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Pedestrian Crossings: A local challenge needing urgent attention Europe wide

Date

30 Nov 2010

Sections

Transport

Brussels 30th November 2010

One in five pedestrian crossings failed this year’s EuroTest pedestrian crossing assessment (EPCA). This result, the worst since testing started in 2008, starkly underlines the urgent need for improvement. Better accessibility, greater harmonization of rules governing the types of infrastructure (traffic light schemes, road markings etc) and behaviour at pedestrian crossings as well as more effective use of technologies are a must if safety is to be assured.

The EPCA was conducted for the third consecutive year from June to October 2010.  Across 18 cities in 13 European countries, some 270 pedestrian crossings, found in three distinct areas of each city (in the central down town area -121, in semi peripheral areas-113 and the peripheral areas on the city outskirts-36) were examined and subjected to comparative analysis.

The most glaring failings include the absence of refuge islands on particularly long crossings, poor traffic light management – very short green phases for pedestrians - and high numbers of potential hazard points for pedestrians and vehicles. The visibility aspect particularly at night still need much improvement, (one in five crossings was negatively rated in this respect). Accessibility at pedestrian crossings was also found to be generally poor particularly for users with disabilities (wheel chair users and those who are sight-impaired or deaf) which is unacceptable.

Ironically almost 2000 of the 8,000 pedestrians killed annually, die in accidents on or in the vicinity of a pedestrian crossing – the designated safe place to cross the road! EuroTest shows that year on year since the first test in 2008 to this latest inspection, ever higher numbers of crossings fail the test: one in eight in 2008; one in six in 2009 and one in five in 2010.  Moreover, pedestrian crossings in peripheral areas are 10% more dangerous than those found in city centres. The whole issue of safe crossings is crying out for closer scrutiny and urgent remedy: from the need to streamline the huge variety of pedestrian crossings designs across Europe to the traffic rules governing how to cross the road. Safety at pedestrian crossings must feature in European road safety policies for the coming decade for the sake of safe pedestrian mobility in urban areas.

Limited adoption of readily available technologies to improve safety at pedestrian crossings also puts a brake on progress. Only five crossings had countdown devices. Advanced lighting systems focused on the crossing area (a winning solution identified in Brussels this year) were hardly in evidence. 46% of the tested crossings failed due to the absence of systems facilitating and assisting wheelchair users and visually impaired and deaf pedestrians.

Three years of testing has revealed some rays of hope. Some crossings, retested during the programme have shown remarkable improvement: Belgrade, initially rated poor, improved by 50% to rank as good in 2010. Brussels, Europe’s capital, failed miserably in 2008. Four of the five of the worst crossings (including the worst) were found here. In 2010 half of the crossings tested scored “Very Good” or “Good” (including the best tested). Accessibility for all users was a winning feature.

According to Brian Simpson, chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, “Improvement of the safety of vulnerable users must be a priority action for the European Union’s road safety policy. Pedestrian safety in particular needs urgent attention. Even if local authorities are responsible for these important aspects of the road safety infrastructure, many are ignorant of what can be done and unaware of best practice throughout the EU. Europe really must develop a platform where these best practices can be demonstrated and exchanged.”

The EuroTest pedestrian crossing programme aims to provide institutions, at all levels, with measures to effectively contribute to improved road safety in this field.

 

For more information contact Sinziana Gille Tel 02 282 0816 or s.gille(at)fiabrussels.com

 

Ends

Notes for the editors

This EuroTest pedestrian crossings assessment programme led by the Automobile Club D’Italia (ACI) is conducted together with the EuroTest consortium partners, automobile clubs from 17 countries, under the aegis of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).

Over the last three years- 2008-2010 pedestrian crossings have been tested in 44 cities in 23 European countries. A total of 66 tests have been conducted as some cities were retested two and even three times. In some countries the EPCA has become a reference and preliminary screening tool for local authorities interested in prioritising countermeasure for pedestrian crossing upgrades.

More information available on www.eurotestmobility.com

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