Jaywalkers tread with care
Updated: 2013-05-09 08:01
By He Na, Zhang Yuchen and Peng Yining (China Daily)
A crossroad in Beijing's Di'anmen area. A new regulation came into force on Monday allowing police to fine people who cross the road recklessly, either on foot or by bike, in an attempt to improve traffic safety in the city. [Photo by Wang Jing / China Daily]
"I have to say that the effect of fining pedestrians and cyclists who ignore red lights has been instant. Only few people have been fined and most pedestrians and cyclists behave well," she said.
"If I were a jaywalker, I would think twice before crossing against the lights: 10 yuan is the cost of dinner for some people, especially those on low incomes - at least it's enough to buy vegetables for dinner. Anyway, I hope this tough measure will help to foster good habits," she added.
Zhao Jie, director of the Urban Transport Institute at the China Academy of Urban Planning & Design, said the authorities had to establish the new system to prompt pedestrians to abide by the traffic rules, but he felt the authorities should also examine the placement of lights, street signs and crosswalks in the capital.
"The city should offer help for pedestrians to cross the road," he said. "At present, the reality is that we don't have enough crosswalks, and they usually have limited room for pedestrians to stand while waiting to cross. There is far less consideration for pedestrians than vehicles," he said.
When faced with heavy traffic congestion, the government simply builds more highways, but seldom thinks of building more crosswalks, he added.
The crossroads at many intersections have been widened twofold to accommodate traffic. But the time between the green and red lights is far too short and even young people need to run to cross the road in time. Because vehicles are not prohibited from turning right at the intersection, pedestrians are forced to wait in the middle of the traffic. So the 40 or 50 seconds allocated for crossing the road are really just theoretical and the actual crossing time is far shorter.
People should regard traffic lights as a physical embodiment of the laws of the road and the government has a responsibility to raise awareness of those laws, according to Zhao.
"It was necessary to enforce the penalties to inculcate good habits on the roads. But the government should also realize that the needs of pedestrians should be one of the top priorities when roads are planned. Penalties alone won't offer a lasting solution to the situation."