Elderly people riding bikes: Pexels image
TRAFFIC should be made to wait longer at pedestrian crossings to allow the elderly and disabled more time to get across, health officials say.
Many are discouraged from going out and staying active because they find it difficult to cross the road, they warn.
Parents with prams are also affected, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
In draft guidance published yesterday, the health watchdog said councils must ensure crossings are accessible for all, including making sure everyone has enough time to cross.
Department for Transport guidelines say the green man should light up at crossings for between four and nine seconds, depending on the road's width. It flashes for another six seconds, plus an extra second for every 4ft of road width.
But a 2014 study by University College London found the average crossing requires pedestrians to walk at 1.2 metres a second – while the average walking speed among over-65s was just 0.9m/s for men and 0.8m/s for women.
And research by the charity Living Streets for Public Health England last year revealed many disabled people are terrified of crossing the road.
One participant who had suffered a stroke said: ‘The problem is the lights, they don't give you enough time to cross the road and the cars are revving.' 
Another, who has a visual impairment, said: ‘It is quite busy, frightening. There's not a lot of time to cross. I'll only attempt with a sighted person.' 
The report said: ‘The most common physical barrier to walking identified by the participants was crossing the road.'
Councils are responsible for designing pedestrian crossings, and Nice said they can do more to help those with limited mobility, including giving them more time to cross and making sure curbs are dipped for wheelchair users. It also said councils should ensure crossings have textured ground, rotating cones and audible beeps to help the visually impaired. The Royal National Institute of Blind People, which gave evidence to Nice, said only 17 per cent of crossings have all these measures in place.
Professor Mark Baker, of Nice, said the aim was to ‘overcome barriers to people being more active', adding: ‘Safe, accessible streets?...?can help people to get active and live longer, healthier lives.' Dr Justin Varney, of Public Health England, added: ‘People with impairments are less active, and this can be due to the way the built environment is designed.' 
Natalie Turner, of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: ‘Enabling people to be more active, feel safe, be able to get out and about and stay connected are all essential in an age-friendly community.'
Motoring groups also backed the move. Steve Gooding, of the RAC Foundation, urged patience from ‘the minority of drivers who groan at the thought of being stuck at the lights longer'. 
The Department for Transport said: ‘We are committed to making crossings even safer for all. Local traffic authorities are responsible for ensuring pedestrian crossings are easily accessible [and] we provide detailed advice on timings.'
The Nice document is subject to public consultation until October 2.

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