Pedestrian crossing signals will be left on the ‘green man’ at 18 sets of lights in London unless traffic is approaching under Sadiq Khan’s plans to make the capital a ‘walkable city’.
In a further example of what critics have called the Mayor’s ‘war on motorists’, the crossings will be altered with ‘green person authority’ technology which detects approaching cars in a bid to enable more journeys on foot.
The changes will be implemented before the end of June and form part of Transport for London’s (TfL) bid to make the capital ‘more sustainable’ and to ‘support a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’.
Earlier this month, newly re-elected Mayor Mr Khan pledged to be ‘the greenest Mayor London’s ever had’ as he vowed to ‘put the environment and climate policies at the heart’ of his second term.
The 18 lights will be in areas including Bishopsgate, Smithfield, Richmond and Tower Hamlets, TfL revealed in an announcement this morning. So far, seven locations have already been upgraded – with 11 more sites to follow.
Pedestrian crossing signals will be left on the ‘green man’ at 18 sets of lights. Pictured A crossing on Chelsea Embankment
The scheme first kicked off in 2018, when the technology was trialed at five crossings – and the forthcoming changes came after the number of journeys on foot increased hugely throughout the pandemic.
TfL data from earlier this year shows that 31 per cent of Londoners said they are walking to places where they used to travel by a different mode. And 57 per cent now go on more walks for exercise or walk for longer than before.
At one point last year, the number of journeys made on foot increased from 35 per cent to almost 50 per cent.
TfL chose the locations where ‘green person authority’ will be installed based on a number of factors, including high pedestrian flow, proximity to pedestrian destinations such as stations, and suitability of existing technology.
London’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said: ‘Walking has so many benefits – it doesn’t just enable us to get from A to B, but also improves our mental and physical health.
‘We know that safety is a key concern for people walking around London, and giving pedestrians priority is a powerful way of putting them first and making it easier to cross London’s roads.
‘By combining this with creating extra pavement space and ensuring roadworks are carried out in a way that doesn’t disrupt Londoners, we will make our city the world’s most walkable and eradicate collisions on our streets.’
Nick Owen, TfL’s head of network performance, added: ‘We know that walking is a brilliant way for people to make local journeys, boosting activity levels while cutting the number of car trips and the associated congestion and pollution they can cause.
‘We’re determined to make it easier for people to cross the road and to give people the space they need to walk safely, and these initiatives will make a difference in enabling more people to access local high streets, shops and other businesses in a sustainable way.’
And Mary Creagh, Chief Executive of UK walking charity Living Streets said: ‘Everybody should be able to cross the road safely, directly and without delay. Putting pedestrians first at crossings will make streets safer for everyone.
‘This exciting initiative to switch to a default green person gives power back to pedestrians, helping them move around more easily, safely and quickly.’
Councils across Britain have introduced hundreds of the reduced traffic schemes called Low Traffic Neighbourhoods during the pandemic, although they have been mainly seen in London.
By blocking residential roads with obstacles such as planters, the measures aim to cut street pollution and encourage residents to walk and cycle.
But councillors have often sprung the measures upon residents with little consultation causing a backlash.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured in Stratford on Monday) has pledged to be ‘the greenest Mayor London’s ever had’
Cycle lane bollards placed on Kensington High Street in West London caused traffic chaos last year before being removed
Many councils have scrapped LTNs altogether following complaints that they are increasing traffic and pollution on main roads and extending wait times for emergency vehicles.
A High Court judge earlier this year ruled against TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ‘Streetspace Plan’ after finding it discriminated against vulnerable people – such as the elderly or disabled – who may not be able to walk or cycle.
And Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick claimed earlier this month that they are delaying police response times by making it ‘harder’ for her officers to ‘get through the streets.’
The Commissioner said LTNs ‘frustrated’ her officers and vowed to speak to TfL when a particular road block causes ‘real difficulties’ for response teams.
Mr Khan has been a vocal supporter of LTNs saying that providing the capital’s children with clean air was a matter of ‘social justice.’
Paramedics had to wait up to 20 minutes to get to a patient who had collapsed in an alleyway because their ambulance was blocked by new bollards installed as part of a council traffic scheme in Ealing, West London, last year
The newly-re-elected mayor has vowed to press ahead with his traffic reduction plans and would not be diverted by high-profile campaigns from a ‘vocal minority.’
But many councils across the country have abandoned LTNs, including in Lancashire, Tyne and Wear, Derby, Kent and London.
Council officials in Ealing revealed last year that out of 5,000 comments left by residents about LTNs, 76 per cent were against them.
Kensington council officials has also vowed to remove £700,000 of cycle lanes after complaints they caused gridlock and were hardly used.
A High Court ruling in January found that the London Mayor’s guidance to town halls on the road closure measures was ‘unlawful’ and ‘irrational’.