Transport for London (TfL), the umbrella organization for transport in the British capital, has changed traffic lights at 18 junctions. They are now always green for pedestrians – unless sensors report an approaching vehicle.
According to TfL, the data from a nine-month trial shows practically no effect on the rest of the traffic. The driving time was increased by a maximum of 9 seconds for buses and 11 seconds for other vehicles.
In return, pedestrians get 56 minutes more green on average every day. According to the study, they are also 13 percent more likely to obey the traffic rules.
How London intends to achieve “Vision Zero”.
This can protect people from a very real danger: in 2020, 868 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in London alone. While that’s a sharp drop from last year’s 1,350 road casualties, it’s likely due to the coronavirus lockdown. In addition, the level is still far from cities like Oslo and Helsinki, where not a single pedestrian was killed in 2019.
In order to achieve this “Vision Zero”, TfL wants to further reduce the dominance and speed of car traffic – for example through additional cycle paths and footpaths or road closures for cars. Between 2016 and 2020, 77 new or improved pedestrian crossings were installed, and traffic lights at more than 1,000 crossings are checked each year. TfL also wants to further expand the pedestrian priority lights.
Quelle: TfL Operational Modelling & Visualisation Videos
That is a beginning. Over the past 20 years, London’s transport policy has focused more on tackling car traffic than improving pedestrians: in 2003 the city introduced a congestion charge. Later, emission regulations pushed the most polluting vehicles out of the city. Last October, the ban zone was expanded again. More than 1,500 cameras are designed to help enforce regulations and better understand traffic flow.
Efforts for pedestrians are less long-term and sophisticated. During the pandemic, for example, local authorities were given emergency powers to erect bollards or planters, or to close roads entirely to cars when sidewalks weren’t wide enough to allow pedestrians a safe two-metre distance. This has at times caused a great deal of controversy. However, there is little dispute that this has resulted in 50 percent fewer traffic-related injuries, less car ownership, a reduction in street crime and more space to play.
Pedestrians in focus
Even beyond local politics, the approach of putting pedestrian traffic at the center is becoming increasingly important. The UK’s National Highway Code was updated earlier this year and now requires those who pose the greatest risk on the road – drivers – also to be the most considerate of others.
Helsinki is also working on making its traffic lights more efficient. In a pilot project, Marshall AI and Dynniq Finland Oy equip an intersection with cameras that recognize cars, bicycles and pedestrians. If road users are approaching from one direction, they automatically turn green without waiting – at least if nobody is coming from the other direction. This should not only improve traffic flow, but also reduce emissions by three to eight percent.
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