Edinburgh Council to consider New York style pedestrian countdown signs

Edinburgh is to investigate whether intelligent traffic signals can be installed across the Capital – but calls from the Conservatives for a pilot scheme have been rejected.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 6:59 pm
Updated Friday, 8th February 2019, 7:06 pm
Pedestrian traffic light with countdown timer with a background of modern buildings. Pic: Shutterstock
Pedestrian traffic light with countdown timer with a background of modern buildings. Pic: Shutterstock

The city council’s transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, agreed to a report being brought forward on the possibility of installing the smart signals, which could include a countdown clock for pedestrians – as part of the authority’s city centre transformation project.

But the convener blocked an attempt by Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, for an investigation into a trial to be carried out, using at least one city centre and one suburban test site.

Cllr Whyte said: “Our traffic engineers worry quite rightly that if people start crossing late in the green cycle, they won’t have enough time left to finish crossing. I can think of at least two crossings in my ward where this would be very helpful.

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“Pedestrians feel safer, both those with mobility difficulties and children particularly – and that’s where I’m coming from on this. It has a positive response from the public across all sectors and it reduces pedestrian uncertainty and makes more informed crossing choices for them.”

He added: “It would seem that the administration want to kick that into the long grass in favour of much wider reviews of other things and reviews of areas they want to pedestrianise in their entirely. I want help where there’s a problem with an interaction between pedestrians and vehicles.

“There are significant benefits to traffic too – there’s no downside to this. While I understand why there may be reasons why it’s not a quick implementation in the city centre, I would urge the council to take this on and do something about it because that means we can take some action in our suburbs.”

But Cllr Macinnes said that she had tried to reach a “consensus” with Cllr Whyte, but he had chosen to “reject” it.

She said: “I have suggested that it would come to the transport and environment committee which would be the most useful place for it to be discussed. It should be looked at as an overall piece of work that’s being done within the city centre transformation.

“I was perfectly happy to look at this as a particular method – despite the fact there is no range of variant models available to use in the UK system . There is only one that is licensed for use by the Department for Transport in London or indeed the Scottish Government here. The possibility of installing a pilot site would be almost in the region of £10,000 on each side for a standard junction.”

Cllr Macinnes added: “What it doesn’t do is expand the period of time for people to cross the road – it doesn’t add anything to pedestrian priority. I think anything that we do around pedestrian junctions should really be about pedestrians.

“I will bring something back to transport and environment committee and that report will then be used to coincide with the city centre transformation project where this rightly sits as part of a holistic series of measures to improve the city.”