Trams are a new-old thing recently re-introduced to Sydney. With the roll-out of trams across the city and police fining pedestrians for jaywalking near Central Station, there's now confusion surrounding the state's strict jaywalking laws. Here's what you can and can't do when it comes to trams in NSW — Newcastle included.
Dear Lifehacker, I was reading recently about a guy who crossed the road (not at an intersection) in front of a police car and they fined him for jaywalking. I was wondering what exactly constitutes jaywalking in each state?
What you can do
The rules for jaywalking don't actually change when it comes to crossing tram tracks. You're allowed to cross them at any point along the tracks provided you're not within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing or traffic signals and you're checking the coast is clear.
"Don't cross directly behind a tram as other road users may not be able to see you," Transport for NSW's website reads.
"Don't be distracted by mobile phones and remove headphones before crossing the road."
What you can't do
Naturally, it's the opposite of what you can do. If you're crossing a street before the green man appears and you're within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing then you're jaywalking. If you're one of the unlucky ones to get caught then you'll need to cough up $76 for the fine, according to NSW Roads and Maritime Services.
In Newcastle specifically, cyclist paths, 'mixed running sections', have been introduced alongside the trams after a cyclist was tragically killed in mid-2019.
Should jaywalking even be an offence?
While it can be frustrating waiting at traffic lights to cross even when traffic is light, there are obvious safety arguments for ensuring pedestrians cross when the little person is green. Since the trams have been officially in operation, it's understood there have been no pedestrian collisions resulting in injuries. In September, while trials were underway, a teenage boy was hit while looking at his phone and crossing the tram lines. He suffered minor head injuries.
"Our main concern around pedestrian safety is the issue of distraction, particularly from mobile phones," a Transport for NSW spokesperson told Lifehacker Australia. "People need to have their heads up, unplugged from headphones so they can hear their surroundings, and look 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."
Fines act as a deterrent to stop people making risky decisions and with the trams adding a new element of danger to distracted pedestrians, it'll likely make some people think twice before crossing illegally. Lifehacker Australia has reached out to NSW Police who confirmed 253 infringements were issued for not complying with traffic signals between 13 December and 13 January.
"NSW Police conducted a pedestrian compliance operation between Friday 13 December 2019 and Monday 13 January 2020 in the proximity of the light rail route within the Sydney CBD and Kensington areas," a NSW Police spokesperson told us in an statement.
"This operation aims to reduce the risk of collisions involving pedestrians through education and enforcement at locations identified as high-risk areas."
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