Hands-free pedestrian crossing for devout Jews in UK.
The first “hands-free” pedestrian crossing will be launched in UK, so that devout Jews do not have to break a religious law that prohibits them from using electricity or operating machinery on the Sabbath.
As the crossing is near a busy synagogue, pressing a button to operate it is considered a breach of the strict rules that apply to Orthodox Jews.
Traffic will be held every 90 seconds from Friday evening until nightfall on Saturday, covering the Jewish Sabbath period.
The first automatic crossing will be placed on one of London’s busiest roads, the North Circular at the Henlys Corner junction.
But planners insist it will not cause traffic chaos.
The new “hands-free” system will come into operation in December when the junction fully reopens after a massive ten-month upgrade costing $12 million (£8 million).
The decision to include automatic crossings was taken after leaders at Finchley United Synagogue explained their predicament to staff at Transport for London, which is responsible for maintaining main roads in the capital.
Transport for London (TfL) says the “hands-free” green man has not added to the cost of improvements.
A TfL spokesman said: “We always consult with the community over major road projects. This idea was suggested by the synagogue, whose members asked if it could be done. We thought about it and came to the conclusion that it could.”
No one at the synagogue was available for comment because of the Jewish New Year. But someone from the congregation said: “This is a sensible idea that will make a real difference.”
The move follows the controversial formation of an eruv – a boundary recognized by Jewish law within which certain activities are permitted – in the same part of North London.
Although observant Jews are allowed to carry household objects such as door keys, and to push prams and wheelchairs within the six-square-mile area, they are still banned from using electricity.
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