Safety on the Roads

Pedestrian Guard Rails : Experiment Inaugurated in London

From the Municipal Journal and Public Works Engineer, March 23rd, 1935.
Courtesy of Laura Eddowes

Since the Minister of Transport announced his intention to erect guard rails along the edges of pavements at certain points for the protection of pedestrians at places where the pedestrian traffic is unduly heavy or the road traffic unduly, dense, a good deal of attention has been directed to the proposal. The idea is not a new one. It is a development of the barrier which, for many years, has been erected outside school gates giving direct access to busy thoroughfares. These barriers have been an undoubted success, but even so accidents still occur.

Another form of barrier from which the idea for the type suggested at present has probably grown is the kind erected at busy tram or bus stops. This may be seen at many places in Paris. The type of barrier which is now being erected has been used on the continent for some years. Examples of its use may be seen in Copenhagen, and it is reported from this town that the barriers are a success. It does not necessarily follow, however, that what is a success in one town will be a success in another.

London, in particular, cannot be governed by this assumption. The Metropolis presents a traffic problem which has no equal anywhere in the world, and many devices which have been attended with outstanding success in other towns have proved to be quite useless, when applied to the problems of London.

Experiments in the use of guard rails have been tried by certain borough councils on their own initiative. At Wolverhampton pedestrian guard rails, made from steel tubes, have been erected at a dangerous crossroad where the difficulties of the ordinary cross traffic have been added to by the fact that the trolley buses make a hairpin turn.

Breaks in the barriers occur at points where pedestrian crossings extend out into the road on which the pedestrian, theoretically, is safe. Generally speaking, the experiment has been regarded as a success; it has been in progress since July of last year. Derby and Salford have somewhat similar railings erected in their areas.

In the Metropolis Bethnal Green Borough Council, has made an experiment. In this borough a noted danger spot existed at the Bonner Hall Gate of the Victoria Park. Many accidents had occurred here, and the Council, feeling that some definite measure of protection was necessary, decided to erect barriers to separate the vehicle traffic from the pedestrian traffic.

   More protection for the pedestrian. The Bonner Hall Gate entrance to
   Victoria Park, Bethnal Green, once a noted danger spot.
In this case, instead of employing steel tubes with three horizontal bars between the posts, as at Wolverhampton, or with two horizontal bars, as at Derby, the Council decided to erect wooden posts of stout oak with a single horizontal bar near the top, and to paint the whole in black and white rectangles, matching the Belisha beacons.

The result is that the barriers stand out conspicuously, and this is necessary, as can be seen from the picture, the central barrier rails off what was a portion of the traffic road, so that iron railings which would not be so easily visible might cause accidents instead of preventing them.

Among experts, opinion is sharply divided as to the advisability of such barriers. Some flatly disagree with them, while others are inclined to think they might be a success. It is possible, of course, that they may cause congestion among the pedestrians themselves, thus raising other difficulties which do not at present exist in any marked degree. Others are very much in favour of them.

Is it possible to educate the public in such a way that they will use facilities such as these, which are erected for their benefit?

The actual barriers erected at Wolverhampton were made by Steelway, Ltd., and fit into patented sockets which enable the standards to be removed if required; at the same time they are perfectly rigid.

This result has been obtained after long and careful experiment and with the cooperation and assistance of Mr. Edwin Tilley (Chief Constable, Wolverhampton), and Mr. H. B. Robinson, M. Inst. M. & Cy. E., Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Wolverhampton.

The standards cannot be removed until the chains are detached; in addition, a screwed locking pin is also provided. These precautions, whilst giving the advantage of removable standards ensure that they cannot be taken out by unauthorised persons. The illustration shows a spot where an accident to a boy actually occurred. It will be observed that the guard prevents pedestrians walking off what is practically a blind corner. They are forced to face the traffic before stepping from the pavement.
      Pedestrian guard rails at Wolverhampton, made from S & L Tubes,
      supplied to Messrs. Steelway Ltd.
The motorist, too, has a greater sense of security and is released of a certain amount of anxiety. The guard in itself provides a warning to motorists that a crossing exists and they are prepared for it.

 Mr. Hore-Belisha, M.P., Minister
 of Transport, opens pedestrian
 guard rails in London.

The Minister of Transport attended a short ceremony on the occasion of the opening of the guard rails at Camden Town on Tuesday of this week, and hooked the last link in the chains to the last post which the Mayor of St. Pancras had placed in position, the rails being of the post and chain type.

The Chief Constable of Northampton, where pedestrian guard rails are already in use, was also present at         the function. Mr. Hore Belisha said that the barriers would serve a dual purpose; they would be a material contribution to road safety at St. Pancras, and they would arouse in the minds of the public locally the consciousness of road dangers.

The experimental scheme for the installation of pedestrian guard rails at various junctions in London, sponsored by the Ministry of Transport, is being further extended in different parts of the Metropolis. The latest additions to the scheme are the two sets of guard rails in the Streatham area. Guard rails are also in use in the New Cross Road and the Lewisham High Road. The first guard rails of the present type, it will be recalled, were those erected at Camden Town, St. Pancras. These are of the post and chain variety, with certain of the chains made in such a way that they can be unhooked if necessary.

So far no official report has been issued as regards the result of this experiment, but it may be said that on the whole they are regarded as generally satisfactory. The number of accidents to pedestrians occurring at this junction has been reduced since the introduction of the guards, but during the busy part of the day certain of the pedestrians show a tendency to disregard the barriers and walk in the road.

Following closely on the St. Pancras section of the experiment were the guards erected at Whitechapel, in the Stepney area. Here again, though no official report has been issued, they are generally regarded as satisfactory. A further installation was opened recently at the Broadway, Hammersmith, a well known danger spot, where six roads, all of which carry heavy traffic, meet, and where trams cross diagonally through the circus formed by the roads.

These guard rails, unlike those at Camden Town, are made of steel tubes, and hinged gates with a latch are provided. At Bethnal Green the guard rails are stated to be a great success. The large number of accidents which occurred at this comer have declined considerably as a result of the erection of these guards.

At Croydon pedestrian guard rails have been erected in conjunction with a pedestrian crossing. The particular feature about the crossing is that, instead of its being placed at the end of the road which it crosses, it is some little distance up the road, and the guard rails, which, as at St. Pancras, take the form of chains, guide the pedestrian to the crossing and prevent him from stepping off the pavement close to the road junction.

        A corner guard rail (Steelway Limited,

One of the advantages of this crossing is that the pedestrian, when crossing, does not have to look over his shoulder for filtration traffic, for since the crossing is not at the end of the road, the filtration traffic has turned the comer before the pedestrian has to take account of it. The idea is a help to the driver also, since he gets a clearer view of pedestrians on a crossing if they are straight ahead than if he is approaching them while turning a comer.

This system of guard rails holds many possibilities for extension. In such streets as Oxford Street, London, a busy shopping centre and a road which carries very heavy traffic, there is a constant danger caused by persons being forced to step off the pavement into the road because the pedestrian traffic is so heavy that there is no room for them on the pavement. At each cross-road there are traffic lights and pedestrian. crossings, and the possibility of erecting guard rails to keep pedestrians on the pavement and guide them to these crossings is one which would appear worthy of consideration for the safety of both drivers and pedestrians alike.

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