The £4 million London Road traffic scheme was designed to reduce congestion and improve safety.

In 1998 it reshaped the heart of Brighton into a space where buses, cyclists and pedestrians were supposed to take precedent over cars.

Seven years, three deaths and more than 20 injuries later, Brighton and Hove City Council is going back to "square one" and reconsidering the layout of bus lanes in the city centre.

The bus lane system around the Old Steine and particularly outside St Peter's Church has been condemned as confusing and dangerous by pedestrians.

Honor Byford, Road Safety Manager for the council, is setting up a team to review all the collisions that have taken place in the area during the past five years.

The move follows the death of a 57-year-old woman who was hit by a bus on the pedestrian crossing in front of St Peter's Church on Wednesday.

She was thrown into the air and died from her injuries on Friday morning.

For her and for other pedestrians, any changes will come too late.

Sue Millard, 57, lost her partner John Wilson last November when he walked in front of a No 2 bus at the junction of Old Steine and Castle Square against a red pedestrian signal.

He was listening to his iPod when he stepped into the road but his family blamed confusing bus lanes for the accident, saying he could hear background noise over the personal stereo and was meticulous about safety.

Miss Millard, who works for the Royal Bank of Scotland's international branch in Geneva, said: "No one will ever know exactly what John was doing but the reality is that you are not expecting buses to come from the right in a country where the traffic comes from the left.

"This lady who has just died was the same age as me so she was not old. Presumably she had all her wits about her and just got confused by the layout.

"It's good that the council are taking a fresh look at the problem but they told me in November they were doing something about it and as far as I know nothing has been done until now."

The London Road scheme created a mile-long route which gives priority to buses travelling from Preston Circus to the seafront.

Only buses, taxis and cycles can travel south down London Road, with cars going south from Preston Circus via one-way Viaduct Road and Ditchling Road.

Most traffic now flows in a one-way system around St Peter's Church and the Old Steine gardens.

However, buses in some places on the route go both north and south, creating confusion for pedestrians.

Residents have been complaining about the scheme since it was introduced.

Henry Law, 63, of Queen's Gardens, Brighton, said he wrote to the council three or four years ago pointing out flaws and asking what could be done about it.

He said: "The council's traffic engineers told me about some ideas they had for improving safety, which included installing rest-on-green lights.

"These show a green light for pedestrians all the time unless a bus is approaching when they turn red.

"None of the suggestions were ever put into place."

John Northam, 61, lives in Blake Court, Richmond Place. He crosses the system several times a day and said many of the residents in his block of flats were concerned about the number of accidents there.

Mr Northam said: "The layout is an abomination and the buses are murderous. They just roar through there."

Ms Byford, who was appointed Road Safety Manager last year, explained that the problems in the area have not yet had a major overhaul because other places in the city have had a higher accident rate.

She said: "Every year we look over the data to see where the greatest number of collisions with the highest degree of severity occur.

"We then spend the money where we can quickly to prevent the greatest number of casualties."

The council has made efforts to improve safety around St Peter's by making signs clearer, reducing the speed limit and putting in guard rails to prevent people walking on the road except at designated crossings.

But it seems some of the safety measures may actually have had the opposite effect to what was intended.

Liz Best is area manager for Sustrans, a charity that encourages people to walk, cycle and use public transport in order to reduce motor traffic. Sustrans is often consulted on traffic planning matters.

Ms Best said: "If the council is reconsidering the design it could think about removing the guard rails there.

"They give drivers the message that nobody's going to be walking on the road so they don't have to look out for pedestrians.

"In the centre of a city people should be able to cross the road.

"Rails can be more of a problem than a solution."

Ms Best also said that the double and triple lanes in some parts of the area can encourage a "race-track" mentality in drivers because double lanes are usually found on motorways.

She said: "I think they haven't quite got the balance right. There are some mixed messages there."

Ms Byford said that at this stage she could not predict exactly what measures would need to be taken to make the system clearer.

There were several different factors contributing to the problem rather than one obvious flaw that could be quickly addressed.

In the meantime pedestrians will have to continue to watch their step and stay alert in the flow of traffic around the island of St Peter's.