Rather than the vehicle being uninterrupted at each road intersection, what is required is an uninterrupted pedestrian network consisting of linked pavements. To achieve this, two elements of the traffic engineer’s bag of tricks can be integrated – the pedestrian crossing and the road hump (sleeping policeman). Pedestrians then walk across broad-topped humps which are the width of conventional crossings, and are paved and at the same level as the pavement. Likewise, the full ‘square’ of road intersections is raised and paved at pavement level. The effect of this is to create the continuous pedestrian network.
At present, the pedestrian network in our towns and cities is interrupted at every road section. This is because in terms of the continuity of surfacing and minimising of delay, priority has traditionally been given to wheeled traffic. As a consequence, pedestrians are obliged to run the gauntlet of moving vehicles when they wish to get from one ‘safe haven’ of pavement to the next. Alternatively, usually by making a detour, they may be able to use a pedestrian crossing where they can cross with some greater, though not absolute confidence – nearly 10 per cent of pedestrian casualties occur on these crossings.
In an age when it is becoming increasingly recognised that the more journeys that can be made on foot rather than by motorised means, the better is the public interest served on social, economic, environmental, energy-saving, and equity grounds, there is a strong case for re-ordering this priority.
Evidence from the UK and the Continent shows that drivers have to reduce their speed sharply to mount road humps and that they drive slowly and considerately when traversing paved areas. Whilst drivers would incur a few seconds’ delay at each pedestrian crossing, this new arrangement would ensure greater convenience for people getting about on foot as well as, of course, making it much safer for them. It would also give parents concerned about the risk of their children being injured in a road accident the confidence they have been losing at an alarming rate to permit them to make the school and other journeys on their own. The idea is just now beginning to be adopted in such places as Covent Garden in London and in York.
Originally published in The Book of Visions: An Encyclopedia of Social Innovations (eds. Nicholas Albery) 1992. (Paving over road intersections to create a continuous pedestrian network.)