Green man to be left on at pedestrian crossings in a bid to get Londoners walking

Lucy Purdy

Pedestrian crossings in key locations in London will be re-programmed so the green man shows most of the time. Could it encourage Londoners to walk more?

Walkers in busy parts of London will get right of way over traffic in an attempt to encourage people to make more journeys on foot. Pedestrian crossings in 10 key locations will be re-programmed so that the green man shows for the majority of the time as part of a bid to make London “the world’s most walkable city”.

The measure is mentioned in London’s first Walking Action Plan, which targets an extra million walking trips each day by 2024. It was released this week by Mayor Sadiq Khan and London’s first ever walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman.

Under an approach called ‘green man authority’, traffic lights in 10 new areas of the city will show a green signal for pedestrians continuously, until vehicles are detected. The technique has preciously only been used at two locations in the city, on bus-only streets in the boroughs of Hounslow and Morden.

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Transport for London (TfL) – which has responsibility for all traffic signals in the capital – say the new hotspots have been selected as they offer a chance to “significantly benefit pedestrians”. The first swathe, which could see the measures introduced in the autumn, include three crossings in the Olympic Park, between the Westfield shopping centre and the London Stadium, near the Shard at London Bridge station and near St Paul’s, to help thousands of people cross the Millennium Bridge.

Walking is an easy and affordable way for people to be more physically active, but research shows that some people are put off because of concerns about road danger.

“By making it easier for Londoners to leave their cars at home and walk instead, it will tackle the air pollution crisis and reduce congestion as London’s population continues to grow,” said Norman. “Getting more Londoners to walk regularly is essential for the health and future prosperity of our city.”

Getting more Londoners to walk regularly is essential for the health and future prosperity of our city

The plan has not been universally welcomed. Some people believe it could slow down traffic, including buses, and even make congestion worse. Others have pointed out that the measure may not significantly improve pedestrians’ chances of crossing, such is the volume of traffic during rush hour: vehicles that will trigger the sensor.

The action plan also includes plans for new infrastructure, better signposting and maps, and more pedestrian crossings. It also aims to encourage over half of children in the capital to walk to school. Khan has also launched the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone which puts in place minimum emission standards for vehicles; spent more than £300m on greening London’s bus fleet; and ordered TfL to no longer licence new diesel taxis from this year.

London’s population is expected to rise to 10.8 million people by 2041, creating five million additional journeys every day.

London’s first ever walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman

Featured image: Tottenham Court Road in London, photographed by Liam Seskis

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