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Transport Scotland to investigate safety of 'Puffin' pedestrian crossings

The Scottish Government has announced a new investigation into the effectiveness of ‘Puffin’ crossings, after doubts were raised about their safety. The research, commissioned by Transport Scotland and ‘SCOTS’, a body made up of local authority transportation chiefs, could result in additional pedestrian warning lights being installed on thousands of crossings. The ‘Pedestrian User-Friendly INtelligent’ (Puffin) crossings were developed as a safer way for people, particularity those with a disability or in wheelchairs, to cross busy roads and feature sensors to detect people at the crossing. The new-style indicators are located at waist height on the user’s side of the road and were designed to encourage pedestrians to look at oncoming traffic. The new crossings were introduced as an alternative to the ‘Pelican’ or PELICON (PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled) systems, which display the flashing green ‘running man’ image on a traffic light on the opposite side of the road.

Keith Irving, from the Living Streets campaign group, said, “There is a particular risk where Puffin crossings are used in areas of high density, because you can’t actually see where or when the green man appears.” The UK’s Local Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said, “There may, in certain circumstances, be problems at some Puffin crossings where people waiting to cross the road obscure the view of the green and red signals for others. We have taken action to improve visibility by including high-level additional signals in the recent amendments to the traffic signs regulations. These can be placed above the standard signals, so that everyone can see when it is safe to cross the road.” A 2008 study commissioned by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) found that Puffins were significantly safer than Pelican crossings, with 24% fewer pedestrian accidents and 16% fewer involving cars. The DfT will study the findings of the new investigation when it is completed later this year. A Transport Scotland spokesman said, “The findings will provide recommendations to ensure the most suitable crossings are provided for pedestrians, in particular those with disabilities, and that we continue to meet our obligations as laid out in the Equalities Act.”

May 8, 2012

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