What’s wrong with London’s signalised crossings?

London Living Streets campaigns to improve London’s crossings. Here are some of the main challenges we have identified:

  • Too little time to cross

Particularly vulnerable road users – older people, those with physical disabilities, and carers with push-chairs and small childen in tow – often find that the time allowed to cross is insufficient. This creates anxiety on their part and may even give rise to situations where their road safety is jeopardised.  More time to cross was the most requested item in our survey of crossing users.   The time allowed for people to cross is governed by guidance from the Department of Transport.  It appears to be based on 50-year-old measurements of the walking speed of US college students and is clearly insufficient for many users.  Living Streets has been campaigning for this to reviewed and has commissioned this report setting out the case.

  • Long wait Times

The time taken between pressing the  button and the green man signal appearing is often far too long.   There is considerable evidence from observations, laboratory studies and our own survey that people are not comfortable with waits of more than 20 to 30 seconds.  After this time, people will start to cross as soon as they see an opportunity, even though motor traffic has not been stopped.  TfLs own figures show that around 80% of  London pedestrians are crossing on a red man.  Once one person has started to cross, others waiting are naturally drawn to follow even though this puts them at risk.  

London Living Streets has actively campaigned for TfL to reduce wait times and so we were very pleased that Transport for London introduced a programme of wait time reviews and reduction targets as part of its Walking Action Plan published in 2018.    This programme represents the first time the highway authority has given active travellers (those walking, cycling and bus passengers) priority over motor traffic in the operation of its traffic signals.  The full programme started in May 2019 an in the first 6 months, some 606 signals have been reviewed. Pedestrian benefits (ie time saved) are now being delivered on 225 of these crossings. At these locations, pedestrians are being saved 1,256 hours a day (calculated by the number of minutes over 24 hours by which wait times have been reduced at each signalised crossing multiplied by the number of pedestrians using that crossing). 

  • Signalised Junctions without any pedestrian crossing facilities

There are 239 signalised junctions in London without any facilities for pedestrians to cross.  A proportion of these are on large mutli-lane, motorrway-style roads with no pedestrian access, but many are on ordinary streets with large numbers of  people on foot.   An egregious example is where Battersea Bridge Road intersects with Cheyne Walk and Beaufort Street in Chelsea. This hugely busy junction of two A Roads has no signalised pedestrian crossing on any arm. This cuts people in Chelsea off from the Thames Path along the south bank of the River and from their nearest large green space – Battersea Park. It makes it equally dangerous for people to walk along the north bank. 

 We are looking at each of these sites to see whether there is a case for installing pedestrian crossings at some of these junctions. 

  • Signalised Junctions missing pedestrian crossings on some arms  Some signalised junctions provide crossing facilities on only some of the roads they serve.    These sites cannot be identified in the current databases, so we do not know the size of the problem.  We are therefore asking  the public to let us know when they come across a junction that is missing a pedestrian signal at a place where people need to cross.  
  •  Outdated Pelican crossings  

There are 902 of these first generation crossings left in London. Introduced in 1969, they are no longer recommended byTransport for London.  Yetone in seven London’s signalised pedestrian crossings are these out of date Pelicans.

The problem for pedestrians is that, without any warning, the Green Man allowing people to cross starts flashing even though pedestrians may still be just starting to cross the carriageway; simultaneously the signals for the motor traffic switch to flashing amber. This encourages vehicles to proceed provided they do not actually have a pedestrian in front of them. Pedestrians, particularly vulnerable road users, can therefore be made anxious when they suddenly see traffic proceeding across their path in front of them. Their safety may actually be in danger as they try and scuttle across.  We are campaigning for these to be replaced with modern PedX crossings equpped with Countdown where appropriate. 

  • Over 4,000 Signalised Crossings have no Countdown Indicators: Countdown Indicators show pedestrians how many seconds they still have to get across the carriageway. During our London Living Streets Pedestrian Crossings Research Project, installating Countdown Indicators was the second most frequently mentioned ‘ask’ by pedestrians. Current TfL policy is to install these Indicators on every new signalised crossing being built or when a crossing is being upgraded. But there are only some 200 (quite possibly considerably less) being installed each year. That means it’ll be at least 20 years before all London crossings have Countdown Indicators. We are asking for TfL to develop clear criteria for the prioritisation of crossings to have Countdown installed based on pedestrian benefit. 
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