Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 440 - 459)



  440. Clearly, setting a target for the whole of London, as your answer has just illustrated, is dependent on the boroughs making a significant contribution.
  (Mr Turner) Yes.

  441. Which raises the issue of how you are going to work with the boroughs to implement all of this. Taking "Streets for All" as an example, what is going to be the mechanism for ensuring that there is agreement reached between yourselves and all of the London boroughs on, in this case, what the streets look like (the street furniture and all of that)? When will that agreement be reached and what will be the mechanism then for enforcing that everybody sings the same tune?
  (Mr Turner) We have two aspects there. In road safety the Mayor has already put out for consultation a draft interim road safety plan for London. That is for the whole of London. It is interesting that the GLA actually enables the Mayor to take this wider view for road safety in London and he has picked up that opportunity. By linking it through to the Transport Strategy, it means that the Mayor can require the local authorities, through the local implementation plan process, to provide road safety plans for their roads in their area. They have to be consistent with the road safety plan that he has set up for London, and there are statutory powers within the GLA Act which enables the Mayor not just to achieve his objectives through funding but powers of intervention similar to what I had as Traffic Director for London when I was introducing the red routes and the local authorities were still the highway authority for part of the red route network. That is the road safety side. In terms of the environment from the pedestrian viewpoint, we are, as is said in the Transport Strategy, preparing a series of guidelines which will be consistent with "Streets for All" so that we can again use best practice and, indeed, a flagship status type of approach, by picking a number of flagship, projects like World Squares, to show the local authorities what can be done and, indeed, to advocate that type of approach. One of the other areas for which I am responsible is all the traffic signals in London, whether they are on local authority roads or not. That is another way in which the Mayor can introduce the pedestrian walking facilities he wishes to see. We have already announced a commitment to reduce the time it takes for pedestrians to get the green man when they press the button at a pelican crossing. A programme is being introduced to improve that. Equally, we are piloting diagonal crossings at a crossroad: instead of having to walk round two sides of a crossroad, you will be able to walk diagonally across the centre of the road. Those sorts of facilities we are able to introduce through, if you like, the back door, through our controlling of traffic signals.

  442. Going back to road safety, do the powers of intervention you have extend to taking a view as regards the introduction of 20-mile an hour zones in residential areas?—given what we know about lower traffic speeds leading to a significant improvement in reducing injuries and fatalities.
  (Mr Turner) Twenty-mile an hour zones that are not on the Mayor's roads, it would be possible for the Mayor to force that through the statutory process, but it would not be quite a message of co-operation. He would be braking against the partnership we are trying to build with the London boroughs in trying to work with them. The London boroughs have powers to introduce 20-miles an hour zones anyway and the proposals to introduce 20-miles an hour zones would be looked at very carefully, as part of local implementation plans. We recognise the research that speed is the major cause of accidents and obviously the major cause of serious accidents for pedestrians. We are on the TLRN (the Mayor's road network) developing a programme to highlight town centres to introduce 20-miles an hour zones through a number of town centres on the main road network, particularly recognising this issue that, although the town centres may be fairly congested during the day, the problems are at night times when the traffic is lighter and there are still plenty of pedestrians around (going to restaurants and the like) and there are hazards caused by the traffic moving at illegal speeds.

Mrs Ellman

  443. In your written evidence you say that "walking can help to reduce car use".
  (Mr Turner) Yes.

  444. In what circumstances can that happen?
  (Mr Turner) In the written evidence I explain that there has been a reduction in walking in central London and particularly in inner London and an increase in car use, particularly around these short trips—and short trips in inner London are quite amenable to people walking. We believe that the barrier that is created by a number of our main roads is part of the difficulty in encouraging people to change from using their cars to walking. People feel unsafe, people are actually taken on detours, as I was describing at the crossroads. All those sort of seconds and minutes add up to dissuading people from walking, because obviously not many people want to walk more than, shall we say, 15/20 minutes.

  445. The DETR have questioned whether improved facilities for walking does in fact reduce car use. From where do you think that discrepancy between your view and their view comes?
  (Mr Turner) I think in urban areas there is no doubt—and I am not talking necessarily just about town centre urban areas, where a lot of people are visitors and therefore they will park their cars, but inner London areas—that people used to walk. People used to walk to school, people used to walk to the shops and they now go by car. A lot of those people are concerned about the safety of the walk trip. The Home Zones' initiative, the Safer Routes to Schools' initiative are all about trying to persuade people to leave their cars at home and to walk or to cycle. There is evidence that we have that providing good facilities does actually result in an increase in pedestrian activity—and I refer in my memorandum to the work that we did on the red routes, where we provided quite extensive pedestrian facilities and we saw an increase in pedestrian use along and across those roads compared to a decline where the red route measures were not introduced.

  446. What are the lessons you learned from the red routes?
  (Mr Turner) I think it is important that we deal with traffic management in a comprehensive way; that we do not actually just deal with one particular problem and one particular location but that you do look at end-to-end journeys. You do not just think about somebody crossing the road and providing a facility at one particular area; you try to understand why they are crossing there in the first place. It may be the only place they can cross safely or reasonably safely now but actually they would rather cross further up the road, and, if you provided a facility there, more people would cross. An example of that—which I refer to in the memorandum—would be what we did at the Angel Islington, where we moved a pedestrian crossing facility from one side of the junction to the other side of the junction, much closer to the Angel station, and we got a considerable increase in pedestrian movement across that location. Similarly, at Baker Street, where we provided a safe surface crossing across the inner ring road, we have 18,000 pedestrians a day crossing the inner ring road at surface level whereas previously we were probably at about three-quarters of that, using a rather grotty subway which now is relatively empty because we have got all these people crossing at surface level.

  447. Does the Mayor have sufficient powers to make this type of change that he has decided is appropriate?
  (Mr Turner) If the Mayor was here, he would have his own view on that.


  448. He certainly would!
  (Mr Turner) In terms of control of the Mayor's road network, yes, because he is the highway traffic authority. In terms of dealing particularly with walking, there are issues that a lot of these trips are short trips and they are on local authority roads. What the Mayor can do is to provide guidance, advice and funding, and, in terms of traffic signals, he has got the facilities. There are issues though about local accountability and the local environment and I think it does need to be a partnership with the local authorities.

Mr Donaldson

  449. We have been looking at pedestrianisation in some other parts of Europe and we have found that features like guard rails and staggered cattle pen crossings are not used in other European countries. Why is it, then, that these features are still being installed on the red routes and other roads in London?
  (Mr Turner) Primarily for safety reasons. There is no doubt about that. Indeed, we have removed many kilometres of guard rails which were introduced previously as a means of preventing vehicles stopping. If parking controls are properly enforced and properly designed, you should not need to provide a physical barrier like that to prevent a motorist stopping. In terms of the staggered crossing, the work we have tried to do is, rather than to introduce no crossing, because of the problems it creates for traffic, we would rather introduce a staggered approach and ensure that the engineering of that crossing is such that when you have crossed half of it and you walk in the direction that you are wanting to, the next half comes up green. That is, indeed, the arrangement that we have at Baker Street, to which I referred earlier. To go straight across, which is what we are trying to do at as many locations as we can, takes more time out of the traffic signal arrangements. Equally, going diagonally across takes slightly more time. I was under direction, as Traffic Director for London, to ensure that all road users benefited and that was quite a difficult balance to achieve. I think I did that fairly successfully. I think the Mayor is more inclined to ensure that pedestrians get a higher degree of priority and we are now critically examining all proposals to ensure that we get as direct a route across the junction as we can.

  450. The use of side entry treatments of the kind used on the red routes, should they be made universal throughout London?
  (Mr Turner) I think they have been extremely successful. They have reduced accidents; they are welcomed by pedestrians in terms of not having to go up and down the kerbs. In town centres there is no reason, in my view, why they could not be pretty universally applied. On the suburban roads you have to look at the problems—because you do introduce an ambiguity, in that the pedestrian feels that they have right of way and the motorist—as I have previously given evidence to this Committee—has to obey the Highway Code and give way to pedestrians, because they are turning traffic, and the physical layout of the sort of hump encourages them to do that. If it is on a suburban road, the traffic is moving that much faster and you need to be careful, that in slowing down to make that manoeuvre—because we dare not have them going too fast into a side road entry treatment because they can lose control and not have the visibility of the pedestrian and not give way—you have got a problem where you can end up with shunts along the main road. We looked at this fairly carefully and we decided in the Traffic Director's office only to consider introducing them on 30-mile an hour roads, where the speeds were at or below 30 miles an hour. In other words, where there was a 30-mile an hour road, where traffic was consistently above that speed limit we would not introduce them, because we are concerned about shunts on the main road. The short answer is that it needs to be carefully designed, but in urban town centres I can see no reason why it cannot be more universally adopted. They are expensive.

  451. Why are the zebra crossings being converted into pelican crossings on some of the red routes?
  (Mr Turner) There are a number of reasons. One reason will be safety, because, once you improve the smoothness and the average speed of traffic, you will need to get greater control, because the pedestrians will need to gain priority at a particular location. The second reason is to gain control of the traffic because we can actually manage queue location (which I referred to in the World Squares' answers) using the traffic signal technology, which you cannot do at a zebra crossing. The third reason would be where the flow of pedestrians are such that they can completely capture the space because they do have right of way at that particular point.


  452. Surely there is a contradiction because you said at the start of this answer that you need to put the lights in so that it guarantees the pedestrian the right to go across; now you have pointed out that they did have the right of way on the zebra crossing anyway.
  (Mr Turner) I did not mean it to be a contradiction. The distinction, which I perhaps did not make clear, is between volume and speed. The pedestrian, though they have legal right of way under all the circumstances at a zebra crossing, if it is a higher speed road have more difficulty gaining priority. That is where you would put a pelican in terms of trying to assist pedestrians. Where you would put a pelican in to try to assist vehicles is, for instance, outside Victoria Station. With a zebra you could completely shut down the Victoria one-way system, with all the impact that would have on buses, just because of the sheer volume of pedestrians which comes out of Victoria Station for much of the day. I do not think there is a contradiction there; I just did not make the distinction between volume and speed clear.

Mr Stevenson

  453. When you are looking at this balance, for all road users that you have talked about, is it not still the case, Mr Turner, that the balance in all these improvements is still with the motorist. I walk from my flat to Westminster every morning, which entails me using the new crossing which is at the end of Westminster Bridge and Waterloo. The roads have been widened there to ease the traffic and you have staggered crossings. I and my fellow pedestrians have effectively two roads to cross and the reason for that is because we do not want to delay the traffic any more than necessary. I still agree, therefore, that the priority in thinking in these schemes is clearly with not causing more concern to motorists at the expense of pedestrians. Would you agree with that proposition?
  (Mr Turner) I would agree with it in as far as "the priority has been". What I tried to do as Traffic Director—and I think with some success—is to change the balance, so that it was much more balanced, not at every location but over the network as a whole. The record there in the number of facilities, the increased use, the improvement in pedestrian safety (9 per cent reduction in accidents compared to two per cent), are sound improvements in a demonstration of the change in values. What we are seeing in the Draft Transport Strategy is an intention further to change that balance. In this particular scheme (Trafalgar Square), as we have discussed and Mr Donohoe has pointed out, we are actually changing the balance over quite a large area quite significantly. There is an environmental issue, there is a walking issue, but there is also an economic issue. We are a vibrant economy and we do need to provide for car use, for essential car use, for delivery vehicles and, particularly, for buses. I do not believe that we are wise to make step changes. What we need to do is gradually to move over to a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Mr Brake

  454. Could I ask you perhaps to be a little more specific. You may remember that when you were Traffic Director for London you came to Carshalton, my constituency. On teh A232 there is a junction, the Windsor Castle Junction, where there is a clear conflict between traffic and pedestrians, particularly children going to St Philomena's School which is right on the corner there. This new approach, what does that mean in concrete terms? Would you be willing to accept that at that junction there might be, say, a five per cent increase in the delay that cars would experience going through that junction? Can you try to quantify what this new approach actually means?
  (Mr Turner) I do not think I would like to try to quantify it. What I would say is that we are quite happy to revisit on the Mayor's network, priority between pedestrians and vehicular traffic. We are particularly concerned, though, that we do not disrupt bus flows. As we have discussed earlier, pedestrians and walking is only for a relatively short trip length and people are accustomed and wish to make longer trip links. Whilst that need not be in the car, it does need to be provided for, and it needs to be on the bus.

  455. I am sorry, but if you are not able, perhaps unwilling, to quantify what it means, we just have to take your word for it that the approach is different and pedestrians are going to be given a greater priority. I am not totally satisfied with that.
  (Mr Turner) Perhaps I need to explain it in more detail. On pelican crossings, currently, if you arrive at a pelican crossing just after you have lost priority and the cars have started to flow, it would be 20 seconds—even if you pressed the button—before the pedestrian demand would be met (not universally, but broadly). What I have instituted as part of this change in values is that we are having a programme in outer London—and that is by far and away the majority of pelican crossings—whereby that will be reduced to 15 seconds. We will monitor that to see the impact it has, with a view to reducing it still further. That will have an impact on traffic congestion—an adverse impact—in that it will increase it. That, I think, is a demonstration of what I am saying. Does that give you—

  Mr Brake: Yes, that helps quite a lot.


  456. Would it not be better to go back to some more zebra crossings? I come up to some of these traffic controlled crossings, I always press the button to get the lights to change, but then I tend to dodge through the traffic, if I can—which is probably not very good for my road safety. Having dodged through the traffic and started to cross on the other side, I look back to see the traffic stopped with no-one using the crossing.
  (Mr Turner) I entirely agree with you and that is the reason why we are reducing the time you would expect to wait, if you arrived just after the previous people had lost priority, to 15 seconds and I hope to be able to reduce it still further. I should add that 20 seconds is the lowest that occurs nationally anyway. We will be at the forefront in reducing pelican crossing recall time in the country. Your point about zebra crossings is well made from the pedestrian viewpoint at a single location, but, if we are to try to manage the traffic as a whole and the network as a whole, so that we do get a more reliable network from the point of view of buses and for essential traffic, we need to control that network.

  457. If you are going to control it, then what you are actually saying is that you want to slow down the change of lights at certain places in order to let the traffic flow, so, hoping to cut it from 20 seconds to 15 seconds, if in the overall plan you want the traffic to flow through you may be pushing it up to 25 seconds or 30 seconds, may you not?
  (Mr Turner) No. We would not do that. Twenty seconds is a norm in London. Because pedestrians, like yourself—and I advise you not to do it for your own safety—do cross against the red man, the balance needs to be changed. We now have the facilities, because the main road network is under the control of the Mayor and there is not an objective that I have been given to improve journey times (reduce journey times) for general traffic, to move a step further forward on the agenda—which you would like to see, from what you have said—than I was previously able to as Traffic Director for London.

Mrs Dunwoody

  458. I think that sounds wonderful, Mr Turner, but I think it is the greatest load of nonsense. You have just told us you do not want to do anything which would damage this vibrant economy—and nobody could disagree with that argument. On the other hand, you are saying "We want to manage pedestrians as part of our overall traffic schemes." The reality is that pedestrians are not manageable. If you have a zebra crossing, they will cross at that point at which they think themselves to be safest. On the whole you have demonstrated with your figures that they are going down rather than up. On the other hand, a managed crossing does not manage pedestrians, because they ignore it, but actually changes the flow. How do you balance that between the speed at which the traffic will approach that particular crossing and the use by the pedestrian? Would it not be best simply to return to the zebra crossing and let common sense prevail, if any.
  (Mr Turner) There are two aspects to that. One is the speed at which the traffic is flowing. I do not wish to see an increase in pedestrian accidents. On faster roads zebra crossings have a less good accident record than pelican crossings—faster roads. If you are trying, as we were, to improve the reliability of the network for traffic, that will increase speeds. That is one reason why we need to be looking at this problem carefully of turning back to zebra crossings. The second point is that with zebra crossings we do not have this control of the network. As you rightly say, pedestrians arrive in a random manner and cross the road and interrupt the traffic flow in a random manner.

  459. Just as they do if they ignore the red light on a managed crossing.
  (Mr Turner) That is entirely right.

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