Puffin crossings - a blunder?

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PeterA5145
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by PeterA5145 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 14:23

From the latest edition of Local Transport Today:
No more Puffin pedestrian crossings are likely to be implemented in London, Transport for London said this week, despite Puffins still being the DfT’s preferred form of crossing.

Puffin (Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent) crossings were developed by the DfT and first authorised in 1996. They have the green man/red man pedestrian indicators on the nearside of the road in contrast to traditional crossings, which have farsided signals (Pelican crossings at mid-block and farside pedestrian signals at junctions). The DfT has said nearside signals help visually impaired people who cannot clearly discern signals mounted across the road but the nearside indicators have proved unpopular with many pedestrians.

Transport for London says farsided indicators will be a feature of the new ‘gold standard’ for all new and upgraded crossings (LTT 04 Apr). A TfL spokesman confirmed to LTT this week that no further Puffin crossings were likely to be installed in the capital because TfL is responsible for installing and maintaining all the capital’s traffic signals, including on borough roads.

“Pedestrians have previously indicated to us that they dislike the uncertainty of not knowing whether the ‘green man’ is still lit once they have started crossing, which happens with nearside signals,” said a spokesman. “Farsided signals also mean we can install pedestrian countdown indicators, which have proved very popular in London as it is a positive indicator of the amount of crossing time left, rather than no indicator at all which is the case with nearside signals.”

All TfL’s ‘gold standard’ crossings will include audible and tactile cones, which are recognised indicators for visually impaired pedestrians. “Our preference will always be the ‘gold standard’ crossing, but if there is a clear operational reason or specific request to install a Puffin crossing at a location, we would consider it on a case-by-case basis,” said the spokesman.

The Department’s 2005 traffic advisory leaflet, Pedestrian facilities at signal-controlled junctions, which remains valid, says: “in general terms, it is anticipated that nearside signalling will become the norm but there may be situations where farside signalling may be necessary”. The 2006 Puffin crossings – good practice guide, published by the DfT and the County Surveyors’ Society (now ADEPT), says Puffins “will provide the basis for a standardised form of signalling at all crossings”.

LTT this week asked the Department what its position was in the light of TfL’s decision. A spokeswoman said: “The Government provides clear guidance to local councils but it is up to them to decide on the type of crossings they want to use on their roads.”

London is not the only place where Puffins have fallen out of favour. A Birmingham City Council spokesman told LTT this week the council did not install Puffins at busy pedestrian locations, such as in the city centre, because the green/red man indicator can be obscured by the volume of pedestrians. Puffins were, however, an option for other locations in the city. Liverpool City Council has tackled the problem of the indicators being obscured by installing a second indicator on some Puffin crossings higher up the pole.

Puffin crossings are fitted with pedestrian detection allowing the green man to show until pedestrians have cleared the carriageway. The green man signal is also cancelled on a Puffin crossing if the person walks away from the crossing, thereby reducing delays for road users.

A TRL report in 2011 of 50 sites that had been converted to Puffin operation (40 from Pelicans, ten from farside pedestrian signals at junctions) reported a 19% accident frequency reduction, which TRL said was statistically significant at the 5% confidence level. “This finding should be disseminated widely to the transport planning and engineering community to support the implementation of Puffin facilities,” said TRL (LTT 8 Apr 11).
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by Fahad » Sun Apr 20, 2014 15:30

Will the TfL "gold standard" crossings bear the same pedestrian detection and auto cancelling technology?

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by Gareth » Sun Apr 20, 2014 17:26

Isn't there some stupid DfT rule that puffins can't be used with farside indicators? I recall that the early toucans were the only exception to this; these were identical to farside puffins with the only difference being an extra green cycle aspect illuminating along with the green man. There's still some around these parts and they seem to work fine. No doubt if they were allowed as an option, the DfT knows too well that much of the country would spurn nearside signals.

I think London is going for normal 'PedX' crossings with a countdown during the blackout. Whilst the blackout phase is a bit of a historic oddity, the countdown makes it clear that it is a clearance interval. This also works well, though I would prefer a flashing green or red man as a clearance signal. The bit about audible indications is also interesting. Are we, or London at least, going to finally catch up with most of the developed world and employ an audible signal that can be used at all sites, including junctions with split ped phases? Probably not but it's a nice thought.

I don't need to reiterate yet again how I feel about nearside indicators. I can only hope London's lead makes some of our other cities, Liverpool and Manchester particularly, to think.

Of course, if common sense ever prevails farside puffins will eventually be allowed and become the norm at midblock crossings.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by fras » Sun Apr 20, 2014 21:09

They're still installing these absolutely useless crossings here in Crewe. Once, at the railway station, we had two Pelican crossings, fairly close to each other. They worked like a dream, pedestrians only had to wait a very short time before the crossing phase started, then, when pedestrians had finished crossing, the motorist could move on when the yellow flashing started, provided the crossing was clear.
So as a pedestrian and a motorist, Pelicans crossings worked very well for me, and traffic flowed smoothly. Then Cheshire CC decided to "improve" Nantwich Road, as government money was being disbursed for councils to waste. So we got 20 mph on Nantwich Road with humps, posh rubbish bins, and new paving that lasted about a month before it started breaking up, plus a traffic lights management scheme called Scoot. So apparently the Pelicans had to go, and we got Puffins. Now it is chaos. Pedestrians can grow beards waiting for the crossing phase under the malign Scoot system, so tend to skip across in between the traffic, and when the crossing phase finally arrives, the time allowed for crossing is extremely long and traffic backs up onto the nearby Crewe Green roundabout. It is so bad, sometimes the crossing stops the traffic, but the pedestrians have all gone, having skipped across between vehicles having tired of waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Well done DfT, (and Cheshire CC) !!

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by flyingscot » Sun Apr 20, 2014 21:20

Interesting that puffins are falling out of favour. I've seen a few sites locally where they've gone for pelicans when refreshing the junction or even gone for the 'hybrid' a pelican without flashing amber.

Scoot is an interesting one. I've seen some Scoot set-ups which look awesome, really responsive and work well. At night under low flows the lights are flicking all over the place on demand, skipping stages where need etc. Then I've seen others where wait times at night when there are 5 cars at the junction are near 90 seconds. It must be a set-up and maintenance issue.

FWIW I think the linking of pedestrian crossings into 120 second cycle time lights is unreasonable, and a better solution needs to be sought for such crossings.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by traffic-light-man » Tue Apr 22, 2014 08:54

Gareth wrote: I don't need to reiterate yet again how I feel about nearside indicators. I can only hope London's lead makes some of our other cities, Liverpool and Manchester particularly, to think.
My preference is farside - or perhaps both, but I think Liverpool is certainly past that point now, in fact it's getting quite difficult to find nearside indicators in the city centre now without travelling to the grid system in the northern area.

I also think it looks messy now, with twin indicators being the standard, but many of the older heavily-used crossings in the city centre still sporting single indicators.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by michael769 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:28

flyingscot wrote: Then I've seen others where wait times at night when there are 5 cars at the junction are near 90 seconds. It must be a set-up and maintenance issue.
Almost certainly. West Lothian's lights have always worked well from a demand responsive point of view so it certainly can be done right.

IIRC WLC outsource the maintenance to Siemens, so I suspect there may be some pretty strict SLAs in place.

Speaking as a pedestrians I'd be happy to see the back of puffins. Whoever though that designing a pedestrian crossing that makes pedestrians wait until there is a gap in the traffic that they would be able to cross on anyway was a bit of a numpty frankly.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by scynthius726 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:35

michael769 wrote: Speaking as a pedestrians I'd be happy to see the back of puffins. Whoever though that designing a pedestrian crossing that makes pedestrians wait until there is a gap in the traffic that they would be able to cross on anyway was a bit of a numpty frankly.
But that isn't a feature specific to puffins. You get pelicans like that as well. It depends on the method of control used, not the type of crossing.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by WHBM » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:05

I've seen some Scoot set-ups which look awesome, really responsive and work well. At night under low flows the lights are flicking all over the place on demand, skipping stages where need etc. Then I've seen others where wait times at night when there are 5 cars at the junction are near 90 seconds. It must be a set-up and maintenance issue.
Having done signal setting so long ago that we drew it all out on graph paper (...... !), it seems that a current generation of engineers just don't have the dynamism to set the program in an adequate manner, and it actually seems to be getting worse as the years pass. The only important parameters are what is currently politically correct (which changes from year to year), all other elements like minimising wait times are forgotten - if indeed they ever knew how to calculate it in the first place.

Given that we were sometimes replacing real Mk 1 signal sets in those early days with pneumatic pressure pads in the road plus electro-mechanical timers (which you could hear going round in the control box if you put your ear to them), the electronic systems of the 1970s seemed to be able to be set very efficiently. Old engineer I worked under used to say that you needed to get "as efficient as if a competent policeman was standing in the middle of the junction signalling all dependent on how they saw it happening in real time".

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by cb a1 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:18

WHBM wrote:Old engineer I worked under used to say that you needed to get "as efficient as if a competent policeman was standing in the middle of the junction signalling all dependent on how they saw it happening in real time".
I remember seeing a couple of polis directing traffic one day in Edinburgh. Very efficient they were too - shame the rest of the city outside their range of vision was utterly screwed up thanks to their actions* ...

*to be clear, I'm not criticising the polis here. They were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by Fenlander » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:47

It surprises me a bit that for particularly awkward crossings & junctions that there isn't a CCTV system in place with a remote operator pushing the relevant buttons, probably outsourced to somewhere with lots of cheap labour.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by PeterA5145 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:52

cb a1 wrote:I remember seeing a couple of polis directing traffic one day in Edinburgh. Very efficient they were too - shame the rest of the city outside their range of vision was utterly screwed up thanks to their actions* ...
They were notorious for this. My father often used to say, if we encountered a particularly bad traffic jam, "You'll probably find a policeman on point duty up ahead".

On the more general point, I can think of a couple of modern Puffin installations that I regularly use as a pedestrian where, if you press the button, it's very rare that a crossing opportunity doesn't arise before the lights change. While obviously you can go too far in the opposite direction, I would have thought there should be a maximum period beyond which the lights will change for pedestrians regardless of how much traffic there is.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by WHBM » Tue Apr 22, 2014 13:33

PeterA5145 wrote: I would have thought there should be a maximum period beyond which the lights will change for pedestrians regardless of how much traffic there is.
There is. But it's a huge value and completely inappropriate for light usage crossings.

The facility is all there in signal setting programs to have all of this, it's just that the commissioning engineer doesn't set it up.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by AndyB » Tue Apr 22, 2014 20:21

Quite.

TBH I think stand-alone pedestrian crossings of any sort should be vehicle-actuated on approach. If a few seconds have passed since the last vehicle passed the first MOVA loop or was picked up by the vehicle detector on top of the lights, and traffic is therefore light or else moving extremely slowly, and a pretty short minimum period has passed since the lights last changed to green, they should change immediately. If (say) two minutes have passed, the lights should change immediately regardless of the state of the traffic - any light-controlled crossing which makes a pedestrian wait beyond or even only until the point where they could have safely crossed using the Green Cross Code anyway is badly set up.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by Debaser » Tue Apr 22, 2014 20:54

I've got to say, in my recent dealings with members of the public on associated issues (and in widely separate parts of the country) the length of time taken for crossings to activate after pressing the call button has been a major concern - I suppose if it's got to the stage that normal people are going out with stopwatches to record the time taken between pushing the button and getting green then something's drastically wrong.

This is actually a road safety issue, since people can soon lose faith in all crossings (see the recent BBC article 'Does pressing the button make a difference', and subsequently chance it and not bother with signalised crossings. There goes £50,000 or so that could have been better used.

BTW, never mind a 2 minute waiting time for a green - that's OK if you're in your car, warm and dry - but for peds or cyclists waiting in the Great British weather I'd say 1 minute was a fair maximum, with an aim for 30 seconds or less if it can be done safely. Anything more is just asking for itchy feet and ignoring the lights.

I don't know if it's lack of experience/training or a lack of available set-up time on site, but something in the industry seems to have gone wrong if complaints are so widespread.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by Fenlander » Tue Apr 22, 2014 21:34

There's a crossing in town that suffers from this, it's midway between 2 sets of traffic lights so there's usually enough traffic to keep triggering the loops, it's not unusual to see pedestrians press the button, wait a while, cross during a gap and be down the road and round the corner before the crossing finally goes green, at which point there's no one waiting to cross. Frustrating form both pedestrians and road users.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by fras » Tue Apr 22, 2014 23:20

So today we come up to another of these dreadful crossings. One person crosses, then we wait and wait, and wait and wait and finally the amber comes on, then the green and off we go. The whole cycle has taken 5 times longer than a Pelican would have done.

Lets get real, these Puffin crossing are absolutely insane !! Anyone up for a "Bring Back the Pelican Crossing" society ?

There are traffic engineers and highway officials on this forum. Come on lads, its time to tell the bovinely stupid pen-pushers at the DfT to naff off.

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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by flyingscot » Wed Apr 23, 2014 00:14

Debaser wrote:BTW, never mind a 2 minute waiting time for a green - that's OK if you're in your car, warm and dry - but for peds or cyclists waiting in the Great British weather I'd say 1 minute was a fair maximum, with an aim for 30 seconds or less if it can be done safely. Anything more is just asking for itchy feet and ignoring the lights.

I don't know if it's lack of experience/training or a lack of available set-up time on site, but something in the industry seems to have gone wrong if complaints are so widespread.
I suspect it is more cost issues leading to lack of time and training.

To be honest I can at a signalised junction understand certain junctions need 2 minute cycles. I'd prefer to offer walk with traffic, where possible, at 90 seconds plus cycle times to minimise waiting times and maximise crossing time although the staggered crossing isn't recommended in current minimising street clutter guidance.
fras wrote:So today we come up to another of these dreadful crossings. One person crosses, then we wait and wait, and wait and wait and finally the amber comes on, then the green and off we go. The whole cycle has taken 5 times longer than a Pelican would have done.

Lets get real, these Puffin crossing are absolutely insane !! Anyone up for a "Bring Back the Pelican Crossing" society ?

There are traffic engineers and highway officials on this forum. Come on lads, its time to tell the bovinely stupid pen-pushers at the DfT to naff off.
To be fair a lot of the waiting times are not down to the Puffin or DfT but are a set-up issue and could and can occur with pelicans.

The idea of making peds wait for a gap is a bit nonsensical at times- if there was a big enough gap I wouldn't press the button.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by michael769 » Wed Apr 23, 2014 08:20

flyingscot wrote:
To be fair a lot of the waiting times are not down to the Puffin or DfT but are a set-up issue and could and can occur with pelicans.
And yet I have never encountered a pelican that does not change immediately (unless it has recently given a ped cycle), nor a puffin or toucan which does not make you wait until there is a gap in the traffic big enough to use without the lights.

I struggle to believe that they can somehow manage to set pelicans up right but not puffins and toucans.
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Re: Puffin crossings - a blunder?

Post by scynthius726 » Wed Apr 23, 2014 09:01

I'm going to put this in big letters so you can all see it.

The length of time between pressing the button and receiving a green man is dictated by the pedestrian crossing's method of control. It is wholly unrelated to the type of crossing.

A lot of LAs in Scotland have changed their crossings from pre-timed max to VA (vehicle-actuated) at the same time as performing an upgrade from pelican to puffin, which may reflect what you have seen, Michael. But VA pelicans are still to be found.

FWIW, IMO it depends on the situation. If crossings are part of a linked system of signals then they should be controlled by the UTC (Urban Traffic Control) central computer. Standalone crossings should generally be pre-timed max, unless there is a good reason for VA or MOVA control (such as proximity to a roundabout or a high-speed road). (This paragraph is all my opinion, and not official DfT guidance.)

If the problem with your local puffin is that vehicles are held for too long after pedestrians have finished crossing, then report the issue to your local authority. Chances are an on-crossing detector has failed, and it is up to them to rectify this.
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