Pedestrians at mini-roundabouts

Not before time, I decided to write this extra page about the concerns that are continually raised in my seminars.

General principles

It has been generally assumed that pedestrians are catered for badly at mini-roundabouts and that therefore town centres need "better" pedestrian facilities.

I have had many disagreements over this. Virtually all town and village centres have main junctions controlled by traffic signals and these often incorporate pedestrian stages, sometimes as part of a stage and sometime as a separate stage within the cycle.


  So what is going wrong?  
1. Most pedestrians won't wait for their crossing opportunity when it should be safe. Imagine, you are late for your train. Traffic is busy and the traffic signals at the junction by the station have just passed the pedestrian stage. It is raining. Are you going to wait for the signals to change, or are you going to look for a gap in the traffic and make a dash for it? During off-peak periods traffic flows will usually allow gaps for pedestrians to cross part of the junction at least. This may be crossing the side-road where vehicles turn only occasionally, but of course they cannot give you a "green man". So you "chance" it - and don't we all.
2. Traffic speeds are too high - if anything goes wrong or a pedestrian crosses when he shouldn't a casualty is likely to be seriously injured. Traffic signals obtain their capacity because cars follow one another across the stop line about every two seconds (1800 veh per hour). To do this speeds have to rise to around 25mph - higher if there are long vehicles in the queue. Most signals run at 30-35mph and often faster than that during the off-peak. A mistake by a pedestrian in these circumstances will usually result in a serious injury.
3. Guard rails restrict footway width and can be a cause of accident with pedestrians getting trapped on the wrong side. TRL Research has indicated that the presence or absence of pedestrian guardrails makes no statistically significant difference to pedestrian safety. Similarly signal intersections that had and did not have pedestrian "all red" stages also showed no statistically significant difference to pedestrian safety.

The report begs the question why these supposed key road safety devices are not performing.

Pedestrians can be given special facilities at roundabouts and there are many sites where Pelican or other formal crossings operate without serious difficulty, but it seems to be the case that the more priority pedestrians are given, the more they are put into danger.

So for pedestrians to get the safest deal, I conclude:

  1. They need to cross just ONE traffic lane at a time,

  2. Speeds to be closely controlled,

  3. Not necessarily to have priority.

This is the scenario at Shenley Road, Borehamwood where the main shopping street was converted from being a typical wide road layout with traffic signals to a twin-track road mostly with a central reservation and speed tables at regular intervals. Mini-roundabouts control turning movements at all the important junctions and the road continues to carry around 17,000 vehicles per day travelling at between 15 & 20mph.

Shenley Road, Borehamwood, general layout

Shenley Road, Borehamwood, driver's view

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Penntraff - Dec 2014
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