ramblings from the hive mind

Fight for your six seconds

11 March 2009 | View comments
Damien Austin-Walker

There is a proposal afoot in London to reduce the time given for pedestrians to cross at traffic by 6 seconds. This is madness, I am a young(ish) man and on some crossings I have barely enough time to get to the other side before the lights go green again for cars. How will this affect older people, those with disabilities and possibly even those from outside London who are known not to walk as fast as us Londoners?


Boris the buffoon

This is being pushed by our own Mayor, Boris who has been documented ignoring red traffic lights on his bike on more than one occasion (I don't have particular issue with this where there are no pedestrians).  Rather than making London a step towards a better place for us all to live in he appears to want to take us two steps back.


Reclaim our six seconds

I propose that pedestrians start a campaign of defiance, and reclaim their six seconds, by deliberately walking slowly across crossings so that cars cannot start up immediately the lights turn (prematurely) green. Lets all stretch it out for a further 6 seconds.

Some have commented to me that this is a reckless idea, that could cause people to be injured if cars drive off disregarding that a pedestrian is still crossing when the lights go green, or that road rage may lead to a beating.  I appreciate this as a concern and perhaps it is a foolish militancy, I would welcome views and if there are alternative approaches I would be happy to adopt them instead.


Are there greater issues to be concerned with?

You may think that this is a small issue and that there are greater issues to concentrate on at the moment. I argue that this is the top of  a slippery slope.  The current mentality that drivers have a god given privilege to the right of way is perpetuating a pervading car culture and the demise of an environment comfortable to exist within as a pedestrian.  It has resonances with many other issues where common sense and priorities are being turned on heads and behaviours that have sat happily with the natural world for millions of years being classed as not in tune with modern society. 

For most people there should be little need to drive a car in London often (and yes I do have one). An environment were it is easier and more sensible to leave you car at home and walk or use public transport should be encouraged rather than making London more hostile for people to inhabit and move on the streets.


The right of way?

We are facing a global carbon catastrophe, fed in part by our use of cars. Pedestrians are (aside from hedgehogs and toads) the most vulnerable road users and were here long before cars and other harmful vehicles and as such I believe in the intrinsic right of way should always be with the pedestrian. 

In an ideal future pedestrians should be able to walk across a road without thinking or looking and cars would instantly slow and stop to allow them to cross safely without any constraints about where or when they can roam.  I am pragmatic enough to understand that this is just an ideal, but ideals are there to be fought for and to help pull us towards a better world.

I am not a stranger to being the brunt of motorists misplaced belief in their own right of way over the actual pavement as you can read in this post


Wellbeing and community

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that this is not a small issue, it is one catalyst amongst others that is contributing to the deterioration of our environment, our wellbeing, our society and our community.  We must stop these things now before it's too late.

Go forth and walk slowly.


Related posts elsewhere:-

Living Streets speaks out on TfL's traffic signals plans




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