Road Safety News

Elderly people struggling to cross the road in time

Thursday 5th October 2017

Elderly people are being left ‘isolated and embarrassed’ because they are unable to keep up with the green man on pedestrian crossings, new research has suggested.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University found that 85% women over 65 years of age cannot walk at the speed required to make it across the road before the lights change to red.

The findings were presented to the Scottish Parliament on 5 October by Glasgow Caledonian University's Professor Steultjens, who said that many older people don’t want to go into town anymore - and that crossing roads is one of the main reasons for that.

Crossing times at pedestrian lights are currently set in the expectation that a person is able to walk at a speed of 1.2m/s (roughly 2.7mph).

The findings were uncovered as part of preparations for a large-scale £1.8m study into rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers say a ‘small change’ to the timings of pedestrian crossings ‘could have a massive impact to the lives of many’.

Professor Steultjens, from Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Health and Life Sciences, said: “We know from speaking to patients that the issue makes them feel embarrassed and unsafe and is leading to social isolation for many. People just don’t want to go into town anymore and this is one of the main reasons given.

“A small change to the timing on the green man light could have a massive impact to the lives of many and social participation. 

“I do not feel this story about the many people suffering because of the green man is well enough known, and I think it is time that city centres consider whether they are catering for an ageing population and people who experience difficulties in walking.”

Category: Pedestrians.



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@ Mike Hancox - the current crossings do not require pedestrians to look down to see whether they have a green light to cross. Pedestrians have to look at the box that is situated cunningly in the direction from which the first cars will come. That means that there is an increased chance of them noticing a car not stopping despite their green light to cross. Looking across the road to see whether a green man is lit up doesn't help you to see the threat of a non-stopping car. Clever, isn't it?
David, Suffolk

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

On many if not all the new crossings placed at traffic lights near me, after the green man has disappeared there is still about 20/30 seconds delay before the lights change.

However whatever happened to the buzzer or bell that used to indicate to those suffering sight loss that the crossing was now available to them. On some they seem to have vanished completely together with the mechanism underneath that use to rotate indicating the same thing.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

I am fairly sure that Puffin crossings have sensors so that the lights for traffic remain Red until pedestrians are off the road. I find this article rather surprising - however, probably true for pelicans. Those struggling with how to use the 'new' puffins might check this

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

It is difficult to take these tech views seriously. Many of these ‘pedestrians facilities’ don’t work for peds. Fact is ‘the elderly’ (or anybody with a GCSE in common sense) will wait until they see stationery traffic at the stop line. There is so much abuse by vehicles that the green man is just a piece of data, along with the signal head and the vehicle (driver) behaviour. Experienced street users rely ultimately on their wits. So I support this research.
Peter Treadgold London

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

I think the old system where you could see the Green Man opposite was better. These days you have to look down to see the Green Man then check to see the road is clear before crossing. It is no wonder it takes longer to cross, it is probably just a confidence issue. It takes us older people longer to adapt to new systems, and they are not always for the better!
Mike Hancox, Warwick

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Of course there is technology which can sense pedestrian presence on crossings but the problem is that many people don't understand this. Without the reassurance of seeing the green man signal opposite whilst crossing there is a lack of confidence as shown in this timely report. These were also the findings of the SaMERU project into elderly pedestrian safety.
Kris Beuret, Leicester and London

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

This problem would be dealt with comprehensively by adopting the same rules for traffic signals that are used by almost every other country. Pedestrians are given a green signal at the same time as vehicles travelling in the same direction and with the requirement for drivers to yield to pedestrians when turning across their path.

The result would be that green man phases would last as almost long as the parallel traffic phase (with an early cut off to enable the junction to clear).

We have researched this proposal on behalf of British Cycling for their 'Turning the Corner' campaign as the same benefits would also extend to cyclists. Living Streets are strongly in support as this would meet the aims of their 'Time to Cross' campaign for longer green man times.
Phil Jones, Birmingham

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Pat: The DFt's Traffic Advisory leaflet 1/01 "Puffin Pedestrian Crossings" explains better than I can, how they work, but essentially whilst there necessarily is a fixed time for the green man phase, ped movement is monitored and if necessary this fixed time can be extended until the pedestrian has cleared the crossing. Similarly, the phase can also be shortened or cancelled if the peds have already cleared the crossing or walked away. For whatever reason, the 'research' in the article doesn't seem to acknowledge any of this.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

Consider a signal controlled crossing by a school at start and finish times or in a busy town centre. Pedestrians approach crossings sometimes in clusters sometimes in dribs and drabs and could easily keep the green man green for a disproportionate length of time unless the there is also a time limit. Ditto green signal for drivers. Highways Authorities job is to strike the right balance between different types of road users. The key is the the timings of various signal phases. HAs don't have to use the "default" settings.
Pat, Wales

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

When I was working Pat, I recall most if not all our ped crossings had above ground detectors for this very purpose and I had presumed it was, or was to become, mandatory and LAs were slowly but surely upgrading them - but evidently that's not the case. Their purpose I recall, was to sense any ped movement by the posts and on the crossing itself for more efficient operation. I had (mistakenly possibly) thought this was standard on Puffins and that LAs were encouraged to upgrade their Pelicans to avoid the problem mentioned in the article.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Pedestrian crossings can be fitted with pedestrian detection technology but it's purpose is not to keep the green man on. Sequences, phases and timings are programmable these days and can be adjusted by the relevant highways authority as they deem appropriate. When signals change they are accompanied by audible and visual warnings. Highway code rules 194 and 198 cover the situation instructing drivers to wait for people to complete their crossing.

Ask your local highways authority to re-assess crossing timings in locations that give you concern.
Pat, Wales

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought all the pedestrian controlled crossings by now had been upgraded to be able to detect ped movement across and hold the green man phase until it was clear? Was the research based on crossings without such detectors I wonder?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)