Road illusions may save lives at Ludgate Circus junction


City leaders have asked whether the “dangerous” Ludgate Circus junction could benefit from a 3D zebra-crossing designed to force drivers to slow down.

Interest came after Westminster City Council became the first council in the UK to try out the optical illusion.

The feature at the junction of High Street and Wellington Place in St John’s Wood is located only minutes from The Beatles’ famed Abbey Road crossing.

Its design gives the appearance of a raised road, creating the illusion that pedestrians are floating across whichever side drivers approach it from.

The illusion is meant to catch drivers’ attention, encouraging them to slow down so pedestrians can cross safely.

It is being trialled in Westminster after a campaign by nearby Barrow Road Junior School, NW8 Mums, and the St John’s Wood Society told the council the 20mph local limit was too fast.

The crossing has since piqued City planning interest, as the Corporation pushes toward a goal of ending road deaths and casualties in the Square Mile.

Bank Junction’s pedestrian injuries have reduced drastically since leaders voted to close it to all traffic except cyclists and buses after a cyclist was hit and killed by a lorry.

However, councillors have in recent months been voicing worries that nearby Ludgate Circus, a busy junction between Fleet Street and St Paul’s Cathedral, presents a renewed risk.

The focus has been on pedestrian and cyclist behaviour at the junction, with the City of London asking Transport for London (TfL) to consider reconfiguring its layout and flow.

The notorious accident hotspot was the site of multiple cyclist deaths until a cycle superhighway diverted bike traffic away from it. But its accident blackspot status remains a concern.

In October 2017, a pedestrian died after a collision with a van at the spot.

An 85-year-old was also seriously injured after being hit by a heavy goods vehicle two months later.

The Corporation’s recent surveys found many pedestrians were crossing the junction while staring at their phones. About half were walking outside of the designated area, and one-fifth of cyclists crossed Ludgate Circus during red or amber lights.

Some councillors think TfL should redesign the junction, saying the transport body’s late 2018 signal timing changes to improve traffic flow have not gone far enough.

TfL has agreed more needs to be done to improve the crossing, but has also pointed out the Corporation was involved in the planning of the junction in the first place.

Councillor Marianne Fredericks told the City’s streets and walkways subcommittee on she had seen Westminster’s zebra crossing on
the news. She explained: “It confuses the drivers so they slow down. I wondered if we could consider a crossing on Fleet Street – Ludgate Hill? It is worth trying, a bit of paint can’t hurt.”

Chairman Chris Hayward told her the idea had already been put on the table, and staff added they would be happy to look into it.

Similar crossings have been piloted around the world from New Delhi in India, to Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States.