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?
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.
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 cyclistsand 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.
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 requirementas
it used to bethat 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.
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
Shared pedestrian and cycle paths can create
confusion, largely among pedestrians. Clear signs and coloured
surfaces are necessary. Small hedges providing a division are
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.
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 carsincluding companiesshould 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 cyclistsmaking 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.
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.