The crossing is near a busy synagogue, and pressing a button to operate it is considered a breach of the strict rules that apply to Orthodox Jews
They are not allowed to use electricity or operate machinery on the Sabbath
Britain is to get its first ‘hands-free’ pedestrian crossing – so that devout Jews do not have to break a religious law that prohibits them from using electricity or operating machinery on the Sabbath.
The crossing is near a busy synagogue, and 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 crossing will be situated 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 system will come into operation in December when the junction fully reopens after a massive ten-month upgrade costing £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. TfL says the ‘hands-free’ green man has not added to the cost of improvements.
A 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 one of 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 recognised 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.