There are two big junctions I have to cross on my way to work – outside Vauxhall Station and outside Kew Bridge – and both of them are of the annoying kind that are arranged so that it’s impossible for a pedestrian to get across them in a single phase of the lights. Instead we have to stand crammed on a tiny traffic island breathing in the foul soup of pollution from the cars sweeping past us wondering how many cigarette equivalent’s worth of carbon monoxide we’ve just ingested. There are never any junctions where the cars have to cross in two stages and the pedestrians just sail through. In reality the one at Kew Bridge isn’t really a pedestrian crossing at all. It’s just a great big traffic junction that sometimes, when the cars have to stop anyway to let the other cars through, it is possible for people to also cross and they’ve dressed this up with a little green man light and an entirely pointless button for us to press to pass the time while we’re waiting.
The one at Vauxhall is worse though. It’s willfully badly designed. I noticed this evening that one half of the crossing is a proper pedestrian controlled light where the cars are stopping simply for people, whereas the other half is part of a junction. So do the two bits join up so I can cross in one go? Do they bugger. Unless I’m prepared to take my life in my hands and run across three lanes of traffic I have to wait for a full cycle of the lights to cross both halves of the road. This is just perversely poor design on the part of the planners. It suggests they either didn’t think about what pedestrians might want – which is scary – or didn’t care, which is worse.
Why should pedestrians be treated with such contempt? Why should we be the ones that wait in the freezing rain* while car drivers – who are after all, sitting comfortably in their little worlds, music on, dry and cosy – whizz past? OK so it would cause gridlock if every junction had to halt completely to allow pedestrians to cross at their leisure – but what’s a little gridlock between friends? Maybe a few hours spent fuming in a traffic jam would persuade these people to get out of their tin boxes and join the rest of us in the real world for a change. After all, we pedestrians were here first.
South West trains clocked up a few minutes’ delay today but nothing as yet painful enough for me to start keeping track of it. But they should be warned.
And if my broadband isn’t sorted out by tomorrow, I’m naming names.
* OK so it wasn’t actually raining today but that’s not the point