The charity Living Streets has launched a campaign calling for three seconds more ‘green man’ time at pedestrian crossings, in a bid to make it safer for older people to cross the road.
Living Streets launched ‘Give us Time to Cross’ outside Parliament on 20 November, when supporters were invited to say why they need three more seconds to cross.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) found that most people over the age of 65 walk much slower than the current assumed walking speed of 1.2 metres per second, on which the time allowed to cross is based, meaning they have insufficient time to safely reach the opposite kerb.
The research found that on average men over the age of 65 walk at a pace of 0.9 m/s while for women the rate is 0.8 m/s. This means more than three quarters of all older people do not have sufficient time to safely cross the road.
Living Streets says the assumed walking speed hasn’t been revised since the 1950s, despite an increasingly aging population. Government guidance on signal controlled crossings is due to be reviewed next year and the charity is calling for more time at crossings to meet present-day pedestrian needs.
Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Living Streets, said: "The evidence shows that 7.5 million people simply do not have enough time to safely reach the opposite side of the road at pedestrian crossings. This does not even account for vulnerable pedestrians with sight impairment or mobility issues, for parents with buggies or small children.
"People tell us they feel harassed by traffic revving their engines because the green man has started flashing and many avoid going out because they don’t feel they can cross the road safely.
"As our population ages, we want to encourage people to be active and live independently for as long as possible. Three seconds isn’t a long time, but for an older person it can make the difference between feeling confident they can comfortably access their local shops and services, and feeling vulnerable and afraid to cross the road, which in turn often leads to isolation."
Dr Jennifer Mindell, senior lecturer at UCL, who led the research into walking speed said: "We found that the amount of time given to pedestrians to cross a road assumes a walking speed that is much too fast for most older people. They have insufficient time to reach the far side, so may decide not to even try.
"The impact on the older population is therefore not just the immediate risk of injury. Feeling that you cannot negotiate the outside world causes psychological distress. It also deters people from even going out, feeling they are unable to cross roads safely. We need better quality public spaces that enable everyone to live well and comfortably."
Click here to read the full Living Streets news release.