The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spare the poor pedestrian
- Maiden study finds fault lies with traffic lights and flyovers

New Delhi, Feb. 18: The first study of pedestrian behaviour in India has indicated that traffic light cycles are badly timed, dividers on roads are poorly designed, and flyovers are increasing the risk of accidents.

The study by engineers at IIT Delhi was designed to examine how much pedestrian behaviour is contributing to accidents — with about 40 per cent occurring near traffic lights.

“There’s this impression that Indians don’t know how to behave on roads, that pedestrians in our cities do not honour traffic lights and indulge in jaywalking,” Geetam Tiwari, professor of transportation engineering at the IIT, said.

“Our study suggests that it has nothing to do with Indians, it’s human behaviour,” Tiwari told The Telegraph.

Tiwari and her colleagues at the transportation research injury prevention programme at IIT Delhi watched how pedestrians handled traffic lights by installing video cameras at seven busy intersections on arterial roads in the capital. While the study was confined to the capital, the researchers believe their findings would apply to other cities with similar levels of traffic density.

They found that the duration of the “green” signal was at some locations less than the minimum time that would be required by an average person to cross the width of the road. The study also revealed that the duration of the “red” signal sometimes lasted between 60 seconds and 120 seconds.

The researchers say international studies have shown that it is unrealistic to expect people to wait so long.

“It’s been known for a long time that compliance with traffic lights becomes difficult when the length of waiting time is more than a minute,” Tiwari said. At some junctions in the capital, waiting time for pedestrians exceeds 150 seconds.

Earlier studies on traffic accidents have suggested that three out of four fatalities in road traffic accidents involve pedestrians, bicyclists or two-wheelers.

The researchers also found that the dividers are about 45 cm high and narrow and thus inconvenient for waiting pedestrians. “Instead of serving as safety islands between the two sides of the road, the dividers encourage people to cross the second half of the road in unsafe conditions,” she said. The IIT Delhi team has published these findings in the journal, Transportation Research.

The study also revealed that at several traffic intersections where vehicles are allowed an unrestricted “free” left turn — without traffic lights — pedestrians have no alternative but to cross the road through gaps in moving traffic.

The study showed that the proportion of people who cross roads in unsafe conditions is as high as 85 per cent. But the findings suggest that long delays at crossings are driving people towards unsafe action.

The arrival of flyovers appears to have increased the risk of accidents to pedestrians at some intersections. Without traffic lights and unrestricted traffic moving beneath the flyovers, pedestrians now have to encounter traffic with higher speeds and shorter gaps between trains of vehicles, Tiwari said.

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