Part of what makes London such an enticing city is its energetic pace. However, for many elderly residents, the speed of London life is a cause for fear and anxiety.
This week’s launch of the ‘Give us Time to Cross’ campaign by the Westminster Living Streets Group has brought the issue to national attention.
A study from June 2012 found that 4 out of 5 older people in the city are unable to cross the road before the light changes.
Tower Hamlets resident Celia Constantinidis, 80, explained her issues with the current lights system: “I find I can get three quarters across the road before the green man goes off and then I get really nervous.”
In general, a person must cross a pedestrian crossing faster than 1.2 meters per second. Research at University College London found that 76 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women aged 65 and over have a walking speed of well below that requirement.
The study found that the average walking speed was 0.9 meters per second for men and 0.8 for women.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport told ELL: “It is up to local authorities to ensure their pedestrian crossings provide everyone with enough time to cross the road safely. We provide a range of suggested timings for crossings in our guidance, but these are not mandatory.”
Bhavesh Hindocha, a Hackney based film maker teamed up with elderly people’s charity Elders Voice to create a video raising awareness of the issue released in October.
“Hey Mr Boris” features members of Elders Voice singing to the Mayor of London to “listen to the older folks” and solve the problem that many older people cannot cross the road in time.
Hindocha said: “During the making of this song we’ve heard several instances of people nearly being run over – including an email from a woman whose mother was rushing to cross over in time, and fell and broke her hip.”
Alan Bristow, Director of Road Space Management at TfL, said: “We have installed more than 100 sets of pedestrian countdown timers at traffic signals in recent years. The pedestrian countdown timers tell people how long they have left to safely cross the road following the green man phase and many more signals will have this technology introduced in the coming years.”
He continued: “We regularly review the operation of each of our traffic signals to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible for all users of the roads.”
Jenny Davidson, Director of Elders Voice, is not convinced that enough has been done so far, she said: “The time given for crossing the lights is just not long enough for some older people and I hope this video will highlight this to a wide audience.”
Boris Johnson is yet to comment on the issue, but Hindocha remains optimistic about the future of the campaign. He said: “Change is more of a process than an event, so hopefully this video is part of a process.”