Olympic champion told to shelve plans to paint simple crossings on 20,000 side streets
Helen PiddLast modified on Sun 23 Jun 2019 16.55 BST
It is a disagreement between two extremely determined opponents: one a gold medal-winning Olympian and the other a government department suspicious of attempts to challenge its road painting orthodoxy.
Chris Boardman, the walking and cycling commissioner of Greater Manchester, wants to paint zebra crossings on 20,000 side streets in the region at a cost of £300 each. He believes the crossings – widespread across much of Europe as well as at supermarkets, stations and airports in the UK – will help pedestrians make local journeys more safely.
But the Department for Transport (DfT) says he cannot, because under UK law zebra crossings have to be wired to the electric mains and have belisha beacons and zigzag markings, which cost £30,000.
Boardman, who won gold in the velodrome at the 1992 Olympics, wants bargain zebras as an integral part of his “Bee Network” – a fully joined-up cycling and walking network covering 1,800 miles in Greater Manchester.
He has estimated the cost of the network at £1.5bn but so far has been given only £160m, which he does not want to be eaten up buying belisha beacons.
He argues that his crossings simply reinforce a little-known legal right of way for pedestrians when crossing side roads and that motorists would instinctively know to stop, belishas or not.
“These crossings enforce a right that everybody has forgotten about,” Boardman told the Sunday Times. “The law is this: that when you put a foot on the carriageway, you have the right of way. But people don’t do it, because there is no point being in the right, while at the same time being in hospital after getting run over. I would like to see thousands of zebra crossings in Manchester.”
A trial recently began, commissioned by Transport for Greater Manchester and conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory, which Boardman hopes will prove his zebras are safe. Initial results suggest they make crossings safer for pedestrians and are therefore “legally robust and responsible”, he told the Guardian.
Last year, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) wrote to the DfT to recommend that the “traffic sign regulations and general directions” is updated to authorise the use of side road zebra crossings without the need for beacons or zigzag lines.
“Crossing side road junctions in the UK is stressful. There is an assumption that turning traffic will not give way and will rarely indicate, so people must either grit their teeth and accept whatever fate brings them or move away from their desired line to a distance where they feel they could react quickly enough to avoid an approaching car. This issue is exacerbated for those with disabilities and those with small children,” the GMCA wrote.
Last June, Boardman’s team painted an “implied zebra“ on a side road in Salford, supported by the local council. Officers monitored how the crossing was used and confirmed it worked, said Catriona Swanson, who was the borough’s cycling officer at the time. But the DfT ordered the council to paint over it after a few months, according to Brian Deegan, Boardman’s technical adviser.
Implied zebras are already common on private property. There is one at Manchester’s main station, Piccadilly, which is owned by Network Rail. Last summer, the stripes were painted in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride, the LGBT festival.
A DfT spokesman insisted the government was not at odds with Boardman and said: “Zebra crossings are designed to ensure the safety of all road users – beacons are necessary for visibility, while zigzag markings prevent parked cars blocking the view of pedestrians and cyclists.
“We will always put safety first and any potential regulation change would need to be based on robust research and supported by off-road trials.”
Chris Boardman at odds with DfT over zebra crossings in Manchester – The Guardian
Olympic champion told to shelve plans to paint simple crossings on 20,000 side streets Helen PiddLast modified on Sun 23 Jun 2019 16.55 BST It is a disagreement between two extremely determined opponents: one a gold medal-winning Olympian and the other a government department suspicious of attempts to challenge its road painting orthodoxy. Chris Boardman,… [Read More]