Australia’s first kosher pedestrian crossings will feature hi-tech detection sensors, allowing Frum Jews to cross busy Sydney streets safely during Shabbos. Waverley and Woollahra councils are expected to install the devices at two intersections in Old South Head Rd at a cost of $19,800, after the Roads and Traffic Authority rejected a plan to re-program traffic lights.
The RTA has offered to pay one-third of the total cost, however, with the two councils sharing the rest.
(Pressing a button on the Sabbath – the period of rest between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday – is considered a breach of religious law by Orthodox Jews.)
This has created safety fears as members of eastern Sydney’s large Orthodox community dodge traffic on the way to and from local Shuls.
The councils had proposed re-programming traffic lights to create regular, automated pedestrian-signal changes at the Victoria Rd and Penkivil St intersections at a cost of $1000 each.
But the RTA said this would create unacceptable traffic delays and foster “red light running behaviour”.
“Public transport would be particularly disadvantaged, as the periods requested coincide with the Friday-afternoon commuter and Saturday-morning shopping peaks,” it said in a letter to Waverley Council.
Instead, the RTA proposed a more expensive compromise solution, despite admitting it was “not an authority” on Orthodox religious law.
“The RTA is in possession of a new technology which passively detects pedestrians waiting to cross at signalised crossings,” the letter said.
“This detection method doesn’t involve any conscious decision to activate the signalised crossing phase by the pedestrians – and the precise location of the detectors wouldn’t be apparent to them.”
Rabbi Dovid Slavin, from Bondi, told The Sunday Telegraph he was seeking more information about how the new crossing system would work.
He said the compromise solution’s compliance with religious law could depend on whether it worked with infra-red motion sensors or with heat sensors.
Rabbi Slavin said he had offered to pay the $1000 cost of the initial proposal.