A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



In the inquiry made in July 1945 some observations of peoples' behaviour the roads were made, and these were repeated in the May inquiry.

Three types of observation were made. These were concerned with (i) Whether people crossing the road near pedestrian crossings used the crossings (ii) Whether people crossing the road at corners looked to see whether any traffic was coming before crossing, and (iii) Whether people crossing roads from behind an obstruction stopped and looked to see whether traffic was coming from behind the obstruction before crossing.

Investigators stood at selected places of each of the three types for five half hour periods spread over the day to make these observations, counting the number of people crossing the road and noting their behaviour. They were asked to try to classify people in three age groups and to note whether they were men or women (or boys or girls).

The observations could be made in any half hour between 8 and 10 a. m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., 2 and 3 p. m., 5 and 6 p.m. and 7 and 10 p.m., by each investigator or pair of investigators. It was found that the observations could be made by two people working together better than by one, covering one half hour in each of these periods.


In making these observations investigators were told to count only people who crossed the road within ten yards of each side of the crossing. Only people who walked in the crossing all the way across the road, or all the way except for the one or two yards nearest the pavement, were counted as using the crossing. Thus people walking diagonally across it were not included.

In both inquiries rather less than half of those crossing the road within ten yards each side of the crossing actually used the crossing by this definition.

Table 47

Observations at pedestrian crossings

Time % using crossing Sample
July 1945 May 1946 July 1945 May 1946
8 a.m. to 10 a.m. 52 56 1155 1604
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 46 49 1589 2631
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. 46 46 1728 1848
5 p.m. to 6 p.m. 41 45 1605 2669
7 p.m. to 10 p.m. 34 41 771 1121

In both inquiries a tendency for less people to use the crossing later in the day than used it earlier was observed.



Investigators watched to see whether people looked for oncoming traffic before crossing the road at corners. The percentages looking are shown below and it will seen that this proportion is significantly higher in May 1946 than in July 1945.

Table 48

Crossing the road at corners

% looking Sample
July 1945 May 1946 July 1945 May 1946
Male 49 59 3229 4986
Female 51 61 3383 5485
Under 20 44 58 1556 2348
20-50 52 59 3852 5902
Over 50 53 66 1204 2221
All groups 50 60 6612 10471

The increase in the proportion looking before crossing is found in both sexes and all age groups. It is not quite so marked with people as with the youngest and oldest group.


Investigators were told to find a place where the view of the road from pavement was blocked by a vehicle or some other obstruction and to observe whether people looked to see if traffic was coming before coming out from behind the obstruction. (If the obstruction moved off during the period of observation another obstruction in the same street was found or a fresh half hour started elsewhere).

Table 49

Crossing road from behind an obstruction

% looking Sample
July 1945 May 1946 July 1945 May 1946
Male 51 71 1299 2913
Female 55 69 1237 3110
Under 20 55 63 542 1405
20-50 53 73 1467 3318
Over 50 51 72 527 1300
All groups 53 70 2536 6023

There is a marked increase in the proportions looking before crossing the road from behind an obstruction. The increase is more marked in the middle and oldest age groups than amongst those aged under twenty.


The results of these observations suggest that people are being more careful in crossing roads than they were in July 1945. There is however no considerable increase in the proportion of pedestrians using pedestrian crossings.

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