Green man not on long enough: Councils ordered to improve pedestrian crossings

A pedestrian countdown crossing in central London. Health officials have said all councils need to ensure that older people, the disabled and parents with prams have got enough time to cross the road when using pedestrian crossings. Picture by Nick Ansell/PA Wire
A pedestrian countdown crossing in central London. Health officials have said all councils need to ensure that older people, the disabled and parents with prams have got enough time to cross the road when using pedestrian crossings. Picture by Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Councils need to ensure that older people, the disabled and parents with prams have got enough time to cross the road when using pedestrian crossings, health officials have said.

The number of road crossings, and how accessible they are, may not meet people's needs and can put people off from going out and about, according to a draft guideline from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Nice's guidance on encouraging physical activity in local communities called on councils to make sure that people with limited mobility are given enough time to cross safely when using pedestrian crossings.

The guideline states: "The environment can make it difficult for some groups to be active. For example, older people and others with limited mobility may find it difficult to cross the road in the time allowed by crossing signals."

It also calls on councils to ensure that those with limited mobility - including the elderly, frail, disabled, others who need mobility aids and people using buggies or prams for transporting children - have enough accessible crossings.

Authorities should also ensure that crossing have dropped down pavements for wheelchair users or textured ground for people with visual impairments.

All crossings should have an audible beep and tactile rotating cones - which are used so visually impaired people know when it is safe to cross, Nice added.

Footways should be free from "unauthorised and unnecessary obstructions" including pavement parking where it is not permitted, the guideline states.

And councils should ensure they have consistent policies about permanent or temporary obstructions on footways - including vending boards, bins, parked cars, and street furniture such as chairs and hanging baskets.

The updated guideline, which is being put out for consultation, makes a series of other recommendations for councils to help people in their communities be active. Other new elements to the document include:

:: Improving cycling infrastructure and installing secure cycle storage facilities in public places and on public transport.

:: Ensure footways, footpaths and cycle routes are well maintained by removing hazards such as tree routes, pot-holes or broken paving slabs and are not are not hidden by overgrown or poorly-managed vegetation.

:: Encourage community groups and volunteers to support the maintenance and use of public open spaces, including trails and footpaths, for example by reporting any problems affecting use and accessibility.

"The guideline outlines ways to overcome barriers to people being more active by making public spaces attractive, easy to get to and safe, said Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice.

"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."

Dr Justin Varney, national lead for physical activity at Public Health England, added: "Physical activity benefits everyone at all stages of life.

"People living with impairments are less active, and this can be due to the way the built environment, including public spaces and transport systems, is designed.

"Making physical activity accessible to everyone when planning spaces benefits communities in terms of health, environmental sustainability and economic regeneration."