Liverpool’s new nudge pedestrian crossings: what are they and why do we have them?

Two strikingly designed pedestrian crossings are being piloted in Liverpool and have split opinion amongst residents.

The new ‘nudge’ crossing on Hanover Street. Photo: @RoadlinesL/twitter

The new brightly coloured pedestrian crossing that has appeared in Liverpool city centre has split opinion but could help save lives.

The experimental ‘nudge’ crossing has been painted on Hanover Street after it was highlighted as a high-risk area for pedestrian casualties.

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Why does Liverpool need them?

Nicola Wass, CEO of Baltic Triangle-based So-Mo, the behavioral science consultancy behind the scheme, told LiverpoolWorld she hoped it would encourage revellers to cross at the correct section of the road on a night out.

She said: “When we did a study into adult pedestrian casualties in Liverpool, the city centre location stood out as having a higher level of risk.

“There was a real spike in incidents at night and the weekends when people are often under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“It is often young people who don’t live in the city centre but are visiting. People weren’t using the crossing as ability to calculate risk is lessened when drunk or tired.

“If people are out in the city centre, they notice things that make them feel good about themselves and we needed to make the crossings more attractive rather than blend in with the surrounding black and grey poles.

“That’s why the crossing looks like fun and is bold and attractive.”

What is a nudge?

So-Mo say a ‘nudge’ in this context is a deliberate change to the environment that prompts an individual to make a safer choice without the need to educate them or prohibit other options currently available to them.

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What is the idea behind the crossings pilot?

The project, funded by the Road Safety Trust, is being delivered in partnership with Liverpool City Council, Hull City Council, their respective Road Safety Partnerships, leading behavioural science company So-Mo and data analysis company Agilysis.

Liverpool and Hull have some of the highest rates of adult pedestrian injuries in the UK.

Ms Wass said the crossings were initially mocked up in warehouses and independent contractors were commissioned by the councils to undertake a road safety audit of the sites.

The Department for Transport was consulted along with representatives of visually impaired groups.

The two areas trailing the crossings in Liverpool are Hanover Street in the city centre and a slightly less colourful but bold design on the high-risk area of Prescot Road, Old Swan, which is directed at locals crossing the road.

The waiting time for pedestrians crossing on Prescot Road has also been reduced for the trial.

The new ‘nudge’ crossing at Prescott Road. Photo: So-Mo

They are part of a two-week pilot which could be extended if local authorities are in agreement.

Pre-existing CCTV will be monitoring pedestrians use of the crossings and a separate Artificial Intelligence (AI) camera will track the pedestrians’ movement.

Response to criticism

The crossings have divided the public on social media.

Ms Wass said: “We won’t know how much of an effect this will have until we trial it.

“It’s about trying to change the status quo.

“At the end of the day people are getting injured or killed at these crossings and we can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again so this is about being bold and trying something different based on scientific evidence and through gathering robust data.

“It could be a low cost method of saving lives. If it doesn’t work at least we’ve tried.”