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David Burrowes and the campaign for more time to cross
20 May 2014 15:02 #291

Basil Clarke Basil Clarke's Avatar Topic Author

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Yesterday I emailed David Burrowes MP for the second time in connection with the national Give Us Time To Cross campaign , which is aimed at persuading the government to change national guidelines relating to the time given to pedestrians to use lights-controlled crossings. The guidelines need changing because they are based on a walking speed which is objectively known to be unrealistic in the case of young children and older people.

As on the first occasion, Mr Burrowes provided a response which did not answer my main question - whether or not he would take up the matter with the relevant minister. Instead, as before, he tried to place responsibility on local councils and absolve the government of responsibility for putting in place adequate guidelines on pedestrian safety.

He also completely failed to respond to my point about the lack of proper pedestrian facilities at the Green Lanes/Hedge Lane/Bourne Hill crossroads.

I can only conclude that Mr Burrowes does not support the entirely reasonable campaign for adequate crossing times but does not wish to say so explicitly and is probably also using the opportunity to score party political points against the current administration of Enfield Council.

The full texts of the emails follows:


Dear Mr Burrowes,

Pedestrians need more time to cross the road. Please stand up for pedestrians like me by raising this issue with Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, and in Parliament if you haven’t already done so.

Now is the time to raise this issue with the Department for Transport currently reviewing Traffic Signs policy, including pedestrian crossings guidance.

National charity Living Streets has highlighted that current DfT guidance assumes people walk at 1.2m/s. This figure has not been updated since the 1950s when traffic and levels of car ownership were much lower than today.

Research published by University College London in 2012 showed that on today’s busy roads, three quarters of older people struggle to cross the road in time. This builds on research which shows that young children walk at a much lower speed than 1.2 m/s.

Parents pushing prams and those with young children, older and disabled people are all disadvantaged by signalised crossings because of the disproportionate priority given to motorised vehicles. Reducing the assumed walking speed to 0.8m/s would give vulnerable people three seconds more to cross the road safely.

The ability to cross the road safely is something we should all be able to take for granted. It is essential for everyday journeys on foot to access shops and services, meet friends, and to stay healthy and independent. Despite most journeys involving walking and over 77% of all trips under a mile are made on foot (on average, per person, per year), there is a major lack of priority given to walking by the Department for Transport, and inadequate crossing times are a symptom of this.

While the government has announced the consultation to review Traffic Signs and consider the use of different types of crossings to accommodate more vulnerable road users it is important thay they do review the assumed walking speed.

Please ask Patrick McLoughlin MP to review the current guidance on pedestrian crossings and increase the amount of time pedestrians have to cross the road as well as raise the priority given to walking within his Department and raise the issue in Parliament. I would appreciate it if you send me any response you receive from him on this issue.

I would also be grateful if you also took one of the following actions:

1. Tweet your support, including @livingstreets and #timetocross - here's an example tweet for your convenience: bit.ly/1arXzuU
2. Raise the issue with my local council.
3. Raise the issue of the complete lack of pedestrian crossing facilities at the junction of Green Lanes, Bourne Hill and Hedge Lane with Enfield Council and TfL. This is an extremely dangerous crossing but one that cannot be avoided by anyone walking.

Thank you in advance.

Yours sincerely

Basil Clarke


Dear Basil

Many thanks for the email you sent me late last night about the Living Streets campaign and pedestrian crossings.

I certainly appreciate that it can take longer for children, the elderly and disabled to cross the road and take the safety of pedestrians extremely seriously.

It is up to local authorities to ensure their pedestrian crossings provide everyone with enough time to cross the road safely. The Government provides a range of suggested timings for crossing in its guidance. However, these are not mandatory and I do believe that local authorities are best placed to assess and respond to local need.

I have therefore raised this issue repeatedly with Enfield Council and also with Transport for London (around the A406 area). I will continue to highlight particular areas of need (as raised with me by my constituents) with the relevant authorities.

You will be pleased to know, the Department for Transport recommends that where a crossing may be used by a large number of older people or those with mobility issues, for example outside residential care homes, this should be taken into account.

I do hope that this information helps, and thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.

Best wishes


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David Burrowes and the campaign for more time to cross
20 May 2014 22:10 #293

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My guess is that the government, and at least some councils, balance the risk to pedestrians of short crossing times against the probability that longer crossing times will increase traffic congestion, but MPs like David Burrowes don't want to address the dilemma directly because they'd have to admit the drivers are seen as more important than pedestrians. Put another way, carriageway rules are not democratic, but instead favour powered vehicles over pedestrians and cyclists.

Which is really a disgrace, both because children and people with mobility problems are put at risk, and at a democratic disadvantage in completing their journey, but also because, for a host of reasons from air quality to necessary exercise, the country needs to encourage walking and cycling.

In this there echoes of the Mini-Holland programme which was partly prompted by the need to get the drivers of driver-only cars onto bikes for short journeys. Some time or other politicians like David Burrowes will have to address the dilemma of congested streets, rather than hiding behind answers which don't deal with the issues

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