Pedestrian crossings should be changed to allow frail pensioners more time to cross, campaigners claimed today.
Crossings nationally are regulated on an average walking time of 1.21 metres per second but new research has found that some elderly people take nearly twice as long.
But the ‘Smarter Crossings’ campaign is now calling on the green man to last an extra three seconds so the young and old can all cross in time.
Dr Laura Asher, a public health expert at University College London, said: “Walking is an important activity for older people as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits.
“Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services and shops that are all important in day-to-day life.
“Having insufficient time at a road crossing may not increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities but it will certainly deter this group from even trying to cross the road.”
Pedestrains are currently given one second per 1.21m of road to cross – a speed set by the Department for Transport.
Dr Asher examined the walking speed of nearly 3,000 pensioners and found that the average for older men was 0.9m per second and just 0.7m per second for older women.
It found that 76 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women over the age of 65 have a walking speed slower than that needed to use a pedestrian crossing.
The campaign, for a longer crossing time, is being run by the Living Streets charity which promotes the rights of pedestrians.
A spokesman said: “Older people are amongst the many pedestrians at risk and vulnerable because they have insufficient time to cross the road.
“The ‘green man’ time at signalised crossings is calculated assuming a walking speed of 1.2 metres per second, but this is an out of date measurement and does not reflect present day.
“Across the UK thousands of older people, people with mobility issues and parents with children are struggling to cross the road at the very places that are meant to be safe for pedestrians.”
Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, defended the time pedestrians are given to cross the road.
He said: “The formula councils use for timings at pedestrian crossings actually gives people far longer to cross the road than this flawed research suggests.
“Timings have to strike a balance between traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but the emphasis is always on safety.”
He added that timings could be altered to take local circumstances into account, for example if there is a care home nearby.