Friday, 15 July 2011

City of London politicians ask 58% of people on foot to wait for 2% of people in cars. How car-sick have we become?

Next week, the City of London Streets & Walkways Committee will vote on whether or not to replace the zebra crossing in front of St Paul's with a traffic light.

You can just spot the belisha beacons of the zebra crossing just in front of St Paul's in the picture on the left.

Why are the politicians of the City of London wasting their time looking at this pedestrian crossing? Guess why? It's because a few people in cars want to make this a junction where cars have priority. This is what the report states: "criticism has focussed upon the perceived impact of the crossing in terms of the delay it is thought to cause to motorised traffic due to the pedestrian priority"

In other words, some people who use motor vehicles want to install a signal here because they think they shouldn't face delays and that those delays should be suffered by other people who are not in motor vehicles.

Fortunately, the officers of the City of London have done their homework. They recommend not installing traffic lights here and leaving the pedestrian crossing.

They recommend leaving the zebra crossing because a whopping 58% of people at this junction are on foot. A further 30% are in buses. Only 2% are in private cars, 6% in taxis.

In other words, the politicians have asked their officers consider whether or not to prioritise 8% of people in motor cars (cars and taxis) versus 58% of people on foot.

Installing a traffic signal here would result in the following:
It would be an utter scandal if the City's politicians voted in favour of a signal crossing here just to enable the tiny minority of people in motor vehicles to face slightly less delay.

Frankly, my own view is that it's farcical that the politicians are able to waste their officers time even researching this issue. The junction was last review in 2007. It's obvious to anyone who isn't in a motor car (98% of people) what the reality of this junction is and it can only be someone with no understanding whatsoever of the Square Mile who can think otherwise.

However, at least the City of London has the good sense to hire officers who look at congestion and consider its implications for people as a whole. According to this report, a person has equal right to avoid delays whether on foot, on a cycle, in a bus or in a taxi.

This is the exact opposite of what the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is allowing Transport for London to get away with on London's main road network. On the main roads, Transport for London is doing all it can to marginalise walking and cycling and to give priority to the private motor vehicle.

Let's hope the politicians in the City of London see the sense of sticking with their officers' recommendations and see that a person should not be prioritised just because they happen to be in a private car. The zebra crossing reprsents the best interests of the vast majority of people at this junction and it would be a scandal if the City votes to remove it.


  1. I agree that the crossing should remain pedestrian only, but I'm curious how the bus passengers get excluded from your calculations?

  2. To be fair, that crossing is a nightmare where you can see a constant stream of pedestrian traffic for several minutes at a time and can be very difficult for Cyclists and other road traffic to get through. A traffic light controlled crossing probably does make sense there, due to the way that there is an almost constant flow of pedestrians wanting to cross (this stream might consist of 2 people crossing, then another 1 person starting to cross just as the other 2 have finished crossing and it can carry on in a similar fashion for a while, it's not always large numbers of people, but a constant flow).

  3. Right, no suit doing research will realise this:

    Zebra crossing - people to people contact "will they step out, I'll slow down just in case"
    Traffic lights "stay green, stay green, I'll make it through..."

    Simply, lights are digital - it's a machine getting in the way, zebra crossing it's a person.

    I know a few crossing where you cross faster and safer at a zebra than lights, even when the traffic's crawling along - the lights stop traffic for a minute thanks to the vast time set for the assumed army of shufflers (seriously to cross a single lane road takes a few seconds... Motorists won't wave ou across and rush through as the lights change to save a few seconds. With a zebra you will get across much quicker, the traffic is delayed less. Simples! A traffc island enables either direction to get more of a break too.

    If the poor little didumes in their cars have to wait, then maybe they shoulduse other modes of transport to get around the city!

  4. Generally I would prefer light controlled crossings - the time when cars must stop is clearly defined, by the red light, and there is no basis for creeping forward trying to get past a stream of pedestrians. It is also fairer in those heavily trafficked areas where in principle the flow of pedestrians might never cease.

    BUT as always it depends on the time allocation to different modes. TfL has been cutting the duration of green man phases so that the duration of green light phases can be lengthened, so pedestrians have to wait longer for lights to change - to me, wholly unacceptable when pedestrians account for the great majority of "traffic" as defined in law.

    If it seems like a long wait on your bike, remember this - you can always get off and push, which is not viable for a motorist. Case law has shown that once a cyclist has dismounted and pushes his bike while walking normally, he is a pedestrian, and traffic light regs no longer apply to him.

    In his judgment in the Court of Appeal in Crank v Brooks, Lord Justice Waller said: “In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a ‘foot passenger’. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a ‘foot passenger’. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand.”

    Of course, getting off and pushing to skip a red light might not always be smart - if it means crossing a road on foot in front of fast moving HGVs!

  5. Very catchy opening headline...I hope the pedestrians don't lose out in the end. By comparison, we have NO sidewalks in so many areas of my community. I would be so happy to have 1% of London's sidewalks...

  6. My preference would be for a light controlled crossing here. As a bus passenger it can take ages for the bus to get across, especially at the peak of the tourist season.

  7. Get a second zebra crossing, as two crossings with about half of the pedestrians each are easier to cross then one constantly blocked, as all pedestrians use it.

    In Germany they would just widen the zebra crossing to, lets say, 10 m and traffic would sneek past, advancing metre by metre, always ready to stop, without anybody being offended. But our motorists seem to be a lot more well-behaved towards pedestrians than yours …