The Ranty Highwayman)
It’s a sweeping statement and one must beware of such generalisation because it doesn’t apply to every situation. However, in many places in the UK, it is the de facto approach and while we continue with it, we are not going to provide a decent level of service to those moving under their own power.
It is often argued that providing staggered crossings enables crossing opportunities to be provided where there ordinarily wouldn’t, but this is because of motor traffic capacity. Let’s look at an example;
The diagram above shows a simple, signal controlled crossroads. The “method of control” is very simple and involves just two stages; north-south traffic and then east-west traffic. Those turning right are expected to find a gap in which to turn right.
From a pedestrian point of view, there are no green men and it’s a case of trying to find a gap within which to cross, which is easier said than done. The crossing opportunity will be in any breaks in traffic flow or between the stages (called the “intergreen”, where all traffic is held on a red signal between opposing stages). In this situation, the intergreen is sometimes made longer than is required for traffic to clear the junction in order to give pedestrians a chance to cross the road (although in some cases, drivers are savvy to this and see it as a chance to treat the amber signal flexibly).
The simplest way to introduce green men at this type of junction would be to add a third, “all round” pedestrian stage – all traffic is held and all pedestrian crossings run together. However, given that junctions are set up for an optimum cycle time (the time for everyone to get a green), the time from the green pedestrian stage would come from the two traffic stages in the case of a retrofit, thus reducing traffic capacity. If the junction is stuffed now, it will only get worse for motor traffic congestion!