Traffic lights could stay red for longer to
help pensioners cross roads
Transport ministers are reviewing crossing times across the country following concerns that
some pedestrians do not have enough time to negotiate busy roads.
  by Peter Dominiczak and Nick Collins
10:00PM BST 08 May 2014
Ministers are reviewing crossing times across the country Photo: ALAMY

Traffic lights will stay red for longer under plans being drawn up by ministers to give Britain's ageing population longer to cross the road.

Ministers are “urgently” reviewing crossing times across the country following concerns that some pedestrians do not have enough time to negotiate busy roads.
Robert Goodwill, a transport minister, said that more crossing systems will in future include sensors so that the traffic lights stay red for longer if someone is taking a long time to cross the street.
It is part of the biggest change to street crossings for around 20 years.
Under the plans, traditional “Pelican” crossings, which display a flashing “green man” on a traffic light on the opposite side of the road, are due to be phased out next year.
The will be replaced by “Puffin” crossings with sensors that extend the time that the “green man” flashes for if it detects someone taking a longer-than-average time to cross the road.
However, officials are also considering plans from Transport for London for a new type of crossing that detects how many people are waiting on the pavement in order to determine how long traffic needs to be stopped for.
The time given to cross the road has not been revised since the 1950s despite the nation's ageing population.
Researchers from University College London last year found that most people over the age of 65 walk far slower than the estimate of 1.2 metres per second which forms the basis for crossings.
On average men over the age of 65 walk at 0.9m/s and women move at 0.8m/s, meaning around 7.5 million people do not have enough time to cross the road safely, not including children or people with mobility issues.
Asked by Natascha Engel, the Labour MP for North East Derbyshire, if he will “urgently” review the situation because of pensioners “struggling” to cross roads, Mr Goodwill yesterday said: “I certainly will. We are reviewing the situation. The green man is an invitation to cross.
“When the green man is extinguished, there is still time to cross. The updated puffin crossings have movement detectors, which allow extra time to be given. We are looking at other types of crossing as well, which will further improve the situation.”
A Government source said: “It is right that we look at how we can use better technology to make crossing safer – particularly for some elderly or vulnerable pedestrians who may welcome slightly more crossing time.”
However, Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, expressed concern that the measures could slow traffic.
“I would prefer to see more of the countdowns which are a quite good indicator of your chances of getting across,” he said.
“I think it stands to reason [that it will cause delays to traffic]. If you are stuck behind the first person in a queue at a red light and they move away slowly you can imagine the consequences for the junction. One second here is two to three cars less through the signal.”
As part of the proposals, the transport department has also proposed a new type of zebra crossing which could be used by both pedestrians and cyclists.
“Toucan” crossings already permit both cyclists and pedestrians to cross together but unlike zebra crossings they are fitted with traffic lights, reducing the risk of accidents.
“This shared-use crossing uses the familiar zebra crossing layout for pedestrians with a parallel cycle route indicated by ‘elephant’s footprint’ markings, zig-zags and yellow globes,” Government guidance states.
Mr Watters warned that the crossings could result in collisions between pedestrians and cyclists.
“The danger is that pedestrians invariably cross inside the zig-zags, not on the crossing itself,” he said. “There are a lot of zebra crossing accidents which are not actually on the zebra crossing but are within the confines of it.”
It comes as figures showed that the return of "white van man" to Britain's roads has prompted the sharpest increase in traffic since 2008, providing further signs that the economy is recovering.
Vehicles on British roads covered an estimated 78.5 billion miles between January and March, a 4.1 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, according to a government report published on Thursday.
The increase, which came in spite of extensive flooding across several regions of Britain, was the highest since 2008 when road traffic in Britain was at its peak.
Vans saw the biggest rise, with traffic levels 7.3 per cent higher than last year, with motoring groups claiming the figures signal the growth of small businesses.
Unfortunately, the 'ministers' of Lake Geneva are more interested in the revenue of fleecing the tourists for parking fees than they are in helping us cross the streets. Can we have lights at the junction of Geneva and Broad Streets, please? Hahaha (he says without hope or amusement)! Adopt Oxford's (in England) residents' only parking policy (where the out-of-town car parks don't stop the tourists wandering around).
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