London Living Streets Fairer Pedestrian Crossings project update

Hundreds of crossings in London, like this one on Edgware Road, still have no green man for people walking.

by Mike Grahn, Robert Molteno and Alastair Hanton

The goal of the London Living Streets Fairer Pedestrian Crossings project is to rebalance the way in which London’s network of signalised road crossings is operated to give the best possible service and experience for those travelling on foot.

Activity to date

The project started in 2016 with a focus on reducing unnecessary ‘wait times’ at push-button signalised pedestrian crossings. This is the time between pushing the button and getting the green man signal.

In response to our representations, by early 2018 Transport for London (TfL) had piloted wait time reductions and included a comprehensive programme to optimise all 6,000+ of their signals for active travel in the London Mayor’s Walking Action Plan. Under this programme, substantial wait time reductions were being achieved at a substantial number of crossings.  

In autumn 2018, London Living Streets (LLS) worked together with the network managers at TfL to assess the impact of wait time reductions on crossing users. Almost 4,000 people using crossings were surveyed by LLS volunteers both before and after wait times had been adjusted at a representative sample of crossings.

The results showed that crossing users reported a significantly better experience in those cases where wait times had been reduced to 30 seconds or less (from up to 2 minutes) even though the vast majority of these people had not consciously noticed any change in the operation of the crossing.   

TfL’s crossing review programme is continuing at a rate of about 1,200 crossings a year.  In early 2019, TfL gave LLS members the opportunity to nominate particular crossings for inclusion in the review programme for 2019/20.  About 60 crossings were nominated of which a number have seen significant wait reductions.  

2020 call for wait-time crossing nominations 

TfL repeated their offer to prioritise LLS-nominated crossings for the 2020/21 programme.   This year we opened nominations to the broader group of LLS supporters by putting out a call on both our website and social media in early January.  Between January 8th and  January 13th we received 244 crossing nominations via the email address and a number more via Twitter and other means.

Thanks to all who responded with so much useful detail on problems at individual crossings. All nominations will be communicated to TfL and we’ll put updates on this website.   

Campaigns goals for 2020

Now that the wait time reduction work has been established as an on-going programme in co-operation with TfL, we have identified a number of areas for further action.  

Improve signalised junctions with missing pedestrian facilities on all or some arms

It’s great to be able to get shorter wait times at the crossings we use, but many people will have come across a junction with signals for motor traffic, but none for people on foot. 

These crossings provide no time to cross without having to dodge traffic. Because drivers have a green light, and may not be aware that there is no pedestrian signal, some motorists think that anyone crossing is wilfully getting in their way – and treat them accordingly. We would like to have a pedestrian phase at all those signalised junctions where people are walking.              

We have a list from TfL of some 239 crossings in London that have no pedestrian facilities at all. But there is no list of those junctions where a pedestrian signal is missing at one or more arms. We know of some sites already (the corner of Globe Road and Mike End Road by Stepney Green tube station is one example) and quite a few other sites have been highlighted by respondents to the wait time nominations call.  

Later this year we will be issuing a call for people to tell us of sites they know, so that we can get a better picture of the scale of the problem.   We can then push for action from TfL and the Boroughs.

Provide safe convenient crossings at all bus stop

Almost everyone using a bus has to cross an often busy street at least once in every return journey. A significant proportion of pedestrian injuries are associated with collisions around bus stops.  We will therefore campaign for the development and implementation of a standard for crossing provision at bus stop

Convert obsolete Pelican crossings to current standards

Of the mid-link (those not at a junction) pedestrian crossings in London, 902 are still of the old Pelican type. In these, the green man ‘invitation to cross’ phase is immediately followed by a flashing green man for pedestrians and flashing amber signal for motorists. Many motorists take this as a signal to move even though a person might still be crossing.

This type of crossing is no longer recommended for use in London and we propose to lobby TfL and the Boroughs to replace such crossings with the current ‘PedX’ standard.  In many cases, this can be done through reprogramming  alone without needing to change the physical infrastructure. 

Lobby for improved reporting methods and technical improvements

The wait time nomination call has informed us of a range of problems at pedestrian crossings. It is clear that people do not currently have a clear and simple way to communicate problems with crossings to the authorities.

We will press for TfL to develop and publicise an effective mechanism and use it to address problems such as:

  • the correction of  poor design and operating errors;
  • the provision of countdown where needed; and
  • the nomination of sites for new crossings.   

Through our work with TfL network managers we are developing an understanding of what should be the best practice to support people walking. Most signalised crossings in London are connected to a computerised control system that continually adjusts them in response to external signals.  The precise way in which the signals are programmed can make a big difference in how well they respond to pedestrians.

We will work with TfL to establish a standard for crossing programming that provides the best possible support for people on foot. We will also encourage and support TfL in developing imaginative new ways to operate crossings that further improve the walking experience.  

Please get in touch for more information or make a comment below.

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