Another old “Safety Device” Going Bye-Bye

Since the 1930’s, London and other cities in the UK used pedestrian guardrails. If you haven’t been there and seen them, here is a pretty good picture from the Daily Mail.

Click this to make it bigger

As you can see, in some places, they are on the sidewalk and line entire streets. In other places, they start about 100 feet before major intersections and then curve around the corner with 15 feet wide “holes” so that pedestrians are forced to use the crosswalks.

The idea was to separate the dangerous cars from the pedestrians,  to keep pedestrians from crossing the street in the wrong places and to discourage illegal street parking because there was no access to the sidewalk.

Seemed like a good idea at the time, but, as usual, there were unintended consequences.  I’ll let this newspaper article from The Times explain it.

The article is well written and explains the decades long, painful process that lead to the realization that more was not better. Millions of pounds are at stake. It will be very expensive to right decades of wrongs.

Removal is not without controversy. There is one fellow in particular, Douglas Stewart, who thinks that removal is an awful idea and offers his patented guard rail as an option.

You can read a good discussion paper here.

For the most part, US engineers realized the shortcomings of these railings and didn’t fall for their mystique.  Too bad that they continue to adopt European ideas about sidepaths.

5 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    You find some good stuff, Eric! Thanks for this. It’s interesting how fear of cars makes “safety advocates” do so many things that make conditions worse… by making motorists less attentive, more aggressive and limiting the movements of pedestrians and cyclists.

  2. Will
    Will says:

    What do you call the things lining the lymmo lane on orange ave?

    I read at one point how the NY times at the dawn of the automobile age decried drivers for killing people crossing the street, only a decade later to decry this newfangled term, jaywalker for walking into the path of traveling automobiles.

    • Laura M
      Laura M says:

      The LYMMO lane is considered a ‘fixed guideway’, also, on Orange, the LYMMO lane is contra flow. They are probably a little overkill on the sidewalk side, but I don’t see them as problematic. It’s a pretty chaotic area, lots of driveway cuts, three lanes of cars going in one direction, an occasional bus in another. You might note that there are no such rails along the rest of the LYMMO route except small sections at station stops along Magnolia and those are really just lean-to bars, it’s not like the City or LYNX is trying to limit pedestrian access in the downtown core. Now if I could just get bikes not to ride the sidewalks.

      The LYNX Central Station has similar railings separating two platforms with a very large raised cross walk in the center leading to the terminal and the other platforms. It’s a really good design. As someone that has gotten off a bus in the am and not paid a whole lot of attention I stepped in front of a bus that was moving slowly along the platform, I’m glad the railings are there. Total brain fart on my part.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        >Now if I could just get bikes not to ride the sidewalks. <

        Which is crazy dangerous. I did it once, on Magnolia, so I know. People walking out of businesses, not expecting me to zip along and clip them for walking out on a sidewalk.

        I'll never do it again, but I can see how somebody that doesn't understand "the lay of the land" would.

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