Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Early traffic control in Auckland: 1919-1924

More from Equal to the Task by Alan Woolston.

In 1919, it was illegal under Auckland City Council bylaw not to sound the horn of a motor-car when approaching intersections or junctions. The NZ Automobile Association criticised the bylaw: “If every car passing every intersection was required to sound a horn it would result in a proper babble of noise.”

By 1922, the seven-man traffic department’s duties were:

Issue licenses and vehicle registrations
Inspect licensed vehicles
Supervise all Traffic Licensing and test all Driver’s Certificate applicants
Conduct Point Duty at intersections in the absence of the Police
Inspect all amusement parlours
Collect Heavy Traffic fees
Supervise omnibus services
Supervise traffic entering and leaving the city’s racecourses
Conduct general traffic control

In the same year, the first “mechanical traffic control apparatus” was installed at two city intersections: Queen/Wellesley Streets and Karangahape Road/Symonds Street. These were described thus:
“Four short arms placed at right angles and facing the four approaches to an intersection are fixed to the top of a standard which may be attached to a tramway pole or fitted into a socket into the ground. The arms are painted red and each has the word “go” painted distinctly in white on one side and [“stop”] on the reverse. It is worked manually by the Constable on duty.”

The white lines painted on central city footpaths to ensure that pedestrians “kept left” (I remember these still there in the early 1970s) dated from 1922 as well.

In 1924, the Chief Traffic Inspector returned from Australia with a new idea for the city’s intersections: painting a white line across each “leg” of an intersection, and requiring vehicles to stop behind this line until signaled to go by a pointsman.

In the same year, regulations came into effect under the Motor Vehicle Act which made it illegal to be intoxicated while in charge of a motor vehicle – but proof of said intoxication was based “on an officer’s subjective observation of a driver.” The same act brought in national registration for motor vehicles, replacing local authority registration.

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