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 180.

    Are you kidding me? I'm 24 and often they're too fast for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Try crossing the roads in Copenhagen. But, at least the elderly do have islands they can rest in. As an elderly person with arthritis, I only managed halfway across the crossing. but, there was somewhere to wait , in safety,m not like UK, where you take your life in your hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    If a person is standing in the road with a green traffic light it is still illegal for the car to run them over.

    Most 65+ can cross in the time (there will always be some people who'll struggle with any time limit). It's the teenagers who throw themselves in front of cars who can't be bother to walk to crossing most at risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    The elderly - aren't they those people who have loads of time on their hands and who wander round shopping centres all day ? Surely they could all do us all a favour and simply only go out when everyone else is at work ? Not too much to ask is it dear ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    May I remind drivers that any Green light or indeed a flashing amber does not give them the right to continue. The rules are that if there is a pedestrian on the crossing you wait irrespective of the light.
    Read the Highway Code or even better use common sense.
    I wonder if you would act differently if it was a family member on the crossing?

  • Comment number 175.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    People just don't know the Highway Code. Maybe spikes should rise from the tarmac when the green man is shown and the amber lights flash to prevent cars from shooting the gun, a burst tyre would soon instill a bit of patience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.


    "It's not just the elderly. I am only in my 40's and yet I often don't get to the otherside before the green man turns red. I cannot walk fast or run due to MS."

    The green man is only there to allow you to step onto the crossing. After that, the vehicles must wait for you to completely cross. It's the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Drivers and pedestrians need to be aware that it is actually illegal to mow someone down, regardless of what colour man is flashing; this would help a lot, The car shown in the clip is clearly being driven by a knob

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    158 WiseOldBob - But then it's not the driver's fault, it's the company who made the sat-nav that's at fault, and therefore they can be sued. Everybody wins!

    Well, apart from the guy that gets killed I suppose...

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Many factors affect crossing speed. How many people want to cross, how many are coming in the opposite direction, how many mobility scooters and children are in the mix etc without including the elderly and infirm. There would be little problem except that too many motorists become impatient as soon as they get behind a wheel and forget they also have to walk even if its only to and from their car

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    The lady featured in the report is a neighbour of ours. She is always causing mischief. A few weeks ago she appeared in the local press complaining about how ice cream vans don't wait long enough. "By the time you've found your purse, they've driven off" she said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    It's not really about the crossing time - it's the impatient drivers. The crossing was clearly still flashing amber when the car moved off, and the lady was still crossing. That's a traffic violation, surely? Will the BBC be reporting it, and handing over the video evidence? It's a shame they didn't notice it or mention it in the report. An indication that people don't know the rules perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Why no redesign the crossing so the pedestrians get the green man and motorists have to stop, press the button then wait (sometimes for a whole cycle of the lights) before being allowed to proceed......

    In reality motorists already get a degree of priority over pedestrians; waiting for anybody finish their crossing on the flashing yellow isn't much to either ask or expect.

    (I am a motorist).

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    @153. Also we have lost the 'beeps' lately, that assist blind pedestrians.

    Where there is a two part crossing the beeps cannot be used lest a blind person crossing on the wrong set of beeps. However, if you place you hand under the yellow button box there is a knurled knob that rotates when the green man is up.

    Of course a blind person has to find the yellow button box first.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    It's not just the elderly. I am only in my 40's and yet I often don't get to the otherside before the green man turns red. I cannot walk fast or run due to MS. I understand the motorists want to get to where they are going quickly but what is an extra 20 seconds added on to the journey? Most motorists give me dirty looks when I cross because I don't have a visible disability or look elderly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Hasn't the article missed the obvious? It seems to assume that when the light goes green for traffic, then traffic must go. Green does NOT mean go! It means you can go if the way is clear - if someone is still crossing them the way is not clear, so you don't go. Same applies to not blocking junctions, but that's a different topic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Watching the report the issue appears to be more of enforcement than sufficient time to cross. If a pedestrian is on the crossing when the road traffic light changes from red to flashing then traffic should remain stationary until the crossing is clear.

    However, if motorists continue to ignore the highway code then a longer red phase may well be needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Maybe some people deserve more time to cross. But at the same time can we have penalties for the idiots who stop at a pelical crossing, press the button and cross immediately because the road is clear - so that approaching traffic is then stopped for no reason. I'm sure they're the same ones who will leave a supermarket trolley in the one available car parking space. Yes! You know who you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    It is not the green man that is at fault. As everyone knows it only turns red when you should not START to cross. The flashing amber then dictates to the driver they may continue ONLY when the pedestrians have crossed, plenty of time for the slowcoaches to make their way over BEFORE the traffic light turns green.


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