Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by Roger Donnison Esq (WTC 01)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

  I live in the city of Sheffield, where I regularly make journeys of one or two miles on foot, mainly to the City Centre. Once there, I can enjoy major improvements in conditions for pedestrians that have been implemented over the last 10 years, achieved through greater pedestrianisation of streets, reduced traffic volumes and measures to reduce traffic speeds and give people on foot greater confidence to treat the City Centre as their domain. More improvements are planned which I am sure will be welcomed by all users of the centre.

  In contrast, however, conditions for pedestrians outside the centre are worsening, and making a journey on foot, people are constantly forced to give way to vehicles every time they leave the footway. On a journey of a mile along a typical urban radial road in busy traffic conditions, someone on foot may be delayed on 20, 30 or even 40 separate occasions as they try to move from one "block" or "island" to another across the network of traffic streams that separates them.

  These conditions are not special to Sheffield. They apply in every English town and city. They are a result of the way we choose to lay out and manage our streets and the way drivers and pedestrians behave on them. But things could be different, and we only have to look to the USA and to continental Europe to find better sets of rules for using our streets that would radically improve walking conditions and thereby encourage more people to walk.

  I would like to make three simple proposals, all working elsewhere in the world, which I believe should be put into practice here.

  The first is to introduce "flashing amber" turns at traffic signal junctions whereby vehicles turning into a road have to give way to pedestrians crossing that road who enjoy the protection of a "green man" signal.

  The second is to change policy and practice with respect to the positioning of "stop lines" where a minor meets a major road. Stop lines should be moved back to the point where the side road meets the footway (rather than the major road), and footways should be continued across the mouth of the junction, either using white paint or, ideally, providing continuity of levels for the pedestrian by using a road hump. These areas should then be made into Zebra crossings (or their equivalent) with the same sanctions applying for infringement. Motorists would thus be required to give way to pedestrians on the major route as well as to motor traffic on the main road. Effectively there would be two stop lines, one for pedestrians (and possibly also for cyclists) and one for motor vehicles.

  The third proposal is to greatly strengthen the guidance in the Highway Code that requires drivers to give way to pedestrians who are in the course of crossing any road into which the driver is turning. Many drivers seem ignorant of this rule; perhaps because knowledge of the Highway Code is generally poor once people have left their driving test behind them.

Roger Donnison

13 November 2000


 
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