Saturday, 10 March 2012

Don’t Blame Pedestrians…

…is a campaign being run by 20’s Plenty which points how some drivers blame pedestrians who get killed or seriously injured for ‘taking chances’ when they cross. 20’s Plenty asks, “how easy is it to cross safely? Who’s to blame when walkers die?” pointing out that society would be very limited if we were only permitted to cross roads at signalised junctions. In the UK there is no ‘jay-walking’ law: we accept that pedestrians need to cross roads without signals, zebra crossings or traffic islands.
image At locations without pedestrian crossings, pedestrians need to identify a gap in the traffic to be able to cross. To cross two lanes of traffic most pedestrians will accept a 4 to 6 second gap but people with limited mobility need gaps of 10 to 12 seconds – and the availability of gaps depends on factors like traffic volumes, density, time of day and, crucially, vehicle speeds. Currently pedestrians have to assume that traffic on 30mph roads is going faster than the law allows, since 49% of British drivers speed in 30mph areas and the police don’t tend to penalise drivers below 36mph.
· At 36 mph a 5 second gap is a distance of 80 metres and a 10 second gap is 160 metres
· At 18 mph a 5 second gap is a distance of 40 metres and a 10 second gap is 80 metres
How often is it possible to see the traffic for a tenth of a mile (160m) in either direction? Sight lines are often blocked due to parked vehicles at either side of the road, corners and obstructions – it is no wonder that children and older people struggle to cross roads safely in current conditions. It’s even more dangerous for children: research by scientists at Royal Holloway has shown children under 11 cannot reliably judge the approach speeds of vehicles over 20mph as their visual systems have not fully developed.

Halving vehicle speeds would make it twice as easy for pedestrians to cross safely, and also reduce the kinetic energy (the kind that kills and injuries people) by a factor of four. Setting 20mph as the default speed limit in urban areas will reduce the dangers imposed on society by motor vehicles. As the campaign points out: “20’s Plenty, 30 hurts me.”

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