Meant to bank this astonishing piece, from the Pedestrian Crossings debate, 26 July 1951.
Sir Austin Hudson (Lewisham North)
… I happened to be Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport just after the pedestrian crossings???the Belisha beacons, as they were called???were first installed, and that during the four years I was there I had the responsibility of trying to make the pedestrian crossing system work. … In the four years that I was at the Ministry I always regretted that the pedestrian crossings, the Belisha beacons, were, on the whole a failure. People did not use them enough. As I used to say at the time, the great use for them was that children could be trained to cross the roads at the Belisha beacons???those yellow-topped striped posts???because a child could be taught that those were the places where he should cross and at no other place.
On the whole, however, I think they have been a failure, and the reason, in my view, is that we shall never reduce accidents unless we can persuade people ???pedestrians and others???to think a little less of their rights and a little more of their duties to their fellow men. If we could persuade people that it is their duty to cross at pedestrian crossings as far as possible and not at other places, and for other road users to give way at those crossings, instead of being selfish and insisting on their rights, we should get on very much better.
I should like to give an example of what I mean. We all know that certain of our roads out of this great centre of London have cycle tracks. We always see a number of cyclists who will cycle on the road because they have the right to cycle there and because they wish to demonstrate that right, even if they are preventing the rest of the traffic from free passage along that road.
Another example, which is the sort of thing we should be discussing tonight, is the pedestrian???we have all seen him???who crosses as slowly as possible in order to demonstrate his right to be there. We also know the chap who goes across as quickly as possible and says, "Thank you, very much." If they all did that, how much better things would be.
These Regulations may be a step towards bringing order out of chaos. The police are over-worked, and also undermanned in London. but I wish they could impress on all road users???not only motorists???a sense of their responsibilities All who have been to the United States of America know that the pedestrian does not cross the road except at the lights and when the lights are in his favour. That is especially the case in New York. The police see that it is so. If we could persuade people in this country to do the same thing, that would be an advantage.
The voluntary organisations in this country can do a great deal to educate people to what I would call the right point of view. I do not refer only to the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association, but also to the Pedestrians' Association and the cyclists' organisations. If they would preach the idea that we have to work together to prevent accidents I am sure the number of accidents would diminish.
Londoners are very difficult to change in their habits, and it seems to be firmly believed by them that they can cross the road at any place. When a motorist nearly runs into them they swear at the motorist. If we could get it into their heads that they should use the pedestrian crossings I am sure we should avoid many of the accidents which take place these days.
What I am trying to say is that many accidents could be prevented if we could educate everybody to be less selfish than they are at present. This is not a party matter. There are more pedestrians and cyclists than there are motorists, and any organisation which sets out to protect that section of road users against another will have a greater number of people supporting it than those who support the other section. But I am sure the House will agree that what we want is a change of mind rather than legislation. We are praying against these Regulations, but not, as I have said, with the intention of dividing. If they draw attention to what is happening and to the duties of pedestrians and, by so doing, prevent accidents, the result would be greatly to the advantage of human happiness.