Millions of older and disabled people across the UK stand to benefit from more time to cross at traffic lights, thanks to new government guidance.  


Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking has campaigned for longer crossing times since 2014. Currently the time the ‘green man’ spends flashing (the clearance time) is based on an assumed universal walking speed of 1.2 metres per second – this was calculated in the 1950s and hasn’t changed since. 


A study by researchers at University College London (2012) showed that most older adults in the UK can’t walk fast enough to use pedestrian crossings safely. After looking at Health Survey for England (2005) data, the team found that for over 65s the average walking speed was 0.9 m/s for men and 0.8 m/s for women. Furthermore, 84 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women over 65 had a walking impairment.  


Family waiting to cross

Living Streets’ Time to Cross campaign called on the Government to review its guidance to give pedestrians an extra three seconds to cross the road – assuming a walking speed of 0.8m/s. 


Earlier this month, the Government published the long-awaited chapter 6 of its Traffic Signs Manual: Traffic Control. It tells UK highway engineers how to set up pedestrian crossings at traffic lights (signalised crossings). It now advises that pedestrian clearance time may be calculated assuming a slower walking speed of 1m/s.


Dr Rachel Lee, Policy Coordinator, Living Streets said:  


“We’ve been calling for the flexibility to adjust crossing times to protect people walking for years. Older adults, those living with mobility issues and young children can all need more time to cross the road. 


“We’re thrilled that with our supporters we have successfully campaigned to make safer crossings a reality. Although it is not the three seconds we asked for, it is definitely a step in the right direction. 


“The emphasis throughout the guidance is on pedestrian experience, with the hierarchy of provision placing pedestrians at the top and motor traffic at the bottom. It brings fresh hope as we come to the end of our 90th anniversary year that the needs of people on foot are being considered and designed for.” 


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