New results from an ongoing research trial show the life and cost-saving potential of painted zebra crossings at side roads.
Interim results from a study being conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory (TFL) on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), have shown that the UK-invented zebra crossing is near-universally recognisable to walkers and drivers alike, even without zig-zag markings and Belisha beacons which are currently required.
The study seeks to gather evidence to support a case for allowing the use of a stripped-down version of the zebra which is currently used across the world at side roads and in most UK supermarket carparks. Experts believe this would make side road crossings much safer, emphasising the right of walkers at cross roads - enabling more children to walk to school and the elderly to pop to the shop on foot. In addition, the cost effectiveness would allow crossings to be installed across Greater Manchester’s 1,800 mile cycling and walking ‘Bee Network’ at a fraction of the cost it would take using conventional methods.
At approximately £300, a simple zebra crossing is at least 100 times cheaper than existing safety measures. With an estimated 20,000 side roads on the Bee Network (an investment cost of approx. £6million), their use could save in excess of £400million. Not requiring roadworks to implement means the method could also be delivered much faster than any other viable alternatives.
More than 1,000 people are killed or seriously injured every year crossing the mouth of minor side roads in Greater Manchester. In London, this danger was tacked by utilising ‘side road entry treatments’. Data shows this treatment delivered a 20% reduction in fatalities. Some experts believe that zebra markings used in the same locations, would have an even stronger effect.
If a similar 20% reduction was applied to Greater Manchester’s quieter streets (known as C-roads and Unclassified roads), it is estimated three fatal collisions, 42 serious injuries and 233 slight collisions could be avoided each year. According to recent estimated figures from the DfT, this reduction in accidents could save approximately £23million each year.
Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester Cycling and Walking Commissioner said: “Crossing side road junctions in the UK is often stressful, particularly if you are a bit frail, pushing a pram or with kids. That stress is leading people to jump in the car for even the shortest of journeys to shops and schools. Side road zebra crossings offer a simple, safe solution that is cheap and easy to maintain and could be a key part of unlocking the potential of the Greater Manchester Bee Network by enabling pedestrians to cross side roads safely and easily.
“This type of marking is already being used across the world. It might sound melodramatic but the research we have commissioned could change the way we travel locally, which is most of our journeys. It’s the difference between ‘No, it’s too dangerous, I’ll run you to school in the car’ and ‘Go on then you can walk, but make sure you cross at the crossings and wait for the cars to stop’. When you consider there are more than 200 million car journeys of less than 1km in the region every year, you can see just how transformative this simple marking could be if was installed on every side street between homes and schools alone.”
The study so far has tested the recognition and suitability of the traditional zebra crossing design compared to five other designs including diamond, footprint and red coloured [see editors’ notes for examples]. They were tested for recognisability and response time with both motorists and pedestrians. The results showed that the black and white striped zebra crossing design performed best on all measures, with 94% of participants recognising it as a crossing and in the quickest time. They also reported feeling more confident and safer when imagining using this crossing, over the other designs.
The study has also looked at the collision record of existing side road zebra crossings on the highway. The number of collisions at the sites chosen was low and the evidence presented no additional risks that needed to be considered in the design of these trials.
The research is about to head into simulator trials, which will find out the extent to which motorists and pedestrians recognise and respond to painted side road zebra crossings, without traditional beacons or zig zags. Further reports will be published over the coming months.
If the findings are supportive of the side road zebras, they will be presented to the DfT as a case for legislative change and on-road trials.
 RAS60001: Average value of prevention per reported casualty and per reported road accident: Great Britain, GB 2018