Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by Ray King Esq (WTC 37)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

Give Way to Pedestrians

  Motor vehicles are so hostile for pedestrians that the biggest boost for walking would be to ban cars from towns and cities completely. If there was suitable public transport available, no one could object. It would make everyone's lives better. Only the vested interests of the road lobby would lose.

  If cars are not to be banned they should be tamed. They should be forced to go slower, allowed into fewer areas and driven with utmost care when in the vicinity of pedestrians.

  Walking beside a busy town or city road can often be a horrendous exercise. The noise of traffic makes conversation impossible. The smell of vehicle exhausts leaves one with a burning sensation in the nose, a nasty taste in the mouth, a sore throat and a headache after a short time. After an hour, the fumes make one feel ill and tired. Pedestrians also carry with them the knowledge that other people's car fumes are seriously damaging their health and particularly the health of very young or old.

  Why has the Government allowed virtually all public space in cities to be hijacked by cars and lorries?

TIME WASTED

  One of the biggest deterrents to walking in towns and cities is the time wasted in crossing the road. Even a short pedestrian journey becomes complicated and time consuming because of the prolonged waits to cross. The Department of Transport considers a pedestrian's time to be of no value. It should be worth more than a driver's because the driver is inflicting serious social costs on the majority of other people.

  In the past, road planning has been much too concentrated on speeding the flow of traffic and has consequently made life more unpleasant and dangerous for pedestrians.

DANGEROUS ENGINEERS

  Traffic engineers should be told that in towns and cities, walkers and cyclists now come higher up the hierarchy than cars and lorries.

  At present, there is still not a pedestrian phase at many traffic lights. There should be.

  For years, traffic engineers have tried to increase the number of lanes at junctions which has made life more difficult for pedestrians and cyclists—and often frightening for drivers themselves. Sometimes, pedestrians have to cross seven or eight lanes of traffic to cross the road. That is unreasonable and dangerous.

  In future, the number of traffic lanes should be reduced at junctions. The absolute maximum should be two lanes in each direction and there should be pedestrian refuges if there is more than one lane.

  Traffic engineers have also erected chicanes for pedestrians at many junctions in an attempt to stop them walking out into the traffic. This lengthens the pedestrian's journey and often causes completely unnecessary congestion and makes it more uncomfortable and sometimes more dangerous to cross.

  Walking can be a tiring business so traffic engineers should concentrate on reducing the time and distance pedestrians have to travel.

CUT THE FUMES

  The awful fumes that are expelled from a vehicle when it is started from cold are completely unacceptable. An engine pre-heater device should be required to be fitted to cars to prevent this pollution. It should be an offence to start a car when pedestrians are close to the exhaust pipe. It should also be a requirement—as it used to be—that exhaust pipes emit fumes into the middle of the road, not at the kerbside, where they are a greater danger to cyclists, pedestrians and particularly to children in pushchairs.

  Road space should be taken away from vehicles to allow a green corridor of bushes or trees to be planted between the pedestrian and the traffic. This reduces noise, pollution and crash dangers.

CHANGE THOSE BAD HABITS

  Drivers involved in collisions with pedestrians or cyclists should be automatically disqualified until they can prove that they were not responsible for the incident. Very few such collisions are genuine accidents.

  Car drivers must change their attitudes to pedestrians. Instead of seeing them as a nuisance, they must accept them as road users with more right to be on the road than them. Many drivers ignore the rules on zebra and light-controlled crossings and the police appear to do nothing about it.

  Even though they are stuck in jams going nowhere very slowly, drivers do not normally allow pedestrians to cross. There should be an offence of impeding a pedestrian from crossing the road. At traffic lights drivers deliberately rev their engines to intimidate pedestrians and jump amber and red lights even when pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross. They routinely fail to signal, making it more difficult for pedestrians to anticipate what they are going to do. Many drivers also swerve violently, accelerate and brake violently, increasing danger and tension for pedestrians.

SHARED USE

  Shared pedestrian and cycle paths can create confusion, largely among pedestrians. Clear signs and coloured surfaces are necessary. Small hedges providing a division are preferable.

  Rat running by cars and lorries trying to avoid main road jams are a great problem for pedestrians and cyclists. Most residential streets could be cleared of rat runners by installing barriers, preferably bushes and flowers, to stop through traffic but to allow cyclists and pedestrians through.

ENFORCEMENT

  There should be rigorous enforcement of parking rules to keep pavements, cycle tracks, cycle lanes and road barriers free. Most police officers should be removed from their cars and put on bikes to ensure that laws aimed at curbing motor abuses are enforced. At present, police drivers are a terrible example to other drivers and rarely take action to stop bad drivers. The owners of cars—including companies—should have the responsibility to ensure that their vehicles are driven properly. It should be sufficient for a police officer to note down a car licence plate to ensure that the owner of the vehicle is fined if the driver is breaking any traffic regulations. Traffic wardens should be given more powers to give immediate tickets to vehicles parked where they cause inconvenience to pedestrians or buses. Anyone threatening a traffic warden should be banned from driving immediately until he has re-taken a driving test.

TAME THE BEASTS

  At junctions, the stop lines for motor vehicles should be taken back by about 20 metres to allow a clear, uncongested and safe area for pedestrians to cross. There have been several cases of lorry drivers killing pedestrians crossing in front of them because the driver is perched too high and too close to the crossing point.

  At crossroads, the whole junction area along with 30 metres of each road leading to the junction should be designated a pedestrian crossing zone where the pedestrian, when lights are all at red for vehicles, can cross in any direction, including diagonally. In other words, it should be a legally protected jay-walking zone.

  The increasing number of advanced stop lines has actually made life marginally better for pedestrians as well as cyclists. But they should be more strictly enforced as many car drivers encroach on them. They should also be kept free from motorcycles which are becoming an increasing danger and annoyance to pedestrians in cities.

MORE AND BETTER CROSSINGS NEEDED

  There should be many more pedestrian crossings, particularly at schools, railway stations and near bus stops. And they should be sited for the convenience of the pedestrian not the driver. Rules imposed by the Department of Transport mean that crossings are often put in inconvenient places. Many pedestrians are killed on zebra crossings because one driver stops to allow them to cross only for an overtaking vehicle to speed up. Traffic lanes should be narrowed to allow only one vehicle to pass over a pedestrian crossing in each direction at a time.

  Often people are forced to wait much too long to cross the road at light-controlled pedestrian and cycle crossings when the road is busy or even more annoyingly when traffic is moving at a snail's pace but drivers do not allow pedestrians to cross. The longest a pedestrian should have to wait, after pressing the button at a light-controlled crossing ought to be five seconds. Pedestrian buttons at traffic light controlled junctions often appear to have no effect on the traffic light sequence. Pressing a button should initiate a pedestrian-crossing phase at the first available change of sequence.

DANGER ZONES FOR PEDESTRIANS

  At junctions, all side roads should be marked to indicate pedestrians have priority over cars emerging on to main roads and over cars turning in from the main road.

  Roundabouts are an enormous problem for pedestrians and cyclists—making their journeys longer and more dangerous. Drivers are not looking in the right direction for pedestrians, are usually going to fast for pedestrians to cross, do not signal where they are going and usually make no attempt to allow pedestrians to cross. It would be best if roundabouts were all put back to standard road junctions with proper crossing places for pedestrians.

BUSES

  The bus and the train are the pedestrian's best friends. All bus lanes should be in force for 24 hours. Taxis should not be allowed to travel in bus lanes. As soon as cars are allowed in at off-peak times, the bus lanes are abused by all modes of vehicles at all times. Bus lanes should also be wider to stop lorries blocking buses from getting through traffic. Bus lanes should be extended right up to traffic lights. Car drivers wanting to turn left should have to wait for buses to clear the junction before turning left.

  There should be a specific offence of impeding a public service vehicle, including buses. Buses should be given priority wherever possible. Road planners should ensure that the bus is able to take the shortest route without having to go round one-way systems. Bus stops should be sited for the convenience of passengers not for car drivers. Over the past 40 years, but stops have been progressively moved to make life more convenient for the car driver. This process is still continuing.

  Traffic on both sides of the road should have to stop whenever a bus stops at a bus stop to ensure that passengers can cross the road safely. Bus drivers should be promoted as social heroes and be given more respect and financial reward if they can complete training courses to teach them how to drive with consideration for their passengers, particularly those who are unsteady on their feet.

December 2000


 
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