The test lights were installed in Sydney’s CBD in a trial aimed at protecting texting pedestrians.
The test lights were installed in Sydney’s CBD in a trial aimed at protecting texting pedestrians.

New pedestrian safety lights dubbed ‘a w**k’

EXCLUSIVE: AN Australian trial of in-ground lights - aimed at protecting "petextrian" phone zombies - have found they are a waste of money and an expert has called them a "wank".

The $250,000 trial showed that while the lights do cut numbers who cross on red, the fall is no greater among those texting and mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed than it is for people paying attention to the traffic.

"I think they are a wank, these flashing lights," said Pedestrian Council of Australia chief Harold Scruby.

Pedestrian test lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt Streets in Sydney, which cost $124,000 to install, reduced the proportion of people crossing during a red light from more than 18 per cent to less than 12 per cent. Picture: Richard Dobson
Pedestrian test lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt Streets in Sydney, which cost $124,000 to install, reduced the proportion of people crossing during a red light from more than 18 per cent to less than 12 per cent. Picture: Richard Dobson

News Corp Australia can also reveal the German city which attracted global attention in 2016 when it installed a small number of in-ground lights has decided against a broader rollout.

Shortly after the lights were installed in Germany, then NSW roads minister Duncan Gay announced a $250,000 trial in Sydney, saying "too many people are … looking at their phone rather than looking ahead".

Pedestrian Council of Australia chief Harold Scruby is not a fan of the lights.
Pedestrian Council of Australia chief Harold Scruby is not a fan of the lights.

But a study of the lights' effects by UNSW - obtained by News Corp Australia using freedom of information laws - concluded: "There was no evidence from the measures taken in the study that pedestrians who were using devices or looking down showed a disproportionately larger reduction in noncompliance at the intervention sites after the installation of the in-ground pedestrian lights than other pedestrians."

"Instead, the reductions in noncompliance following the installation of the lights were not specific to these groups."

Test lights at the intersection of Goulburn and Pitt streets, which cost $124,000 to install, reduced the proportion of people crossing during a red light from more than 18 per cent to less than 12 per cent.

There was a lesser but still significant fall at the other test site at Dixon and Hay streets.

The German city which first installed a small number of the lights decided against a broader rollout.
The German city which first installed a small number of the lights decided against a broader rollout.

The NSW Government has decided against rolling out the technology across the city.

"Given the substantial cost of installing the lights, other methods of encouraging pedestrians to take extra care at intersections, like pavement markings or additional signage, might be more cost effective if shown to be beneficial," a Transport for NSW spokesman said.

The in-ground light tests in Sydney is believed to be the only trial of its type in Australia.

Meanwhile that German city - Augsburg, in Bavaria - has decided against an expansion of its in-ground lights.

The lights were installed at two tram stops after a 15-year-old girl was fatally hit when she walked onto the tracks while looking at her smartphone.

The initial move attracted media coverage from CNN, the Huffington Post and Australia's ABC, among others.

But there has been no coverage since the installation hit the headlines.

When News Corp Australia contacted the utilities company which put the lights in, a spokeswoman said: "It wasn't a big enough success to carry on installing the lights."



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