Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER Published: 20 March 2009
Protesters concerned about the threat of shorter crossing times
On your marks... for the crossing countdown dash
Mayor Boris warned that threat to cut green-man times puts lives at risk
ELDERLY and disabled people in Islington reacted with fury this week to plans by London Mayor Boris Johnson which could result in less time for pedestrians on crossing. A demonstration by campaigners, including Lib Dem council leader Councillor James Kempton, was staged at the crossing at the junction of Islington Park Street and Upper Street, Islington, on Monday. Protesters are calling for more time to cross rather than less.
Anti-social behaviour officer Philip Stevens, 34, who uses a stick following a leg injury, estimated he has just five seconds to cross the busy road.
He said: “I have enough difficulty walking as it is without having to virtually hop across the road to beat the traffic. If the London Mayor decreases crossing time people’s lives will be put in danger.”
Cllr Kempton said the crossing was always a problem because traffic came from all directions. “Unless you are Dwain Chambers you’ve got no chance,” he maintained. “I’m always seeing pedestrians having trouble crossing. I believe this is an accident waiting to happen.”
Liberal Democrat campaigner Bridget Fox said that Mr Johnson’s controversial ideas included introducing a countdown alert to hurry pedestrians across the road – or risk oncoming traffic.
Ms Fox campaigned successfully for improvements to the busy Angel crossing. She says more needs to be done to help people get about on foot. “We’ve won the argument to move the Angel crossing, to make it safer and easier to cross,” she said. “That’s what local people want. Giving us less time to cross the road is a big mistake. “There are already pedestrian crossings in Islington where you have barely five seconds to get across the road. “It’s obviously a while since Boris got off his bike and walked about. What happens when the countdown gets to zero and you are still wheeling your shopping trolley or pushchair across? “I know the Olympics are coming, but this is ridiculous.”
A Transport for London spokesman said: “While we want to see traffic lights operate more efficiently in the capital this does not mean pedestrians will be made to cross the road more quickly. “Also, there are no plans to cut up to six seconds from pedestrians at all of London’s 6,000 traffic lights. “We are examining all of London’s traffic lights to ensure the right balance for all road users. Where pedestrians have more time than they need at a particular junction, it may be reduced. At other locations, pedestrian crossing time may be increased, but it will always meet or exceed government guidelines.”
She added: “Pedestrian countdown is an innovation used in many cities across the globe and we are keen to trial it at key junctions in London. “It can help smooth traffic flow and increase safety for pedestrians. In San Francisco, it helped reduce pedestrian accidents by 25 per cent. “We seek to smooth traffic flow for the benefit of all road users, but pedestrians will always have enough time to cross the road.”