An outback town in western Queensland has joined an unconventional global trend aimed at slowing down motorists near pedestrian crossings.
Boulia, in the heart of the channel country in central-west Queensland, is the first Australian town to introduce a three-dimensional zebra crossing, where white blocks appear to rise up from the road in an optical illusion.
There are similar crossings in Iceland, Malaysia, India, New Zealand and the United States.
Boulia Shire Council Mayor Rick Britton said he discovered the crossings on social media.
“I saw that other countries had put 3D crossings in to slow the traffic down,” he said.
“I thought that’d be a great idea in a little outback town like ours.”
Councillor Britton said a line-marking device had already been purchased and the rest was history.
“I thought why don’t we give it a go,” he said.
“If we put it around our hospitals and our schools, it’ll just jog people’s memory that they’re in a school zone and really think about where they’re driving.”
Tourist attraction and safety measure
Councillor Britton said the crossing would serve as an attraction for tourists visiting the region and could open conversation about more street art in Boulia.
“If tourists want to drive around and see our town, they’ll see this quirky zebra crossing and it’ll be a conversation piece,” he said.
“We’d love to start seeing murals on walls instead of having blank corrugated iron sheds … something that students or people can put together with council partnership.
“I think if we start seeing work like that coming up around town, we’ll definitely get interest from professional artists who want to offer their services.”
Experts call for evaluation
Queensland University of Technology’s Dr Mark King, who works for the Centre for Accident Research Road Safety Queensland, said it was hard to tell whether the project would work.
“It will be something very noticeable, which can do one of two things: People might become distracted. On the other hand you’re noticing the crossing, so people may slow down,” he said.
“It is possible it could be distracting but one of the things that mitigate that a bit is that you’re looking at the pedestrian crossing, which is where the hazard is likely to lie.
“So at least if you are drawn by the visual image your eye is drawn in the right direction.”
Dr King said there had been a lot of interest in the area of unique crossings worldwide.
“It’s something that’s been interesting a lot of people at the moment,” he said.
“Not just 3D but other forms of pedestrian crossing as well, one with LED lights and things like that … quite often they tend to be trialled but not evaluated well.”
In March, Cairns Regional Council invested an estimated $30,000 toward a similar crossing.
“It is hoped that the installation of the artwork would encourage motorists to slow down and add vibrancy to the area,” a spokeswoman said.
“A review would occur after six months to determine whether changes to motorist and pedestrian behaviour have been observed as a result of the trial.”
The trial at Pier Point Road in Cairns will begin later this month.