Intersection ‘accident waiting to happen’

A car turning left out of Union St gives way to pedestrians on a Forth St crossing. PHOTO: GERARD...
A car turning left out of Union St gives way to pedestrians on a Forth St crossing. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
A confusing upgrade of an intersection in the heart of the student area has been labelled "an accident waiting to happen".

Staff at Fluid Espresso at the corner of Union and Forth Sts told the Otago Daily Times after the recently completed road "improvements", customers were concerned about pedestrian safety.

An Otago Polytechnic staff member, speaking anonymously, said they were waiting outside the cafe for a student and within 10 minutes saw three near-misses.

The Dunedin City Council said the Union and Forth Sts intersection road layout changes had been made after significant consultation "to improve pedestrian safety and bus journey times".

Staff at the cafe said the work was completed several weeks ago after several months of construction.

Since then, there had been near-misses between cars and pedestrians. Customers referred to the intersection as "an accident waiting to happen" .

Otago University Students’ Association president Keegan Wells said new wider pavements and the introduction of native planting were "great".

"But it is very confusing," she said.

"I’m not too sure if I’d say entirely ‘an accident waiting to happen’, but it certainly adds quite a lot of confusion for both pedestrians and cars," Ms Wells said.

A friend who lived in Forth St had told her they had "never had a non-confusing interaction there".

"Nobody knows where to give way."

Otago Polytechnic safety and wellbeing director James Kerr said staff had raised concerns about the recent changes.

"Our wellbeing and safety team raised these concerns with the DCC in late May and shared our kaimahi [staff] feedback with them.

"The DCC acknowledged receiving this feedback," he said.

An Otago Polytechnic spokeswoman said the concerns included how close vehicles stopped to the pedestrian crossing, pedestrian safety and possible near-misses with vehicles, confusion over the road markings and cars not obeying give-way rules.

University of Otago campus and property services director Tanya Syddall said the city council consulted staff as part of the process and was supportive of the intent — "to enable new bus routes in the tertiary precinct while also introducing more pedestrian safety and traffic-slowing measures".

"We have not received any complaints about the intersection of Union and Forth St."

A city council spokeswoman said the changes were part of a broader package of pedestrian and safety improvements to make the area safer for the large number of pedestrians there.

Measures included new bus stops, pedestrian crossings at busy intersections, wider footpaths at the bus stops and areas where lots of students and staff moved between classes. There was "speed calming" to support the new 30kmh limit, and new bike stands, mobility parks and parking restriction changes.

After receiving feedback, the council had installed extra signs to emphasise the road layout change, the spokeswoman said.

"Since the two surrounding intersections have reopened, the intersection has returned to its usual volume of traffic and buses have been using this new route.

"No further feedback has been received but we continue to monitor the area.

"As with any new road change, extra care is required by motorists while getting used to the new road layout."