New evidence suggests zebras on UK side roads are “the way forward”

An independent report, commissioned by Greater Manchester is suggesting that drivers give way to people on foot 65% more often at side roads at zebra crossings than with no markings.

It says latest data shows that 55 people in Greater Manchester alone have been killed at side road junctions on minor roads over a three-year period.

Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Transport Commissioner have written to the Transport Secretary asking for government support for mass trials to help them meet their transport objectives and speed up decarbonisation.

The city-region’s Mayor Andy Burnham and Transport Commissioner, Chris Boardman, have written to the Transport Secretary asking for government support for the British-invented zebra crossing to be authorised for use on Greater Manchester’s side roads. The proposal is widely supported by all UK Cycling and Walking Commissioners.

The report was commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and conducted by industry experts The Transport Research Laboratory. The two-year study consisted of extensive consultation and off-road trials and concluded in 2021 with two on-street trials conducted by Tameside Council.

The results showed that vehicles giving way to people on foot went up from 4 in 10 to 7 in 10 – an increase of 65% – when the zebra markings were in place.

The report also concluded that there is universal understanding, amongst all road users, of what zebra markings mean when used on side roads.

“Every year in the UK, around two billion trips under one mile are made by car; the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride. Those trips by car are releasing approximately 680,000 tonnes of carbon,” commented Andy Burnham. “In Greater Manchester we’re determined to shift the focus to become a city-region where walking, cycling and public transport comes first. That includes ensuring that people feel safe walking to school, the shops and work. The latest data we have has shown that 55 people in Greater Manchester alone have been killed at side road junctions on minor roads over a three year period. This is shocking and needs urgent action.

“We wanted to see if a method used widely across the world could offer us a practical and cost-effective option to make crossing side roads safer and, importantly, feel safer. I must give a special shout out to Tameside Council for their support in agreeing to do on-street trials last summer – it gave us the final piece of evidence we needed to demonstrate what happens on the ground when zebra markings are used on side roads and we hope it will give government the confidence to conduct large-scale, long-term trials.” 

“We know that we all need to use our cars far less and that not feeling safe is a huge barrier to people choosing to walk,” added Chris Boardman. “Nowhere do you feel more vulnerable than when crossing side roads. Simple side road zebras are commonly used in town and cities across the world as well as car parks and private land in the UK, which is exactly why we thought their use more widely had such potential. The Department for Transport has been very supportive of this study and we hope the compelling evidence will give them the confidence to give us the go-ahead for large-scale, long-term trials of these across our city region, to help make walking the overwhelming choice for everyday trips to school, work and the shops.

“Not only are side road zebras shown to be effective, they are incredibly practical and cheap to both install and maintain. In fact, they are already authorised and shown to work well on cycle paths. As they do not use Belisha Beacons or zigzags, there is no digging up of streets or power supplies required, so each one can be installed quickly for around £1,000 compared to £40,000 for a traditional zebra crossing. For me it just feels like a safer step in the right direction.”

It says side road zebras would primarily be used in low traffic, predominantly residential areas. Higher density areas would still require other crossings, including zebras crossings with Belisha Beacons or signalised crossings. If authorised by government, Greater Manchester could create hundreds of side zebras road crossings within 12 months, primarily in the areas where Greater Manchester’s active travel Bee Network is being delivered.

(Picture – Transport for Greater Manchester)

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