Saturday, October 1, 2016

Zebra crossings

A friend was telling me about the different priorities of different pedestrian crossings. He had been told that red and white or blue and white were mandatory stops and black and white discretionary. Or it may have been the other way around. I thought they probably all had the same force but then I came across some information from a traffic team of the Guardia Civil that showed we were both wrong!

Article 168, section c, of the Traffic Regulations, the Código de Tráfico y Seguridad Vial, says about the marking of pedestrian crossings that they are: a series of wide lines marked on the road surface in bands parallel to the road axis which form a series on the roadway to indicate a crossing for pedestrians where drivers of vehicles and those conducting animals must let them (the pedestrians) pass. Lines of other colours should not alternate with the white ones.

If you want to check my Spanish interpretation the original reads:

Marca de paso para peatones. Una serie de líneas de gran anchura, dispuestas sobre el pavimento de la calzada en bandas paralelas al eje de ésta y que forman un conjunto transversal a la calzada, indica un paso para peatones, donde los conductores de vehículos o animales deben dejarles paso. No podrán utilizarse líneas de otros colores que alternen con las blancas.

So you can see that the legislation is absolutely clear. A zebra crossing is formed by painting thick white lines on the roadway. The colour that alternates with the white bands should be simply the general colour of the roadway.

Apparently the reason that there are coloured crossings came from a report which said that the best way to make pedestrian crossings safer was to make them more eye catching. Experiments with brightly coloured crossings were successful - drivers did, indeed, notice them earlier. The counter argument was that whilst drivers might notice the crossings they could equally well fail to notice the pedestrians about to use them.

The responsibility for many of the roadways, within towns, falls, reasonably enough, to the local town hall. Well meaning councillors may decide on traffic calming measures, road priorities and the like which seem, to them, to make common sense but which don't comply, strictly, with national legislation or regulations. 

If you think about the red or blue crossings that you have seen they are almost certainly on top of the traffic calming speed bumps. The Town Hall has the zebras painted in bright colours to make them more eye-catching in the hope that cars won't hit them at speed and take off. As an aside the bumps have strict design parameters and many of them are not technically legal. That's why it is not at all unusual for over steep speed bumps to disappear overnight in the light of successful actions by someone concerned about damage to vehicles. Nobody worries too much that a blue or red crossing will damage their car so they tend to be more permanent.

To re-iterate, the law is absolutely clear, zebra crossings use white bands on the roadway. Other types of crossing are not strictly legal. Nonetheless, I would advise against ever trying to prove your legal knowledge when you are driving towards someone using one! There's probably a law about knocking down pedestrians.

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