Pedestrians cop fines over new road rule
As Sydney counts down the days until its eagerly awaited new light rail system opens, pedestrians, motorists and cyclists are being warned to pay attention or cop a fine.
Police have confirmed that officers, specifically targeting pedestrians at light rail intersections, have slapped 162 Sydneysiders so far with $76 fines for crossing the tracks in an unsafe way.
Motorists could also be hit with fines costing them hundreds of dollars, as well as demerit points, if they don't pay attention to new road conditions.
It comes as news.com.au has heard reports of near misses between pedestrians and trams during the $3 billion light rail system's testing.
During this period, Transport for NSW says it has noticed a "high degree of people" distracted with their phones and unaware of trams approaching them from behind or in front of them.
In some instances, people are not even aware that trams are out and about.
"Our main concern around pedestrian safety is the issue of distraction, particularly from mobile phones," Transport for NSW co-ordinator general Marg Prendergast.
"People need to have their heads up, unplugged from headphones so they can hear their surroundings, and looking left and right before crossing. Trams can be quiet and aren't able to swerve to avoid obstacles, so pedestrians need to be alert and aware."
The warning comes after a 15-year-old boy suffered minor head injuries when he was struck by a tram at Moore Park in September.
And, a cyclist died in Newcastle earlier this year at an intersection of the city's new light rail system.
Danny Egan, 51, was crossing the tracks at the intersection on July 10 when he fell off his bike and hit his head. He was wearing a helmet but it did not prevent his fatal head injuries.
As Sydney's light rail is tipped to open this weekend, Rail, Tram, and Bus Union (RTBU) divisional secretary David Babineau says the trams have at least 11 design flaws and safety issues that could easily result in injury or death.
However, Ms Prendergast said Transport for NSW had pushed out safety messages to the public, including the "Heads Up, Play it Safe around Light Rail" and "Be aware, there's a tram there" campaigns.
On top of that, NSW Police has been sending out specific light rail enforcement squads to intersections to ensure everyone's crossing the tracks properly.
SO, WHAT ARE THE RULES AND HOW MUCH CAN YOU BE FINED?
While you should always cross the road at designated crossings for safety reasons, you're allowed to cross tram tracks at any point along the new light rail tracks.
However, there's a catch. You have to be more than 20 metres from the nearest traffic signals and look up and remain aware of moving trams.
NSW Road Rules allow pedestrians to legally cross a road and not incur a jaywalking fine if they are more than 20 metres away from traffic signals.
Motorists in Sydney are also being asked to pay attention to changes and to take their time to adapt to the new road conditions created by the light rail.
If you don't, you could face hefty fines and demerit points.
For offences such as driving into path of an approaching tram, blocking one off, or not giving way to one by driving through a dividing strip break, you could cop a $344 fine and three demerit points.
If you don't give way to pedestrians near a stopped tram, drive on a safety zone or overtake a tram that's signalling left or right, you could be slapped with fines of up to $191 and cop two demerit points to boot.
There's also a number of new speed limits on roads along the light rail route, starting this week. So the key message from the State Government is to remain alert to the changed traffic conditions around the city.
As part of a campaign to inform us all about light rail safety, the Government is sending out street teams of "trambassadors" led by a drill sergeant to perform "safety scenes" along the route this week.
They will be showing you why you should never run for trams and why you should look up from your phone and look left and right before crossing. They will also be making sure cyclists ride straight across the tracks to avoid their wheels getting caught.
RTBU'S Mr Babineau has raised several safety issues with the new light rail.
He told The Daily Telegraph, the pedestrian crossing at Martin Rd had no safety measures for cyclists who have just come from Centennial Park, and a there's a lack of chicanes at pedestrian crossings along the 12km route to slow approaching pedestrians down.
State member for Coogee Marjorie O'Neill said she had heard her constituents raise several safety concerns over the light rail.
One told her that last month a bus turned onto the wrong section of the road on Randwick's busy Alison Rd and ended up travelling head-on towards a tram.
"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry because that is the worst-case scenario, and we're already seeing this now," she said.
"For $3 billion, this needs to work because if it doesn't it's criminal."