Is this the end of the road for Norwich’s pelican crossings?

The pelican crossing on Unthank Road near the junction with Park Lane. There are four pelican crossi

The pelican crossing on Unthank Road near the junction with Park Lane. There are four pelican crossings on Unthank Road. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Dozens of signalled pedestrian crossings around Norwich could be replaced with zebra crossings, because council bosses say that would be cheaper than refurbishing them.

Council officers want councillors to agree to a new policy over what happens when crossings with signals, such as pelican and puffin crossings, reach the end of their life.

Rather than automatically replacing them with the same type of crossing, officers want the go-ahead to consider replacing them with zebra crossings or traffic islands, if pedestrian numbers and traffic levels are suitable.

Officers recognise that some people regard pelican and pedestrian crossings as safer than zebra crossings and will be reluctant to see them removed.

But they say the reality is that there is little difference in personal injury accidents at the various types of crossing.

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In a report which will come before members of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee, made up of city and county councillors, tomorrow, officers state: 'There is no evidence to suggest that in Norwich, zebra crossings are any less safe than signalised crossings.

'In the example of St Andrews Street, where the signalled crossing was replaced by a zebra crossing in 2008, the accident rate dropped from eight pedestrian accidents in the five years prior to the switch, to one in the five years since.'

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Officers stress that there will be sites, mainly on the ring road and the main radial routes, where signalled crossings will have to remain and each site where a zebra crossing is considered, there will need to be assessment first.

But they say: 'On much of the B and C class network, a zebra crossing or pedestrian refuge may be more suitable as it affords the pedestrians a higher priority and can have a traffic calming effect, reducing vehicle speeds.

'This is due to the driver's uncertainty when they approach a crossing if any pedestrian will stop to cross in front of them.

'With signalled crossings, drivers tend to accelerate towards a green signal to ensure they get across before it changes to red.'

There are currently 41 pelican crossings, 32 puffin crossings and 26 zebra crossings in Norwich.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was a move to put signals on as many junctions and crossings as possible. That saw most of the zebra crossings in Norwich replaced by pelican crossings and roundabouts on the ring road replaced with signal-controlled junctions.

At tomorrow's meeting, councillors will also be asked to carry out public consultation into replacing the existing crossing in Unthank Road, near the turn into Park Lane, with a zebra crossing. The 20mph zone in that area would be extended.

The cost of replacing the pelican crossing with a zebra crossing would be £40,000, but replacing the original signalling equipment would be £50,000, say officers.

Denise Carlo, Green city councillor for Wensum ward, said she was not sure whether the proposed change was a good or bad move.

She said: 'There's an argument on both sides, in that people can cross at will at zebra crossings, but sometimes people feel safer with a light controlled crossing.

'I think we would want there to be proper consultation with people to find out what their views are.

'There is quite a lot of heavy traffic on Unthank Road and there are schemes nearby where elderly people live, so we really do need to speak to people to see what they think.'

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