Pedestrians get only 18% of the time at a busy pedestrian crossing

24 Mar

There is a major pedestrian crossing point opposite Suffolk College on the waterfront in Ipswich which has recently become very slow so I spent 15 minutes taking some measurements on what turned out to be a busy open day. I observed the waiting time after each the request was made, the time allowed for people to cross and then the delay until next request (all times in seconds).

  • 80, 17, 1
  • 80, 22, 60
  • 84, 18, 88
  • 76, 14

The average wait time was 80 seconds, the average crossing time was 18 second meaning that in a busy pedestrian town centre/tourist location pedestrians are getting only 18% of the time available. Curiously, I have previously established that pedestrians get only 18% of the road width outside a local primary school once cars have dominated both the carriageway and half of the pavement. Is this a example of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) which proposes that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes?

Here is the crossing – click on it to go to Google Streetview. Notice that the Google Streetview car caught someone waiting and a bunch more people arriving. And on a similar note… a reader of this blog has just commented that there is also a car stopped with its hazard lights just beyond the zigzags on the right blocking the cycle lane and forcing a cyclist behind them into oncoming traffic.

A work colleague tells me that the crossing by his house in a busy town-centre location is also very slow. By contrast, when I used a pedestrian crossing in a less pedestrian-busy location yesterday I noticed that it responded very quickly; I tested the crossing a few times and each time I was free to cross within 9 seconds (compared to 80 seconds at the college)!

I am thinking that it might be interesting to do a more systematic survey of the response times of crossing across the town. Possibly council should publish this information systematically as a matter of course.

Update 2
I reported this on FixMyStreet on the day I made this post however I still haven’t had any response or acknowledgment of my report from the council after more than 5 weeks which I think is very poor.

Update 3

The council appears to be responding to FixMyStreet reports now and has also cut the delay on this crossing by about half it seems (it  is a little hard to determine because the timing is now quite variable, but has been as short as 20 seconds which is great).

3 Responses to “Pedestrians get only 18% of the time at a busy pedestrian crossing”

  1. Graham Smith March 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    And the 8 section zig-zag means the cessation of a cycle lane so the traffic tends to flop to the kerbside thus demeaning the cyclist. And a car is parked, flashing, in the cycle lane.

    And the approach to the island towards Felixtow has no cycle provisions. The sign saying ‘end of cycle lane’ is hidden behind the building. The cars and the length of queues suggests that a bit of modal-shift engineering is in order.

    But they don’t ride bikes in Ipswich do they?


  2. Si April 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    I would add that the 18 seconds is time to start crossing, as you can enter a road at any time you want… if the light goes amber or even red whilst you are on it – cars are required to wait.

    But, it seems that this pedestrian priority is unknown to a select few(large few) same for turning into junctions with people crossing. It would also be nice to let people know that a red light for pedestrians is not a requirement to stop, neither is a green light of pedestrians a requirement before you can cross.

    I’ve once crossed a minor off a major, and a small car came in from my right almost taking my feet off… I was in the road before I even saw it come in (poor visibility), after hesitating they continued on to almost run over my toes with the rear wheels which required me to step back to avoid.

    Standing there dumbfounded… looking at the car from the left who saw what happened and was waiting for me to continue crossing… of which I did, over half way into the first lane another car came flying around the corner, horn blaring… and stopped 10metres behind me opened the door and shouted “stay off the road” at me…. wtf.

    Too many people are wussy at junctions, I seriously push motorists as they need to understand priority (this wasn’t the case above) – obviously I have to do this with my own safety in mind.

  3. Alex Wright February 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    I’ve noticed some crossing lights in Birmingham turn red for traffic almost immediately (though with a slight delay if they’ve just been pressed), whilst others take forever.

    Sometimes it’s the crossing on lightly used pavements by the ring road, but not always. For example, the crossing to Speedwell Rd on A38 Bristol Rd seems to take at least a minute (I’ve never timed it, but a rush hour it feels like ages), the crossing on the parallel (a bit less busy) A441 Pershore Rd/Edward Rd junction, or the crossing up by the A4540 ring road junction: almost immediate.

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