That Pedestrian Walk Light Can Kill Seniors
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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