Green man 'too fast for slow elderly'


The BBC looks at what happens when Anita, who is in her 80s, uses a pelican crossing

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Pedestrian crossings do not allow older people enough time to cross the road, a report warns.

The study found that for those over the age of 65, 76% of men and 85% of women have a walking speed slower than that needed to use a pedestrian crossing.

This speed is set by the Department for Transport at 4ft (1.2m) per second - an international standard.

The work, published in the journal Age and Ageing, calls for current pedestrian times to be reviewed.

Local transport minister Norman Baker said: "In my experience, the vast majority of people, young or old, get across the road as quickly as they can.

"The department recommends that where a crossing may be used by a large number of older people or those with mobility issues, for example outside residential care homes, this should be taken into account in the timings set by local authorities."

Speed tests

Dr Laura Asher, report leader and public health expert at University College London, said: "Walking is an important activity for older people as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits.

"Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services and shops that are all important in day-to-day life.

"Having insufficient time at a road crossing may not increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities but it will certainly deter this group from even trying to cross the road."

Start Quote

The formula councils use for timings at pedestrian crossings actually gives people far longer to cross the road than this flawed research suggests”

End Quote Peter Box, Local Government Association

She added: "The groups of people identified in this study as the most vulnerable were those living in deprived areas - those least likely to have access to other, more expensive, forms of transport."

The study used walking speed tests from around 3,000 older adults performed by the Health Survey (HSE) for England in 2005.

The participant's normal walking speed was assessed by timing how long it took them to walk 8ft (2.5m) at their normal pace.

The average walking speed for older men was 3 ft (0.9m) per second and 2.6ft per second for older women.

Dr Asher said: "By testing people in the general population rather than those already using a pedestrian crossing, we have included people who may have difficulty using a pedestrian crossing and are therefore unwilling to use them."

'Countdown' display

The lights at pedestrian crossing have a number of stages.

On an average road, the green man will stay lit for around 4 seconds. It then has a flashing or blackout stage for around 6 seconds. For roads more than 20ft (6m) wide, an extra second is added for each additional 4ft (1.2m).

After this there are an extra few seconds of an all-red light as a safety margin.

Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "The formula councils use for timings at pedestrian crossings actually gives people far longer to cross the road than this flawed research suggests.

"Timings have to strike a balance between traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but the emphasis is always on safety."

He said timings could be altered to take local circumstances into account, for example if there is a care home nearby.

To help pedestrians cross the road, Transport for London had been introducing "pedestrian countdown" technology to the capital.

This aims to help those crossing the road to be able to better judge whether they have enough time to do so safely - a digital display counts down between the end of the green man signal and the red man appearing, rather than just a flashing green man or blackout period.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Where i live after pushing the button you have to wait about 5 minutes for the green man and then it`s a free for all as you have seconds to get across the road before running the risk of being knocked down by impatient drivers. Reminiscent of the game "frogger".

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    In my experience many elderly people don't bother with pedestrian crossings and just step into the road expecting the the traffic to stop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Maybe advert reminding that amber flashing means let the pedestrian cross, Maybe increase the time for the amber flashing as it is intensely frustrating to wait at a red light for a pedestrian crossing and there is no one crossing. Possibly even shorten the red light but increase the amber. This way one would reduce congestion too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As a driver you have to wait for people anyway
    The green man is only to let people onto the road

    What are you going to do? Run them over??

    The primary responsibility of any driver is not to run people over and not to crash, no matter what any darned light says, and always be courteous

    I've been driving 6 days a week for 10 years in heavy city traffic

    Blind obedience to lights is not enough

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    And they will likely be the last to start crossing in a green phase because of being elbowed out of the way by younger crossing users. It is not justthe elderly this must apply to but also those with disabilities , injuries or walking with small children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    It's still illegal to run people over right? So, if anyone is crossing, even if the lights have cycled you can't just run them over. But taking these figures an old person walks at 0.9m/s if 6m is "wide" for a road that's under 7s to cross and the lights are set for 15s already. So unless I'm wrong that's plenty of time to cross using their own figure?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Vehicles are not supposed to move off until the GREEN light comes on. If a pedestrian is on the crossing when the light changes to flashing yellow vehicles are supposed to remain stationery...if al drivers abided by the law on this pedestrians would have the time to cross...just another increase in selfishness from drivers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Technology can solve this problem. In SIngapore the authorities are considering adding a feature to enable ID cards (which everyone in Singapore has) to interface with traffic crossing signs. When an ID card of a person who is, say, over 70, communicates with a traffic crossing, then the lights will automatically change timing to allow more time for that person to cross.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It isn't just walking speed: vulnerable peole can take seconds to realise they can set off to cross, and can be slow making the first step if there is a change of footing. They are not straining at the start, waiting like athletes for the gun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    So because one group take longer to cross we have to lengthen the timings forcing traffic to wait longer, increasing congestion, and wasting more fuel as a result? Just put a loud hailer on shouting "GOGOGOGOGO! MOVE IT MOVE IT! NOWNOWNOW! ARRRGHHH!". I'll even provide the recording if you like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    What kind of country do we live in where drivers will start their car and drive into an elderley or disabled pedestrian? Drivers need to be aware that they do NOT have the right to endanger lives. Dangerous driving is a criminal offence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Was wondering whether someone reporting the news could actually draw attention to the driver in the clip who SHOULD NOT be moving on the flashing amber until the pedestrian has reached the kerb. The flashing amber gives more time to cross! PLEASE everyone, read the Highway Code.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    A simple cost free solution is to change the Law so that Pedestrians have absolute priority over other traffic within a 30 limit. Plus make it a simple 10 year disqual for hitting a pedestrian on a crossing , whatever lights show.
    Time to give the roads back to people not machines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I walk very very fast and I barely make it across.

    10 secs or over available to cross?

    When flashing, the motorist has the upper-hand, perhaps favour the pedestrian instead.

    Put humps before every crossing, forcing motorists to slow down and illiminate deaths or injuries caused on crossings.

    I guess peoples journeys are more important than peoples lives so that's a no-brainer, eh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    At last! This could be an Olympic event that's interesting to watch!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    this is so funny. whether or not the crossing is timed correctly any driver with common sense would allow a pedestrian to get to the pavement before they move across the crossing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    As it's an international standard, maybe people just need to speed up, obviously other countires do not have the issue or it wouldn't be used worlwide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    It took a study to find this out ? For crying out loud !

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Despite being a healthy and able-bodied adult, Ive found that even I have difficulty crossing some roads within the signal time.
    One outside of a previous residence in Preston was on a typical two-lane road, yet the timer only allowed a fast-walker like myself to cross ONE lane before the signal stopped, & only a second more before the lights changed! I completely sympathise with anyone less able.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Having visited London a number of times recently, I can say that I've seen the countdown timers on crossings. But given that most people try to cross the road as quickly as possible I'd suggest that it really only helps those who want to run across at the last moment.


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