Roundabout-loving Blenheim is in the grips of a traffic light revolution, but the town has been down this road before.
Blenheim man Nigel Perry has long campaigned for pedestrian signals – the lesser of the traffic light evils – but those in the free-flowing roundabout camp were never prepared to giveway.
Could that be about to change? If it does, Perry is ready. His plan: why stop at one?
Perry, who volunteers with Marlborough Road Safety, said Blenheim needed traffic lights “now more than ever”.
He would like to see lights at the crossing outside the town’s main post office, and at the zebra crossing between the library and Countdown.
Perry first petitioned to have traffic signals installed a the pedestrian crossing outside post office in 2005.
His idea was rejected though because Blenheim’s system of roundabouts “worked reasonably well”.
Perry came up with the idea of having a pedestrian-controlled traffic signal after watching people wander across the road without looking and holding up traffic.
“Traffic lights allow pedestrians to go across in one big push, holding up traffic for just a few moments. It keeps the flow moving.
“That’s much better than a pedestrian crossing, where vehicles must giveaway. People just cross one after the other and are constantly holding up traffic.”
But a traffic light on Seymour St, between the library and Countdown, was probably more important than one at the post office, Perry said.
“Blenheim’s CBD has a restricted speed of 30kmh but Seymour St, which is not in the CBD but is still well used, has a restricted speed of 50kmh,” he said.
A 12-year-old girl was hit by a car at the crossing on Seymour St in 2014, before the driver drove off.
Perry’s renewed passion for traffic lights was set alight this week after a report to the Marlborough District Council proposed pedestrian signals on Nelson St.
The report said the lights would cut 38 seconds off a drive along Nelson St at peak times, as the existing courtesy crossing brought traffic to a more regular standstill.
The lights would allow traffic to flow freely until a pedestrian pushed the button. The crossing was used regularly by Marlborough Girls’ College and Bohally Intermediate students going to and from school.
“Traffic on Nelson St was especially bad when State Highway 1 closed, because all the trucks and buses going through Blenheim had to take that route,” Perry said.
“But even with State Highway 1 open, the traffic there is not going to get better.
“There will be more traffic along the road every month and the schools will still be there in five years, even if they do decide to move, because it will take them ages to do so.”
Perry was the former president of the now-defunct Marlborough Road Safety Council.