UK Politics

'Longer red lights' mooted to help vulnerable pedestrians

Pedestrian crossing in London
Image caption Pelican crossings are set to disappear over the next 20 years

Pedestrians could be given more time to cross the road as part of an overhaul of crossings aimed at improving safety.

Traditional pelican crossings are set to be phased out and replaced by more modern systems, which use a combination of sensors and countdown systems to monitor and control traffic.

It is aimed at helping "vulnerable pedestrians" such as elderly people and those with reduced mobility.

Transport officials said pelicans were "outdated".

Pelican crossings, which rely on a familiar series of colour-coded signals to control pedestrian traffic, have been a familiar sight on Britain's roads for more than 40 years.

But a Department for Transport consultation on the future of pedestrian crossings, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, suggests they will be phased out over the course of the next 15 to 20 years.

They will be replaced by a countdown system similar to those seen in the United States, which are already being used in London, or by a puffin crossing.

The countdown system does not use the traditional flashing "green man" symbol to tell pedestrians when to cross.

The puffin crossing has a "green man" but it is on the control box next to the pedestrian rather than on the far side of the road.

'Considerably safer'

Under government plans, councils would no longer be required to use pelican crossings but will be allowed to keep existing ones until they become technologically obsolete - expected some time in the 2030s.

It is expected that more modern puffin crossings - which use in-built sensors and pedestrian detectors to monitor traffic flows as well as flashing signals - will become the standard in the UK.

By using puffin crossings, councils can vary the length of time that pedestrians have to cross from 20 seconds to a maximum of one minute, depending on where the crossing is located.

The government says research shows that puffin crossings are "considerably safer" than pelican crossings, since they give people extra time to cross the road if needed.

"This is especially useful to more vulnerable pedestrians, such as older people, and people with mobility options," the government's consultation says.

The number of pelican crossings has been declining in favour of more modern crossings and many councils now regard puffin crossings as their "default" option, the consultation adds.

'Extra time'

As a result, the government is proposing that pelican crossing will no longer be "prescribed" and are expected to disappear from the UK's roads over the next few decades.

But the consultation stresses that the change will not happen overnight.

"Local authorities will not be required to remove or replace any crossing and existing pelican crossings can stay in place until the equipment naturally reaches the end of its life," it says.

"In most cases, this is about 15-20 years."

The Department for Transport said a final decision would be made later this year.

"We are currently consulting on proposals to phase out pelican crossings which are becoming outdated and replace with puffin crossings," a spokesman said.

"These use detectors to monitor the crossing, which gives pedestrians extra time to cross safely if needed."

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