Older road users and pedestrians

As the share of older road users increases it’s important to pay more attention to their safety as road users and pedestrians. Transport planners have to draw together urban design, street and road design as well as traffic signal technology. This makes the design landscape crowded with regulations and competing interests between vehicles and people.

A road crossing with a confusing arrangement of tactile markers.

The mobility and road safety of older people relies on the design of the whole transport system. This includes infrastructure, traffic engineering, traffic signals, signs, and markings. They all impact on safe, barrier-free and inclusive transport.

A conference paper from Germany outlines some important findings on the safety and mobility of older people. Basic requirements for transport system design are:

Two women using wheelie walkers are crossing the road in a country town.
  • Reduction of complexity of traffic situations
  • Improvement of the perception of traffic regulations and systems
  • Design of safe crossings
  • Avoiding detours for pedestrians and cyclists

For traffic engineers this raises conflicting needs and goals but there should still be good compromises. Of course, considering older people in design solutions usually have benefits for other road users.

The paper covers traffic signal standards and regulations in different countries and the design and timings of traffic and pedestrian signals. Green signals and arrows at intersections can be confusing for drivers and pedestrians alike. Countdown and “don’t walk” signals are beneficial for all. These are common in the United States, Japan and Singapore. Older pedestrians can have more confidence about clearing the intersection.

The Green Man + card in Singapore is like a Seniors Card, and tapping this at the signal button provides more time to cross. Another idea is special buttons or sensors to request a longer time. However, the risk of misuse and the technical complexity rendered this idea unworkable in Germany.

The paper discusses intersection layout, routing of pedestrians and cyclists and control strategies. The author notes there is also a responsibility for pedestrians to enter the crossing at the beginning of the green signal, not some time afterwards.

The title of the conference paper is, Considering the requirements of elderly road users in traffic signal control. Or you can download the PDF version.

From the abstract

The share of elderly road users in total traffic is increasing in Germany as well as in most other OECD countries. To ensure mobility and road safety for this group, special requirements have to be considered in transport system design.

Besides basic requirements in transport planning, traffic engineering can help significantly to improve mobility and road safety for the elderly. This paper outlines elderly road users’ requirements in traffic signal control. The paper discusses standards from Germany, United States, United Kingdom and other selected countries as well as examples from practice.

Signal program design, intersection layout, control strategies, and technical design of signal lights are covered. The paper closes with conclusions on how well elderly road users are considered in traffic signal standards already. It also highlights the need to apply such regulations in practice, despite goal conflicts and financial constraints.

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