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UPDATED: May 20, 2013 NO. 21 MAY 23, 2013
How to Curb Jaywalking?

Zhai Yongguan (www.chinanews.com): Undoubtedly, the "Chinese-style road crossing" is an open defiance of traffic laws and rules, and thus criticism or imposing fines are reasonable. On the first day of the new policy's adoption in Beijing, the situation at intersections presented some improvement.

In many cities, the design of traffic lights and zebra crossing is quite unreasonable for pedestrians. In road development, the focus is usually on how to relieve traffic congestion due to the increase of motor vehicles, not on how to help pedestrians go across roads easily. In many cities, there is a serious shortage of underground passages and overpasses, etc. Pedestrians are increasingly faced with the embarrassment of "no road to use."

This might be a familiar picture for many people living in big cities: at busy intersections, pedestrians finally see the traffic light turn green, but they are stopped by autos that turn right; at intersections without traffic lights, motor vehicles speed as fast as they can, totally disregarding pedestrians at crossing lines.

If the unscientific urban traffic design remains unchanged, and motor vehicles keep to competing against pedestrians for road at some points, it's almost impossible to eradicate the problem of "Chinese-style road crossing." Education and imposing fines must be supplemented with the upgrading of urban traffic facilities and design, to create a condition where pedestrians find that obeying traffic rules is better than breaking the rules.

Linghu Buchong (The Time Weekly): From 2008 to 2010, a team at Tongji University's School of Transportation Engineering conducted a research on pedestrians' waiting times at various road crossings, and found out that the waiting time at traffic lights can affect pedestrians' behavior. Pedestrians are more likely to ignore the light when the time they have to wait is longer than they can stand. Their study found that the Chinese are "very patient," saying they would wait up to 90 seconds on average for the light to change. The British, in comparison, would wait 45 seconds and the Germans 60 seconds. But Chinese people's apparent greater patience may not be enough, as the study showed many red lights last for more than 90 seconds. There are too many cases where red light lasts for 3 minutes for pedestrians while green light only lasts for 15 seconds for them.

If you expect pedestrians to follow those traffic rules, the precondition must be a scientific design of traffic lights and road construction. In an environment where pedestrians' right is not respected, and even their safety is not ensured, it's going too far to demand so much patience from them.

Shi Jing (People's Daily): Many factors have led to pedestrians' running red lights. It's thus unfair to attribute all blame to the pedestrians' side.

In recent years, roads in cities are made broader, and as a result, the cycle of traffic lights is prolonged. Generally, a cycle within 120 seconds is considered to be reasonable, but at many intersections, it is much longer. In order to ensure motor vehicles' smooth moving while turning right, the green light length for pedestrians is cut.

It will take more time for people to cover the longer distance where roads are broader. Pedestrians often fall into this dilemma: the green light is on for them, but they can't move, because they have to stay aside to avoid being hit by motor cars that are turning right. Sometimes, they have not covered half of the distance, but the green light has already gone.

Besides, due to the lack of overpasses and underpasses in many cities, traffic is becoming increasingly busy on the ground. For example, if the overpass is far from intersections, then many people will not tend to use the overpass, and sometimes they choose to run red lights as they have been kept waiting there for too long.

How to change the Chinese's habit of crossing the road? The priority is not to impose fines on jaywalkers, but to design a set of better urban traffic planning.

In sections of big traffic flows, motor vehicles should be stopped from turning right when the green light on the other side of the road has already turned green for pedestrians. Actually, the problem of allowing them to move is obvious: while pedestrians begin to move at the green light, autos turning right will not only increase danger to pedestrians, but will deteriorate traffic congestions. It's also necessary to make bigger use of underground space, particularly at busy intersections. The much-blamed phenomenon of the "Chinese-style road crossing" will naturally decline, if more attention is paid to pedestrians' need and convenience.

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