Campaigners are calling for extra support for pedestrians and cyclists in Perth and Kinross, after it emerged the region’s touch-free traffic lights were de-activated after just 22 complaints.
Do Not Press signs were fitted to all pedestrian crossings after the first lockdown, in a bid to curb coronavirus spread.
In the first scheme of its kind in Scotland, traffic signals were recalibrated to ensure an automated pedestrian phase – meaning they turned to red even if there was no one waiting to cross.
But after four months, Perth and Kinross Council announced it was ditching the plan after consultation with councillors who said it was causing traffic congestion and pollution problems.
Now a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the scheme was axed after just over 20 people complained.
It has triggered calls to improve safety for walkers and cyclists on the streets of the Fair City and across the region.
Felicity Graham, co-convener of Perth Area Living Streets (PALS) said: “There were only 22 complaints about the crossing, yet the community petition asking for consultation on removal of the crossings had 234 signatures.
“Why are councillors only listening to complaints, and not to the people who want or are happy with change? Why isn’t PKC making evidence-based decisions based on data that shows both sides?”
She said: “In the middle of a worsening pandemic, these hands-free crossings might have saved lives.
“PALS is disappointed that whether it is creating safe shopping spaces and crossings for people during the pandemic; traffic calming residential streets; creating play out streets for children, or even adequate gritting of paths and pavements, in Perth pedestrians are still bottom of the priority list.”
Co-convener Roger Humphry added that the removal of the traffic lights scheme – as well as a reversal of the High Street’s pedestrianised zone – without “adequate consultation of users was unhealthy”.
“More work clearly needs to be done to improve the status of walking within the culture of Perth and Kinross Council,” he said. “Some sort of forum to allow PKC to engage directly with people who want a safer, cleaner, more pleasant urban environment would help avoid these conflicts in the future.”
SNP councillor Eric Drysdale was among those who called on officers to end the traffic lights scheme.
He said they were de-activated after consultation with the Centre for Inclusive Living. “The system was not working as intended,” he said. “Instead of the average frequency of a green man phase every second or third traffic light sequence, it was triggered on every cycle. Unsurprisingly, this was causing increased tailbacks thereby adding to air pollution due to traffic idling unnecessarily.”
He added: “I do remain fully supportive of initiatives that encourage active travel and, to that end, I am meeting council officers along with my fellow ward councillors later this week to progress discussions on improvements that can be made both in the short term, and also once the Cross Tay Link Road has opened.
“It will be important as part of this work to fully consult with residents, community councils, businesses, road users and other stakeholders.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “The Council is actively considering alternative measures that would provide a safer means of using the pedestrian crossing facilities in the Perth and Kinross area both during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.”