With the arrival of the new Puffin crossing on the Winchester road which replaces the old zebra crossing, we thought that it would be useful to ask Hampshire County Council to provide details of its operation. This is particularly relevant in the light of the number BBC News items about these types of crossings regarding the time given for people to cross.
We are grateful to County Councillor Seán Woodward, Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, for the comprehensive description which is reproduced in full here.
The crossing includes red and green signals for pedestrians which are located on each side of the road on the poles closest to approaching traffic. Located directly beneath these signals are the push buttons which are used to demand the crossing. On the underside of these units are tactile cones. These are provided for visually impaired users and rotate slowly when the green pedestrian signal is displayed. The crossing also includes an audible signal which operates when the green pedestrian signal is displayed.
The crossing is fitted with sensors which are positioned above the signal heads. These are used to detect vehicles and hold the signals at green when they are approaching. When pedestrians have demanded the crossing, the maximum waiting time will be approximately thirty seconds before their green signal appears. In the absence of vehicles or if a sufficient gap occurs on both approaches the crossing may change sooner which will reduce the waiting time.
Once the traffic signals have changed to red, following a short period of one or three seconds the pedestrian green signal will be displayed. This signal will be displayed for a fixed time of five seconds which enables pedestrians to start crossing the road. It should be recognised that the green pedestrian period is not intended to allow pedestrians to walk fully across the road. At the end of the green period, sensors which cover the crossing area detect pedestrians and hold waiting vehicles at red. This holding period for traffic is variable and allows less mobile pedestrians a longer time to complete their crossing. The holding time can last between two and ten seconds depending on how long pedestrians take to cross. Therefore, inclusive of the green pedestrian time the minimum overall crossing time available is seven seconds which can extend up to a maximum of fifteen seconds.
At the end of the holding period the signals will display a red and amber signal to traffic before returning to green again on Winchester Road. All timings used at the Puffin crossing have been set in accordance with national guidance issued by the Department of Transport and are considered carefully to allow pedestrians to cross the road in safety.
Winchester Road is 6.5 metres wide at the crossing. Assuming that a pedestrian starts to cross when the green pedestrian signal first appears, the timings allow them to walk at an average speed of around 0.4 metres per second. Should a pedestrian start to cross during the last second of their green time they have sufficient time to walk across at an average of 0.6 metres per second.
The BBC article referred to a walking speed of 1.2 metres per speed. This broadly relates to the speed required to cross during just the green pedestrian time. As mentioned above a considerably longer duration is available at the Puffin crossing to allow pedestrians to complete their crossing.