Why signalised crossings are important to Londoners on foot

Almost every Londoner is out and about on foot at some point in the day. And every trip involves roads they need to cross. This is the case whether people are commuting to and from work, or going to catch a bus,or getting children to school, or shopping in a local town centre and other concentration of local shops, or accessing facilities like libraries, leisure centres, health care centres and so on. Londoners walk more trips every day than use any other form of transport (car, bus, train, tube, cycle). Despite this, highway engineers, transport planners and councillors often take pedestrians for granted and do not remember this startling fact. 

All road intersections involve a competition between different kinds of travellers.  Drivers want to move across the path of other drivers going in a different direction at a junction. Buses (transporting up to 80 or so people in a single vehicle) are impeded by cars (often carrying only one occupant).  All drivers – whether in cars, buses, lorries or vans – are frustrated at the flow of pedestrians at a crossing holding them up. Hence the inevitable competition, particularly at crossings, over who gets how much time. And the danger (not so inevitable) of collisions and injuries.

It is therefore no wonder a disproportionate number of collisions between pedestrians and other road users often occur on or near signalised crossings. Pedestrians bear the brunt of collisions with motor vehicles. They are both the most numerous category of road user who become casualties and they have greater likelihood of sustaining serious injuries.

Pedestrians also have to wait for too long at most traffic signals. The Department for Transport still permits highway engineers to make pedestrians wait up to two whole minutes before being allowed to cross! In London, TfL is a bit better and tends limit wait time to no more than 1½ minutes.  Evidence shows, however, that pedestrians are more likely to cross the road regardless of the signals if they are made to wait more than half a minute.

Vulnerable pedestrians are also not given enough time to get across the road safely. The Department for Transport assumes a walking speed of nearly 3.5 mph (1.2 metres a second) which many older people, disabled persons, and carers with buggies and young children cannot do in practice. Download Transport Research Laboratory’s Review of Pedestrian Walking Speedsand Time Needed to Cross the Road here.

Making crossings that work for pedestrians, and not just for motor vehicles, is hugely important to Londoners.

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