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These signs are definitely there, but have you ever seen them?

By Peter Holmes

Two of the signs at the crossing outside Woolworths on Anson Street, Orange. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

One of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Orange is on Anson Street, linking the Woolworths car park with Orange City Centre.

With a steady flow of vehicular and foot traffic, it's a crossing that can quickly become banked up with cars, utes and small trucks merging into one lane, as dribs and drabs of pedestrians cross randomly.

It's not unusual to see cars waiting as one pedestrian exits the crossing, only for another one or two to enter from the same side. Rinse and repeat.

One of the signs. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Somewhere along the way, a bright spark came up with an idea to improve traffic flow - put up signs asking pedestrians to wait for other pedestrians before heading across the zebra stripes, so as to minimise the chance of cars banking up to Summer Street.

The signs were installed, but have they had an impact?

Is there any pedestrian in Orange who has stopped - particularly during peak travel times in the morning and evening - and waited for other pedestrians to pool in a group before crossing?

Is there anyone who has seen anyone else do this?

Or heard through family folklore of someone who stopped and waited for others before crossing?

This is not a story of blame or judgement, merely one of curiosity.

Do we see the signs and think "stuff that, me first"? Or do we simply not see them at all? They are there, but they are not.

In an entirely unscientific study I asked numerous people if they'd ever noticed the signs.

Not one recalled ever having seen them.

Maybe my sample was all out of whack and in fact most of the town stops and waits.

Or maybe not.

In 2017 The New York Times reported on a study looking at why people often don't notice things that are right in front of them.

It found that the scale of an item relative to its surroundings plays a role in whether we notice it (the story we've linked out to above has a great example with a toothbrush - I didn't spot it).

“What we pay attention to is largely determined by our expectations of what should be present,” Christopher Chabris, a cognitive psychologist and co-author of The Invisible Gorilla, told The Times.

"Relative size is just one of many pieces of information that contribute to our expectations.

"Without expecting something, we’re unlikely to pay attention to it ... when we are not paying attention to something, we are surprisingly likely to not see it.”

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