Price Tags Vancouver has been writing about the fact that the crossing times established in North America for pedestrians to cross the street are not based upon the needs of seniors or those with walking assists, who may require a longer crossing time.  Price Tags Vancouver covered the unfortunate case in San Francisco  where seniors took to the streets (and a particular egregious crossing) to picket for longer “green man” time to enable them to traverse the street safely. San Francisco agreed to allow for 3.5 feet per second on the crossing, despite the fact that 3.0 feet per second is the acceptable standard for pedestrian intersections highly utilized by seniors.
The BBC News has been blunter  about the problem with road safety and seniors-the pedestrian “green man” signal is providing crossing times that can kill. While average crossing times are four to seven seconds, older men walk generally at 3 feet per second, while older women traverse at 2.6 feet per second.  Senior women are slower than the accepted “averages” used in North America, and  the timing does not include the use of mobility assists.
Britain’s Department of Transport recommends crossing times at 4 feet per second, but does allow local councils to adjust the timing to their residents’ mobility.
Prof Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at the National Institute of  Health Care Excellence states “It should not matter whether you are on foot, in a wheelchair, have a visual impairment or if you’re a parent pushing a pram. If streets, parks and other open spaces are well planned, everyone should be able to get around their local area easily.
Safe, accessible streets and well-maintained parks can help people to get active and live longer, healthier lives.”
Key to a 21st century approach to universal mobility for all is ensuring that people with impairment or age have the same access to the outdoors, the street network, and be able to traverse streets safely and comfortably. What is also going to be important is recognizing that seniors have just as much right to the safe comfortable use of the infrastructure network as the younger and more able bodied. The challenge will be for us to accept slower motordom speeds and longer pedestrian signal wait times as part of allowing safe universal accessibility for the most vulnerable of road users.
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  1. Yesterday, I saw a cops’ car use his siren to speed up two persons, that had difficulty walking and crossing the street; Yes, it’s was over for pedestrians crossing time, but can’t anyone have a bit of patience for the elderly and handicapped? it was a bad example. I was shocked and wanted to confront the cops at the following intersection, (I was on my bike) but what’s I’ve seen lately on how cops treat people, prevented me from doing this.

  2. My MA thesis project at UBC was on preventing life-cycle ghettoization of seniors living in care facilities, and the main thrust of my research was looking at how the public realm was designed for or against seniors being able to get out and about and stay active in the wider neighbourhood/community. I looked at a number of measures of intersections for my case studies in Vancouver, including crossing times, and sadly, many, if not all, did not provide enough green man time for my younger, relatively spry self to cross, let alone people with various mobility issues or seniors!

  3. While it is probably true that many crossing times could be somewhat lengthend I have also, on numerous occasions, seen seniors or folks with a walker NOT wait to beginning of the next signal cycle but start walking halfway through the signal time, or even when it started counting downwards from 20 or even 10 seconds. Then, when halfway across the car signal is green.
    Education is critical too. More self-responsibility. If you know you walk slow, then don’t start walking when the counter is at 10. Wait to the next signal cycle.

  4. I find it odd that this is not more front and centre among local governments. Almost all of them have some form of ‘safe routes for schools’ program that combines elements of planning, engineering, programming, and design improvements to make roads a little less awful for the younger set of vulnerable population. Dedicated money. But nothing similar for the other end of the cohort bracket, who have some similar but a lot of unique mobility challenges. Time to get on the trolley, as we all know the kids say these days. Ain’t none of us getting any younger.

  5. Bending the topic slightly…
    We’ve all seen large vehicles cruising through pedestrian controlled intersections after the signal turns yellow or even red. It makes us all mad, but many times it’s not the fault of the driver. Signals in Vancouver have a habit of going from flashing green to yellow the instant a pedestrian or cyclist hits the button. This gives a truck driver 0.1 seconds to stop a vehicle that probably requires 5 seconds to safely slow from 45km/h to 0. For the safety of everyone on the road there need to be improved signals that warn drivers of large vehicles in advance. In Burnaby, for example, many pedestrian crossings change from flashing green to solid green for a few seconds then switch to yellow. This provides drivers with a heads-up that a change is coming and that they should be coming to a stop if possible.
    Along the same line…
    Countdown timers at intersections are frustratingly inconsistent. At some crossings the light changes to yellow when the timer reaches zero. At others there is a delay between zero and yellow. At some intersections the signal can reach zero and then switch back to WALK. A heavy truck driver who is being alert and conscientious will have slowed to a crawl anticipating a yellow light only to find a renewed green in front of him/her. That’s a real waste of brakes, time and fuel, creates unnecessary noise and pollution and irritates car drivers who can’t see why the truck slowed down in the first place. Such situations no doubt encourage truck and bus drivers to ignore such countdown timers and proceed regardless of yellow signals.
    For the safety of everyone using our streets there needs to be an improvement in intersection signalling that brings consistency and predictability for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

    1. When the pedestrian pushing the crossing button triggers the light it’s the same length yellow as it always is, such as when a crossing car triggers it. The truck driver is not forced to stop any faster than they normally would.
      Driver should not be focusing on the pedestrian signals. That’s going to distract you from driving. Yes, I’d be annoyed at traffic for slowing down for a signal that doesn’t effect them. Again that’s the truck driver’s fault.
      Sounds like you’ve been spending time around some really poor truck drivers.

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