. (2020) Access Across the Globe: Towards an International Comparison of Cumulative Opportunities	

International Cooperation Committee A0010	

Tuesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Marriott Marquis, Pentagon (M4)	

David Levinson, University of Sydney, presiding
Public Transportation, Planning and Forecasting	Transport Accessibility Manual Working Group AP050	

Tuesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, 147B	

Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D. (2020) Catchment if you can: The effect of station entrance and exit locations on accessibility. Journal of Transport Geography. 82, 102556 

Event 1397 Designed to Attract: Transit Access and Inclusion AP045

Tuesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: A106	

Davis, Blake, Ji, Ang,  Liu, Bichen, and Levinson, D. (2020) Moving Array Traffic Probes.	

Event 1408 Advances in Traffic Monitoring ABJ35

Tuesday 01:30 PM- 03:15 PM Convention Center, 146B	

Cui, Mengying and Levinson, D. (2019) Primal and Dual Access. Geographical Analysis.  

Event 1519 Transportation Accessibility Planning ADB50

Tuesday 06:00 PM- 07:30 PM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: A111, A112, A113

Wu, Hao, Somwrita Sarkar, and Levinson, D. (2019) How Transit Scaling Shapes Cities. Nature Sustainability doi:10.1038/s41893-019-0427-7

Cui, Mengying and Levinson, D. (2019) Measuring Full Cost Accessibility by Auto. Journal of Transport and Land Use. 12(1) 649-672.

Rayaprolu, Hema and Levinson, D. (2020) What’s Access Worth? A Hedonic Pricing Approach to Valuing Cities.

Event 1653
Poster Session on Transportation and Land Development ADD30

Tuesday 06:00 PM-07:30 PM Convention Center, Hall APoster-board Location Number: B344	

Ji, Ang and Levinson, D. (2020) A Review of Game Theory Models of Lane Changing.	

Event 1656 Traffic Flow Theory and Characteristics, Part 3 (Part 1, Session 1654; Part 2, Session 1655; Part 4, Session 1760; Part 5, Session 1761) AHB45

Wednesday 08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: A138	

Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2020) Shortest paths, travel costs, and traffic.	

Event 1688 Travel Behavior Mega Poster Session ADB10

Wednesday
08:00 AM-09:45 AM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: B390	

Zhao, Xia, Cui, Mengying, and Levinson, D. (2020) Temporal Variations in Daily Activity Networks Using Smartcard Data	

Event 1694 Public Transportation Demand: Explorations of Traveler Response and Traveler Characteristics AP025

Wednesday 10:15 AM- 12:00 PM Convention Center, Hall A	

Valentin Beauvoir, Emily Moylan (2020) Bike Share System Reliability: The Distribution of Delay Caused by Bike Unavailability 20-05298	

Event 1736 Micromobility Poster Session: Planning, Policy, and User Behavior for Shared Bikes and Scooters

Wednesday 02:30 PM- 04:00 PM Convention Center, 150B	

Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D. (2020) Trains, trams, and terraces: population growth and network expansion in Sydney: 1861-1931.	

Event 1740 Research in Urban Transportation History: From Sydney Trams to Los Angeles Ballot Box Planning to Canadian Street Cars ABG50

Wednesday 02:30 PM- 04:00 PM Convention Center, Hall A Poster-board Location Number: A114

Lahoorpoor, Bahman and Levinson, D.  (2020) The Transit Travel Time Machine: Comparing Three Different Tools for Travel Time Estimation.	

Event 1740 Road Scholars: New Research in Travel Time, Speed, and Reliability Data

Teach

In 2020 we launch the new, interdisciplinary Master of Transport, co-taught with ITLS in the Business School, Architecture, Design, and Planning, and Civil Engineering.

The Civil Engineering group also delivers the

We supervise PhD students as well.

Engage

Co-Sponsored Events

Popular Publications

We have published several articles in The Conversation this past year:

and in Foreground:

Journals

TransportLab sponsors the peer-reviewed, open access journal Transport Findings. The journal is unique in that it aims to publish short-form research

Seminars

TransportLab sponsors the Transport Practice Seminar at the University of Sydney for our staff and students.

  • Stephen Greaves, ITLS
  • Rachel Kohan, Arup
  • Graham McCabe, Urbis
  • Tom Van Vuren, Mott MacDonald
  • Kasun Wijayaratna, UTS

Discover

Books

Papers

Reports

Grants

  • Kent, Parenting and the Private Car, Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)
  • Marks, Guillard, Moylan & Ramezani (2019) Cities of the Future: Augmented Reality City. Sponsored by University of Sydney Teaching Innovation Grant
  • Moylan, Wijayaratna, Jian, Saberi and Waller (2019) Moving Towards Network-wide Travel Time Reliability Measurement. Sponsored by TfNSW.
  • Moylan (2020) Reducing Hypothetical Bias in the Valuation of Reliability Associated with Rare Events. Sponsored by University of Sydney Faculty of Engineering
  • Ramezani, Levinson, Bliemer. Opportunities to Build Capability in Traffic Management (with ARRB) Austroads
  • Ramezani. NSW Premier’s Innovation Initiative 2019 Sponsor: DATA61, CSIRO
  • Sarkar, Levinson, Moylan et al (2019) New housing supply, population growth, and access to social infrastructure. Sponsored by AHURI

Attended Events

TransportLab Members and Students attended the following conferences in 2019

  • TRB Jan 2019
  • WCTR May 2019
  • TRISTAN June 2019
  • CICTP/COTA July 2019
  • AITPM July 2019
  • ICMC Aug 2019
  • ATRF Oct 2019
  • Transport Knowledge Conference, Wellington Nov 2019
  • TRANSW Dec 2019

Note

Many of you are also subscribed to the Transportist Newsletter, which this replaces this month, as David only has so much time. They are two independent mailing lists, so subscribing (or unsubscribing) to one does not affect the other.

Temporal Variations in Daily Activity Networks Using Smartcard Data

This study explores temporal variations in activity networks for four million passengers, differentiated as workers and non-workers, using public transport based on a large-scale smart card dataset generated over 105 days in Beijing. We aim to capture their day-to-day transition and cumulative temporal expansion in activity network using transit over days, weeks, and months. Particularly, workers and non-workers are automatically identified based on their different daily routines, whose activity networks are characterized by six features concerning space coverage, distance coverage, and frequency coverage in two ways, namely, on a per-day transition and with an accumulation of days. The transition features of the networks are statistically analyzed and compared by time, while how the expansion features evolve with time are modeled. Results show that, on weekdays, workers are more likely to travel longer (have larger distance coverage), but cover less area (have smaller space coverage) than non- workers. While opposite patterns occur on weekends. Traveling in the ‘North-South’ direction is weakly correlated with traveling in the ‘East-West’ direction. Workers on weekdays, as well as non-workers on weekends, make longer ‘North-South’ trips. Manhattan distance, trip count, and perimeter present a ∩ shape in their probability density functions, while the remaining features decline dramatically, with probability density functions fit by the exponential distribution. The distance coverage expands faster than that of space coverage. Most passengers increase coverage of space and distance when time expands (obviously no one decreases coverage over time, but some don’t change). The research enables findings on temporal load-balancing, long-term cumulative expansion in travel demands of workers and non-workers, re-balancing the distribution of existing workplace and residential location opportunities, and constructing transit-oriented developments with mixed functions over time.

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Transforming Transportation 2020: Connecting People for Sustainable Growth

TT-LogoI am pleased to be presenting at Transforming Transportation 2020 in Washington DC immediately following the Transportation Research Board conference (January 16-17, 2020). I am opening the opening session on “Economic Empowerment Through Accessibility for All”. Registration required.

“Transport connectivity is essential not only for economic development, but also for catalyzing human capital formation.  Emerging evidence suggest that the transport sector has an important role in supporting the productivity of firms and individuals, providing access to job opportunities, education, and health care especially for vulnerable populations, expanding workforce participation, as well as ensuring safety and security. A transport system that does not consider the diverse needs of a population or inadvertently excludes some people will miss opportunities to unlock economic and social development. Therefore, social inclusion is a fundamental consideration in the planning, implementation and operation of sustainable mobility for all.

This plenary will explore the multi-faceted links between better passenger transport and social inclusion, including the four “As” of transport infrastructure and services– Availability, Accessibility, Affordability and Acceptability. The session will begin with a short presentation by an expert to frame the topic.  Then, a diverse panel of government officials, civil society representatives, academics, and development practitioners from multiple sectors will discuss the challenges and opportunities to expanding the impact of better transport on social outcomes.”

Master of Transport

If you are interested in our new University of Sydney Master of Transport , please email.

    Master of Transport Australia’s first interdisciplinary program in Transport. Designed to develop a critical understanding about the prevalence and identification of transport systems, the Master of Transport is ideal for graduates wanting to pursue a career in the ever-growing global transport sector or professionals already in the field wanting to upskill. As well as gaining a theoretical and policy-focused grounding on the workings of systems for all modes of transport and interactions with land use, students will also acquire the quantitative and qualitative skills needed to examine travel behaviour, forecast conditions and evaluate policies and plans. Co-presented by the Faculty of Engineering, the Business School, and the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. For more information, contact Professor David Levinson: E: david.levinson@sydney.edu.au Apply now for Semester 1 2020.  16/5699 CRICOS 00026A

The Next Big Things Revisited

On January 8, 2010, I was interviewed by the Jim Foti of the Minneapolis StarTribune for their beginning of the decade article The next big things

My bit below, with comments, numbers added for tracking:

COMMUTING
New light-rail lines, many more MnPass lanes and cars that make driving decisions for you are in the commuting forecast for the next decade, says David Levinson, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.
(1) Congestion levels won’t change much, he said.

Mostly Correct. Obviously it depends on how you define “congestion” and “much”. MnDOT’s Congestion Report (not how I would define it, but it is a consistent time series), has percent of the urban freeway system that is congested going from 21.5% in 2010 to 24.2% in 2018   over a decade with a regional (MSA) population increasing from 3.3 to 3.6 million (8.4%) over the same period. (The CSA went from 3.7 to 4.0 million, 9%).  Mean commuting time to work in Hennepin County rose from 22.1 to 23.5 minutes. Some of that is due to congestion, some of that is due to longer distances as suburban growth continues.

(2) The Twin Cities area will have more residents, (3) but the aging population will be working less, and (4)  increased telecommuting will mean that people won’t go into work as often.

Correct, correct, correct. The Median age in Hennepin County when from 35.9 (2010) to 36.6 (2018)  according to the US Census. The Labor Force Participation Rate dropped from 71 to 70.3 over this period. Telecommuting increased, in 2018 5.7% of Minnesota residents worked at home, in 2010, 5.0% did.

(5) The Southwest and (6) Central Corridor rail lines are scheduled to start mid-decade, and (7) one or two Minneapolis streetcar lines could be in the mix.

KenilworthBB_Existing
Section B-B

Incorrect (it was scheduled, it did not happen yet), Correct, ~ (could is vague). Central Corridor started in 2014. The Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension) is under construction, but not opened. The streetcars appear dead, but these things never die.

(8) Levinson expects highway expansion to mainly take the form of new MnPass lanes, which are for carpools, buses, motorcycles and toll-paying solo drivers.

50%. Some highway reconstruction has a MnPass element, but not as much as I expected.

(9) He sees plug-in hybrids as the dominant car, meaning drivers will be buying less gas, so (10) a per-mile fee will be implemented to replace lost tax revenue.

Incorrect, incorrect and too soon. Hybrids petered out, and EVs are still slow on the uptake. I still expect EVs to be dominant in new car sales by 2030, and some kind of distance fee to be implemented on EVs and AVs by then.

(11) Cars will keep getting safer, he said, with (12) features such as automatic emergency braking and cruise control that adapts to the speed of surrounding traffic.

JIM FOTI

Correct, correct. Advanced driver assist technologies have been added to newer vehicles. Fatality rates are not where they should be, (especially for pedestrians and bicyclists), but fatality rates are better falling from 2010 (0.72) to 2018 (0.63).

A total of 12 numbered predictions basic predictions, 6 correct, 3 clearly incorrect, 5 too vague and half-right by my scoring.

The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access

The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson
The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson

Now available for purchase: The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access.

The book reads fast, with just over 20,000 words, and contains 50 images and 6 tables.

About

This book describes how to implement The 30-Minute City.  The first part of the book explains accessibility. We next consider access through history (chapter 2). Access is the driving force behind how cities were built. Its use today is described when looking at access and the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan for Sydney.

We then examine short-run fixes: things that can be done instantaneously, or nearly so, at low budget to restore access for people, which include retiming traffic signals (chapter 3) and deploying bike sharing (chapter 5) supported by protected bike lane networks (chapter 4), as well public transport timetables (chapter 6).

We explore medium-run fixes that include implementing rapid bus networks (chapter 7) and configuring how people get to train stations by foot and on bus (chapter 8).

We turn to longer-run fixes. These are as much policy changes as large investments, and include job/worker balance (chapter 10) and network restructuring (chapter 9) as well as urban restoration (chapter 11), suburban retrofit (chapter 12), and greenfield development (chapter 13).

We conclude with thoughts about the ‘pointlessness’ of cities and how to restructure practice (chapter 14).

The appendices provide detail on access measurement (Appendix A), the idea of accessibility loss (B), valuation (C), the rationale for the 30-minute threshold (D), and reliability (E). It concludes with what should we research (F).

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1  Introduction 15
  • 2  The 30-Minute City: Then and Now 19
  • 3  Traffic Signals 25
  • 4  On the Four Paths 29
  • 5  Bikesharing 35
  • 6  Timetable 37
  • 7  Rapid Bus 39
  • 8  Interface 45
  • 9  Gradial: Or the Unreasonable Network 51
  • 10  Job-Worker Balance 55
  • 11  Urban Restoration 59
  • 12  Retrofit 69
  • 13  Greenfields and Brownfields 75
  • 14  A New Profession: Urban Operations 81

Appendices

  • A  Theory 89
  • B  Accessibility Loss 93
  • C  Access Explains Everything 95
  • D  Why 30 Minutes? 97
  • E  Reliability 99
  • F  Research Agenda 101

FEATURES

  • 114 pages.
  • 50 Mostly Color Images.
  • ISBN: 9781714193660 (Blurb Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781714193486 (Ingram Trade Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781714193561 (Ingram Hardcover)
  • ISBN-10:  (Amazon)
  • ISBN-13:  (Amazon)
  • Publisher: Network Design Lab

PURCHASE

Top 19 Transportist Posts in 2019

This year ends with a list of the most popular posts on the blog, written this year. Many of the most popular posts have been written in previous years, and are now perennials, but I’d like to go out of this precarious decade focusing on newer content. Obviously posts earlier in the year had a better opportunity to accumulate reads, but most articles live short lives, and get their hits quickly.

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
  1. A Political Economy of Access (Many more of you read the post than purchased the book, but really, you should get the book).
  2. Gradial or the Unreasonable Network (This is a chapter in my 2020 book, to be released shortly)
  3. How to increase transit ridership by 35% with one weird trick. (This was a Conversation article, which is perhaps the most popular thing I have written)
  4. The automobile as prison, the city as freedom
  5. 21 Solutions to Road Deaths
  6. Sydney Metro Opening Day: A Review.
  7. On Trackless Trams
  8. Transport Newsletters: An Incomplete Lists
  9. Elsevier and the quid pro quo (see also Open Access in Transport).
  10. GTFS But For
  11. Transport Findings launches (see also In Praise of Brief Articles)
  12. What’s Access Worth (see it at TRB)
  13. The Transit Travel Time Machine (see it at TRB)
  14. The 12th Annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture in Transportation With David Levinson: Designing the 30-Minute City
  15. Observations of Melbourne
  16. Journal of Transport and Land Use Transitions
  17. Why Australian road rules should be rewritten to put walking first (reposed from The Conversation)
  18. How close is Sydney to the vision of creating three 30-minute cities. (reposted from The Conversation)
  19. 1953 Detroit Metropolitan Area Traffic Study – Data Discovered

Lists from previous years:

All Time Most Popular Posts in the WordPress era of the Transportationist/Transportist Blog

  1. 21 STRATEGIES TO SOLVE CONGESTION (2016)
  2. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE “FIRST MILE/LAST MILE” PROBLEM FOR TRANSIT? (by David King) (2016)
  3. ON WHY BIKE LANES MIGHT APPEAR UNDERUTILIZED (2016)
  4. ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AUTONOMOUS, AUTOMATED, SELF-DRIVING, AND DRIVERLESS CARS  (2017)
  5. WHAT HAPPENED TO TRAFFIC? (2013)
  6. HOW MUCH TIME IS SPENT AT TRAFFIC SIGNALS?  (2018)
  7. WHY IS THE WALKING MAN WHITE? (2015)
  8. SIGNALLING INEQUITY – HOW TRAFFIC SIGNALS DISTRIBUTE TIME TO FAVOUR THE CAR AND DELAY THE PEDESTRIAN. (2018) (Based on a Conversation Article)
  9. NOT IN OUR NAME (2016)
  10. ROAD RENT – ON THE OPPORTUNITY COST OF LAND USED FOR ROADS (2018)

So none of the 2019 have made it onto the all time list yet, but I think a couple might eventually get there.

Why Australian road rules should be rewritten to put walking first

Published in The Conversation, reposted here:

You are walking east on a footpath and come to an unmarked intersection without traffic signals. A vehicle is driving north, across your path. Who has right of way in Australia?

Should you step into the road expecting the vehicle to slow down or stop if necessary? Is the driver legally obliged to do so?

And does the driver see you? How fast is the vehicle going? Can it stop?

Now imagine you are the driver. What will the person on foot do next?

So the answer to the question of “giving way” is complicated. It depends on the speed of the car, how fast the person is walking, how quickly the driver reacts to apply the brakes, the vehicle itself, road conditions and how far the car and walker are from each other. Ideally, both the driver and walker can assess these things in a fraction of a second, but human perception and real-time calculation skills are imperfect. At higher speeds, both pedestrians and drivers underestimate vehicle speed.

Soon we will have to seriously consider autonomous vehicles, which can assess distance and speed almost perfectly, but there is still that ambiguity.


Read more: Driverless vehicles and pedestrians don’t mix. So how do we re-arrange our cities?


What does the law say?

Road rules legislate how drivers should behave. But it turns out most people do not know right-of-way rules.

In Australia, the National Transport Commission recommends model rules, which each state adopts and lightly modifies. For instance, New South Wales Road Rules 72, 73 and 353 cover pedestrians crossing a road.

Rule 353 says:

If a driver who is turning from a road at an intersection is required to give way to a pedestrian who is crossing the road that the driver is entering, the driver is only required to give way to the pedestrian if the pedestrian’s line of travel in crossing the road is essentially perpendicular to the edges of the road the driver is entering – the driver is not required to give way to a pedestrian who is crossing the road the driver is leaving.

Because of the legal principle of duty of care, drivers must still try to avoid colliding with pedestrians. They have a legal obligation to not be negligent. Thus, they must stop if they can for pedestrians who are already there, but not those on the side of the road wanting to cross.

However, this element of the NSW Road Transport Act is not made explicit in the NSW Road Rules. There is no statutory requirement in the road rules or elsewhere to give way to pedestrians other than as set out specifically in the road rules.

In contrast, NSW Road Rules 230 and 236 explicitly require pedestrians to avoid behaving dangerously around cars.

The published advice in NSW is:

Drivers must always give way to pedestrians if there is danger of colliding with them, however pedestrians should not rely on this and should take great care when crossing any road.

Does a slow-moving person’s higher risk of being hit mean they can’t cross the road?Shutterstock

This statement is not supported by any road rule or other law.

Does the law as written mean a slow-moving person can never cross the street because of the risk of being hit? Only because duty-of-care logic indicates both the driver and pedestrian should yield to the other to avoid a collision is it possible for this person to cross without depending on the kindness of strangers. But the law gives the benefit of doubt to the driver of the multi-ton machine. Existing road rules permit drivers to voluntarily give way, or not.

Keep in mind the asymmetry of this situation. A person walking into the side of the car is silly. A car being driven into the side of a person, as happens 1,500 times a year in NSW, is life-threatening.


Read more: Pedestrian safety needs to catch up to technology and put people before cars


What do we recommend?

The UK Manual for Streets presents a street user hierarchy that puts pedestrians at the top. That is, their needs and safety should be considered first.

A recommended hierarchy of street users. Manual for Streets/UK Department for Transport

Walking has multiple benefits. More people on foot lowers infrastructure costs, improves health and reduces the number in cars, in turn reducing crashes, pollution and congestion. However, the road rules are not designed with this logic.

The putative aim of road rules is safety, but in practice the rules trade off between safety and convenience. The more rules are biased toward the convenience of drivers, the more drivers there will be.


Read more: How traffic signals favour cars and discourage walking


Yet public policy aims to promote walking. To do so, pedestrians should be given freer rein to walk: alert, but not afraid.

Like many things in this world, intersection interactions are negotiated, tacitly, by road users and their subtle and not-so-subtle cues. Pedestrians should have legal priority behind them in this negotiation.

The road rules need to be amended to require drivers to give way to pedestrians at all intersections. We favour a rule requiring drivers to look out for pedestrians and give way to them on any road or road-related area. In the case of collisions, the onus would be on drivers to show they could not in the circumstances give way to the pedestrian.

We believe all intersections without signals – whether marked, courtesy, or unmarked – be legally treated as marked pedestrian crossings. (It might help to mark them to remind drivers of this.) We should think of these intersections as spaces where vehicles cross an implicit continuous footpath, rather than as places where people cross a vehicular lane.

At this intersection in Surry Hills, NSW, vehicles cross a continuous footpath. Photo by David Levinson., Author provided

This change in perspective will require significant road user re-education. Users will have to be reminded every intersection is a crosswalk and that pedestrians both in the road and showing intent to cross should be yielded to, whether the vehicle is entering or exiting the road. We believe this change will increase safety and willingness to walk, because of the safety-in-numbers phenomenon, and improve quality of life.

In Minnesota, every corner is a crosswalk, marked or not, so stopping for pedestrians at intersections is mandatory, whatever direction the car is moving. Minnesota Department of Transportation., Author provided

Drivers should assume more responsibility for safety

People should continue to behave in a way that does not harm themselves or others. People on foot should not jump out in front of cars, expecting drivers to slam on their brakes, because drivers cannot always stop in time.


Read more: Nothing to fear? How humans (and other intelligent animals) might ruin the autonomous vehicle utopia


Similarly, drivers should be ready to slow or stop when a person crosses the street, at a crosswalk or not. But the law should be refactored to give priority to pedestrians at unmarked crossings. This will reduce ambiguity and make drivers more alert and ready to slow down.

In tomorrow’s world of driverless and passengerless vehicles, the convenience of drivers becomes even less essential. If someone is crossing the road, most of us probably believe a driverless vehicle should give way to ensure it doesn’t hit that person for two reasons: legally, to avoid being negligent; and morally, because hitting people is bad, as identified in many examples of the Trolley Problem.

Further, we should think more like the Netherlands, where vehicle-pedestrian collisions are presumed to be the driver’s fault, unless it can be clearly proven otherwise.


Read more: The everyday ethical challenges of self-driving cars


This article examined a few of 353 distinct road rules. Many others affect pedestrians and should also be re-examined.


This article was extensively edited by Janet Wahlquist of WalkSydneyand extends some ideas developed as part of Betty Yang’s undergraduate thesis, but the text is the sole responsibility of the author.