The first of the three-dimensional (3D) pedestrian crossings to be trialled in Manly took shape outside the Royal Far West building on South Steyne on 6 November.
A partnership between Transport for NSW and Northern Beaches Council, the crossings consist of a series of separate white oblong strips – much like usual pedestrian or zebra crossings – however, each strip has grey shading around it to create virtual ‘shadows’. This gives them the appearance of raised rectangular prisms, like a series of white boxes across the road surface.
The featured photo was taken as the work was being finished, and is not the full realised version.
The below information was first published on 31 October 2022:
To advancing motorists, the crossings appear to hover above the road. However, the optical illusion only works from one direction, and does not appear three dimensional to pedestrians crossing them.
These 3D crossings are part of a scheme to determine if motorists are more likely to stop when the pedestrian markings appear to rise up from the road. It may also reveal itself to be a popular spot for Instagram photos…
In a statement, Northern Beaches Council said, “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve pedestrian safety and the latest pedestrian trial is no exception. In partnership with Transport for NSW, we are trialling three new pedestrian crossings in high traffic areas of Manly over summer, the first in NSW.
“The 3D crossings have been used in numerous locations in Europe and America, as well as a few Australian locations, with research showing that they can reduce traffic speeds and improve public safety.”
Where are they?
Two of the new crossings, on Manly seafront, have been installed at the interface between Wentworth Street and South Steyne. For those familiar with the zone, they effectively link Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop with Wotso/Royal Far West to the south and then east to the beachside promenade.
The third 3D crossing is 120 metres south-east at the South Steyne junction with Victoria Parade, linking the beach with South Steyne Medical Centre.
An onsite supervisor overseeing the installation of the crossing told Manly Observer that the trial is scheduled to operate for six months and will be monitored by CCTV cameras.
He also revealed that Liverpool Council applied to be the first to trial the scheme in NSW, but Transport for NSW declined their request on the grounds that the traffic zone they chose was in a 50km/h speed limit zone.
Manly seafront along North and South Steyne is speed-restricted to 30km/hr, but motorists often exceed that after accelerating through a set of traffic lights 80 metres to the north of the new trial zone. Until now, this has endangered people accessing the beach via the South Steyne/Wentworth Street junction pedestrian crossing, so the new trial will determine if it improves driver behaviour.
Northern Beaches Council said, “Driver, pedestrian and community behaviour will be assessed during the first six months of the trial to determine the crossing’s effectiveness and consider if they should be applied to other high pedestrian and vehicle traffic across the area.”
Manly Observer asked the works supervisor at the new crossings whether computer-operated, self-drive cars may have difficulty analysing whether the white strips ‘hovering’ above the road are real.
However, the supervisor, who revealed he currently drives a car with sensors that ensures it stays within lanes, said the sophisticated computer technology won’t be fooled by the simple optical illusion.
The Manly crossings differ from most others because the base is red, not grey.
Geveko Markings, a global road markings company based in Mona Vale but originally founded in Sweden in 1924, are the company providing the durable thermoplastic red paint, which is spread with rollers onto the road surface.
It consists of a resin-type formula that needs to be applied quickly before the curing agent sets. After just 45 minutes, it is completely dry and capable of being driven on.
Thereafter, the white plastic zebra stripes and grey sidings and black ‘shadows’ that give them the three-dimensional effect, are melted onto the red-tinted road surface.
Manly Observer asked Northern Beaches Council whether the ‘hovering panels’ 3D-effect might disorientate some pedestrians with visual impairment or difficulties with balance (for example, Parkinson’s Disease). A Council spokesperson replied: “From a pedestrian perspective it will appear as a normal pedestrian crossing, with the northbound traffic seeing it as a normal crossing too. The initial site assessment indicated that the main issue with speed was in a south bound direction and this is the direction of travel that will see the crossing in the three dimensions.”
How did Manly come to be the first place in NSW to trial the scheme?
“Northern Beaches Council has the largest functioning area of 30km/h zone allowing this trial to proceed,” the spokesperson revealed, “and there are significant issues with using a traditional raised crossing at this location.”
Is this something council pays for or covered by NSW Transport ?
“Council is contributing this as part of the overall 30 km/h zone upgrade in the Manly CBD,” the spokesperson replied.
Contractors melt the 3D strips onto the tinted road surface. Video: Alec Smart
Other 3D crossings
Although these are the first 3D ‘floating’ crossings in NSW, they’re not the first in Australia.
Boulia, an outback town in Western Queensland, began trialling a similar 3D pedestrian crossing in May this year, followed shortly afterwards by Cairns in North Queensland.
Boulia Shire Council Mayor Rick Britton said he discovered the crossings on social media – tourists often pose for photos and upload them to Instagram and Facebook.
In an interview with the ABC, he said “I saw that other countries had put 3D crossings in to slow the traffic down. I thought that’d be a great idea in a little outback town like ours…
“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.”
The first 3D crossing in Australia was installed in November 2018 by Yarra City Council in Best Street, North Fitzroy.
Around the same time, Kansas City in the USA installed a 3D crossing after a city traffic engineer researching traffic calming measures came across online film footage of a 3D crosswalk in Ísafjörður, a remote fishing village in the Westfjords of northwest Iceland.
In November 2017, Ísafjörður Environmental Officer Ralf Trylla, who also researched the internet for traffic calming measures, persuaded the municipal council to install a 3D crossing to slow motorists down from the existing 30km/hr through the village’s narrow residential streets.
In February 2017, Dunedin, New Zealand, claimed they created the world’s first permanent 3D pedestrian crossing after artist Jenny McCracken was commissioned to design and implement two 3D crosswalks on Clyde St, outside Dunedin University. Both calmed traffic moving in dual directions.
Ms McCracken and her collaborators, Zest, painted two whacky illustrations. One featured a series of rocks like stepping-stones across a swirling blue river; the second consisted of 12 white strips, each with a pair of boot-wearing legs running beneath them.
Prior to New Zealand, a 3D zebra crossing was implemented at Rajaji Marg in central New Delhi, India’s capital, on 9 July 2016. This was the design that inspired Ralf Trylla of Ísafjörður, Iceland, which in turn influenced many others.
Yogesh Saini, founder of Delhi Street Art, collaborated with the New Delhi Municipal Council to implement the idea. New Delhi, encompassing only 42.7 km2, yet with a population of over 28 million people, has one of the highest road densities in India.
Despite the average vehicle speed moving at 15 – 20 km/h, the Times of India records that New Delhi “has the highest number of fatal accidents among all cities across the country, with five deaths per day.”
After traffic police revealed Yogesh’s 3D crossing reduced average speed for the zone from 50km/hr to 30km/hr, municipal authorities requested five more around the city centre to replace existing pedestrian crossings.
A senior traffic official told the Hindustan Times, “The new 3D zebra crossing has become a sight of amusement for commuters. Cars inevitably slow down and there is also excitement among pedestrians to use it.”
A few months earlier a mother-and-daughter team of illustrators, Saumya Pandya Thakkar and Shakuntala Pandya, designed 3D zebra crossings that were temporarily installed in Gujarat and Delhi in January and February 2016, although apparently traffic authorities didn’t record their influence on calming vehicle speeds.
The original concept, and therefore the world’s first three-dimensional crossings, may have started in China.
A photo taken on 29 January 2015, shows a 3D crossing on Kaiyuan West Rd, Changsha, in Hunan Province.
Pedestrian crossings were devised at least 2000 years ago.
Archaeologists uncovering the tragic Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried under metres of volcanic ash and lava in 79AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, discovered raised blocks spanning streets.
The blocks were set far enough apart to allow horses legs and the wooden wheels of horse-drawn carts to traverse between, yet enabled pedestrians to hop across in safety without setting foot on the road itself.
Considering the unsanitary nature of many Roman cities, where the roads were covered in not just horse manure but human sewage and household waste, setting foot on the road itself risked the threat of disease or worse.
Perhaps these raised sections were what inspired contemporary Chinese traffic technicians to design the first three-dimensional pedestrian crossing, which have since been introduced in many cities across China and the world to calm traffic – and now in Manly.