Wandsworth Living Streets was one of the participants in a ‘dragon’s den’ session organised jointly by London Sustainability Exchange and the UCL (University College London) Engineering Exchange to identify ways in which new technologies can meet the challenges of maintaining health and well being in our ageing population. Improving Pedestrians’ experience of Road Crossings
Our idea was to improve pedestrians’experience at signal-controlled road crossings by making sure that the technology was designed to work with the way people actually use crossings. We took the example of the often long delay between a pedestrian pushing the button at a crossing and the lights actually changing. Often people take a chance to cross well before the lights change, leaving motorists frustrated by a red light and an empty crossing. This can, however, put people at risk, particularly if other people who may not be quite so nimble follow the first person across when the Green Man has not yet switched on. What’s more, those who choose to wait (often the less confident and the elderly) are left feeling undervalued and disadvantaged. All this combines to increase road danger and the physical and social isolation of those who cannot cross roads quickly.
It appears that traffic engineers design crossings with these delays for pedestrians in the belief that it will enable them to gather and then cross at once, so increasing the efficiency of the crossing. However, our preliminary observations suggest that it merely encourages people to run across on red whilst frustrating those who are not confident to do this.
Our suggestion for a project is therefore to gather evidence as to whether this is a problem and to prove to engineers that the removal of long delays for pedestrians can be achieved without bringing motor traffic to a standstill. To do this we will have to link up with experts and record people’s behaviour and experiences at a sample of crossings.
To our delight, our project was voted joint top at the event, and we were awarded funding of £1,500 in order to get the study underway. This is now being done – look out for regular activity reports.