Green man 'too fast for slow elderly'


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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    A simple, and probably vastly expensive solution to this matter is to turn all exisiting crossings to "Puffin" crossings. They monitor a pedestrian's presence. If the button has been pressed but you cross prematurely, they cancel. Most importantly, when the green man does appear, sensors keep the traffic lights red until the pedestrian has crossed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I think the information on the ped box should use countdown tech as many drivers dont fully understand when late rosser still have the right to cross!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I thought it was all part of a government sponsored culling scheme to lower the level of payouts in pensions.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It's terrible how we've become used to letting careless and impatient motorists terrorise our streets. This research is not about deaths and injuries, it's about people too terrified to cross the road. Let motorists drive fast on motorways, but where people live and work motor vehicles should slow down and defer to people. 20's Plenty!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.


    "...Problem is, cars do begin to move too soon..."


    No. This is the real world, not Thomas-The-Tank-Engine-Land.

    Cars do not move too soon. Their cruddish drivers make them do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Las Vegas has very long periods for pedestrians to cross as they have a very large number of elderly visitors.
    A good compromise is to extend the flashing amber to allow slower pedestrians more time when needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I've been crossing a road with my 4 year old and had two lanes of traffic move off whilst we're still in the middle. When I remonstrated with one driver he swore at me - many drivers think that if a pedestrian is on a crossing (at lights or at a zebra), they can still drive across it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Clearly they did not do the analysis in Reading. Even my 82 year old dad who's had an op to insert a new knee and cant walk very easily remarked about how he could cross the road and back again before the lights changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Well the problem's surely drivers then, isn't it?

    If I'm waiting at a crossing, and the lights change to flashing amber, I do not commit murder by driving at anyone in the road, whether they then go green or not.

    I'd have thought all that's needed, is to remind the cretins among motorists, of the offences, such as GBH, manslaughter and murder they would be committing by behaving like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The green traffic light means go if it is safe. Not run over any old person still on the crossing.
    Enforcement and training for drivers is what is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    When out on my motorbike last week a little old boy started crossing as soon as the lights turned red, when the went green he was less than 1/4 of the way across, nobody moved (not even me with more space than most being thinner) bless him when he got to the other side he stopped to thank us all for waiting, which he shouldn't have felt compelled to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The biggest problem the elderly face is being moan down by cyclists ignoring the traffics lights. Dozens of pensioners are seriously injured every year because of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    4 Minutes ago
    How many old people are knocked down on crossings. Not heard of one so this is a no no article, ans I am an OAP

    ... well I don't know how many but I do know that two OAPs have been killed on a crossing not far from me (at different times).

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    You can waste your life waiting at crossings and when they change you get what 10 seconds. There are also too many combinations of types of crossing, some with beepers some without, the green man is over there on some, down here on others and the street furniture and safety railings often obscure the pedestrian from the drivers view especially at Zebra crossings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The green man is not on for long enough as I have recently found out. I have fractured my ankle and am on crutches and a when I have been out I have not been able to get across roads before the lights change back to green and have had traffic inching towards me whilst still on the crossing! I think the green man should be timed for the least able people, not the average person!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    re 15. Have some consideration. There are people on walking sticks/frames,toddlers, pushchairs etc who will not be able to run. Not only do many drivers cross on amber but on red too. When I cross the road I always check to see if the drivers stops, it then takes time to cross. As there is no warning the lights are changing to amber its sometimes understandable but NOT on red.Poss a warning light

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.


    "When the Green Man is flashing it means the lights are about to change to allow the traffic to move again and you should not begin to cross the road. "

    Problem is, cars do begin to move too soon, humps would prevent deaths and injuries.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    How many old people are knocked down on crossings. Not heard of one so this is a no no article, ans I am an OAP

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    There are crossings near me where there is only enough time to cross if you set off the second the man goes green. I walk quickly as well. Newcastle council have installed several new sets of lights recently. These often don't beep at all which, as the red/green men are beside the pedestrian rather than opposite, delays the start of crossing. There are others which only turn green with no traffic

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I am in agreement with all those below, please mention that it is the Drivers that need to take care, on the old zebra crossings - as soon as someone set foot on to the crossing - the cars stopped and did not start again until the pedestrian was safely across- do the same rules not apply to pelican crossings? - I thought they did! :+)


Page 8 of 9


More Health stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.