Pavement colours

Depending on your tastes, you might find this to be the most boring blog I’ve ever written. If you’re like me, you might find it really exciting.

I have a tendency to find patterns in things… sometimes I find patterns when they’re not there.  But anyway, on my last trip to Australia (I visited in December 2012), I started to notice some consistent pavement colouring that I found to be helpful in navigation and a great communications tool.

Something as simple as a colour scheme can be quite an effective way of showing road users who gets to go where, how, and when without requiring a lot of words or fancy explanations.  Between Sydney and Melbourne I noticed some consistent colouring that may or may not have been intentional, but could in my view be expanded to a global standard.

Yellow / Zebra for pedestrians: Pedestrian routes are usually the least clearly marked, but in the photo above I found at least one intersection in Melbourne that used yellow to signify a pedestrian route.  The other common marking is a zebra crossing: white horizontal lines on the pavement signifying that pedestrians have the right of way (which can be seen in the snap of Swanston Street, Melbourne, below).  I’m in favour of using both of these, though as I’ve pointed out in an earlier entry these are not used consistently within Canada, where zebra crossings mean “pedestrian right of way all the time” in BC but mean absolutely nothing in Ontario.


Green for bikes: The photo above shows the next, and most common and consistent, colour I see frequently.  Green is rapidly becoming a standard in signifying a bicycle route or marking, and it’s wonderful.  It’s still new to a lot of people, but once you know about it, it’s instantly recognisable, and removes ambiguity over road use (a study in Melbourne seems to confirm this).  From my own experience in a number of different cities (having cycled in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Melbourne, and Sydney in the last year I’ve gotten a bit of a sense — I’ll be blogging about that later), drivers are less likely to drive in or stop in bike lanes or bike boxes painted green.  In Melbourne in particular, when the bike boxes were not painted green, it was very common for drivers to pull all the way forward into them (I experienced this time and time again, to the point that I learned to simply pull in front of them anyway), but green painted boxes were more frequently obeyed.  The only catch to this colouring is that in Sydney, green also means car share parking – but generally this isn’t very long and is clearly parked on top of, so the confusion is minimised.

IMG_0323Freshly-painted new bike lane on Smithe at Burrard!!IMG_4681Buses may stop lawfully (and annoyingly) across intersection.IMG_0096

Blue for shared paths: This is less obvious and less consistent, and I’ve not seen it used in Canada, but blue is used in many of the pavement markings in Australia to signify bicycle / pedestrian shared paths.  I especially like this – as either a cyclist or a pedestrian it’s often easy to forget when you’re sharing a path so having bright blue flashing at you can help you be aware of who else might be in the route with you.
The Path is There to ShareIMG_4909Bourke Street South of WilliamIMG_4907

Red/Maroon for Public Transport: Buses in Sydney (this is the only place I’ve seen this colour used, other than Vancouver which used it briefly on bike lanes) get a maroon-ish red colour to signify their dedicated lanes.  It’s a nice reminder to drivers to stay on the black pavement and not hold up bus routes.  Most bus routes are shared with bicycles as well, as the photo above shows.

Besides making our streets nice and colourful, having a consistent colour scheme like this is so helpful in navigating a city. I hope this trend continues, and becomes standardised around the world.  Everyone uses public roads to one degree or another, and it’s nice to be able to understand safe ways to do so without much effort.

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