School crossing gets lights

The Dunedin City Council is being praised for putting the safety of children ahead of tight budgets, after it committed to upgrading an existing pedestrian crossing near Kaikorai Primary School in Highgate.

The council yesterday confirmed it would spend $103,700 adding traffic signals to an existing pedestrian crossing on Highgate, between Selkirk and Fifield Sts, over the next month.

The work was expected to begin on July 7 and be completed by August 11, allowing pupils and parents to cross safely at the push of a button, council senior traffic engineer Ron Minnema said.

The investment was welcomed yesterday by Kaikorai Primary School principal Simon Clarke, who said he was ''absolutely delighted'' safety was to be improved.

Parents volunteering to operate the crossing during morning and afternoon school runs had been involved in ''many near-misses'' when stepping out to stop traffic, he said.

Some motorists either did not see, or chose to ignore, the volunteers - who were dressed in bright orange vests and carrying road cones - which had made the crossing ''very dangerous'', Mr Clarke said.

''Our parents who man that crossing have put their lives in their hands at times.

"It's been an ongoing problem and we're absolutely delighted to think the safety will improve in that area with pedestrian-controlled lights.''

Mr Clarke had been among those pushing for signals to be added to the crossing over the past 18 months and was pleased the council had found room in tight budgets for the work.

''It's all budgets, but we're pleased finally that money isn't going to get in the way of children's safety.''

Mr Minnema said council research had backed community concerns, highlighting the risk to pedestrians, and those supervising them, in the area.

''There have been a number of near-misses involving motorists who are legally required to give way to people using the pedestrian crossing, but have failed to do so.

''The continuous stream of traffic during these periods often does not stop to allow people to cross safely.

"There are also often many small groups crossing separately, disrupting traffic and causing driver frustration.''

The new signals would remain green, allowing traffic to pass, unless a pedestrian activated them.

Those wanting to cross could experience delays of up to 40 seconds at busy times, he said.

He did not expect the new lights would add to congestion in the area, but staff and police would monitor the new layout and the timing of the lights.

Settings would be adjusted if needed.

Mr Clarke said the school's parent volunteers would continue to operate the crossing and activate the signals only when groups of children were ready to cross, to avoid ''everyone stopping for one kid''.

''We'll take our part in it, as long as the community play their part in this and actually stop when it goes red.

''Then everyone's going to be happy and safe, hopefully, and still get to work on time.''

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