Three weeks ago, in the early hours of the morning, I heard the scream of brakes and a loud crash from somewhere outside. I feared there might have been a nasty accident on the A12, but visual evidence in the morning revealed the problem to be closer to home. A car had smashed into the pedestrian crossing by Bow Church, destroying one set of traffic lights and making a mess of a BT switchbox. Not to worry, workmen arrived swiftly enough to repair the lights, and the crossing was soon up and running again. Except the new pedestrian crossing doesn't seem to like pedestrians.
Pressing the button at the revamped pedestrian crossing doesn't appear to make anything happen. You stand there and wait, like you'd expect, until eventually you get the feeling that the lights should have changed by now. But they don't. Traffic rushes down from the Bow flyover, and perhaps you might dash across if you're lucky enough to see a gap. But at certain times of day the stream is relentless, so dashing's not advised, especially if you're one of the dear ladies pictured here. More people gather by the roadside as time passes, waiting expectantly for the signal to cross. It doesn't come. Then people start getting restless. They stare up at the traffic lights to check they really are still green, because we have puffin crossings round here now and they're notoriously hard to watch. They stare down at the button to confirm that it really is lit, then they press it again to make sure. Still nothing, still priority to the cars and trucks and vans and buses rushing by.
About 100 yards further up the road is a junction with another set of traffic lights, and these have probably turned red by now. Has our pedestrian crossing noticed? Has it hell. This would be the ideal time to flick to red and allow those of us on foot to cross, it would inconvenience nobody, but no. There appears to be no coordination whatsoever between the pedestrian crossing and the next set of lights, more's the pity, and so we wait. By now the younger folk on the pavement have probably made the decision to cross anyway, dicing with death between the vehicles or grabbing an opportunity the sensors haven't spotted. Until eventually, somewhere between a minute and a half and two minutes, the green man signal on the pedestrian crossing finally, begrudgingly, lights.
100+ seconds might not sound like long to wait, but it feels interminable compared to how long the wait was before. I thought puffin crossings were supposed to be intelligent, spotting gaps in the traffic or deducing when people are waiting. Not ours. It appears to have been tweaked to better smooth the traffic flow, by giving drivers a bit longer at green and pedestrians rather longer to wait. That might be accidental, or it might be bad programming, or it might be a deliberate attempt to give traffic the priority. Whatever, whoever it was installed this new system is slowly wasting my life away, and the collective minutes of my neighbours. Please come back and stop us seeing red.