Time to Get Rid of Traffic Lights?

#1
An interesting piece from the Beeb:

[h=1]Viewpoint: Is it time to get rid of traffic lights?[/h]We rely on traffic lights to tell us when to go. And when to stop. We should replace that with common sense, argues traffic campaigner Martin Cassini.
It was a day in Cambridge in 2000 at a road junction where normally I would wait for three signal changes to get through.

This time it was deserted and as I breezed through without incident or delay I saw that the traffic lights were out of action.
From then on I started thinking: "Are we better off left to our own devices and is this huge system of traffic control blocking our progress and making us 'see red' in more ways than one?"
First, the statistics. The latest annual figures show there were 24,500 deaths or serious injuries on the roads in a year in the UK.


The numbers have been declining steadily but it seems to me that a traffic control system that presides over those sorts of figures is still getting something profoundly wrong.
One estimate puts the annual cost of accidents at between £15bn and £32bn and in my view most accidents are not accidents.
They are events contrived by the rules and design of the road.
As a driver, when you see a green light, are you watching the road? You're probably watching the light.
Driving recently, I was about 20 yards away when lights changed to amber and I thought, shall I put my foot down and try to beat the amber.
I knew it would be a long wait at this set of lights.


Luckily I did not. As I stopped, between the traffic light poles a pedestrian appeared. If I had put my foot down it would have been a disaster.
People think traffic lights are a guarantee of safety but the latest audit from Westminster City Council, for example, has shown that 44% of personal injury accidents occurred at traffic lights.
I started filming junctions wherever I found the lights were out of action and filmed after the engineers had got the lights working again.
I started a campaign, now called Equality Streets and initially known as Fit Roads, standing for Filter in Turn. The idea behind it was that we can make roads fit for people by letting human nature take its competent and co-operative course.


Instinctively, we want to be kind to each other, especially out on the road. When you first meet a stranger, unless you're a mugger, you want to be nice to that stranger.
We all have relationships with strangers in their thousands or millions on the road but road user relationships are corroded and corrupted by the system of control which makes us almost have a greater respect for a traffic light than for a human life.


The fatal flaw at the heart of the system is priority. Traffic lights are bad enough - they make us stop when we could go, they take our eyes off the road, flouting the most fundamental safety principle but they are only the symptom of a dysfunctional system.


The unseen spanner in the works is the idea of main road priority. It was introduced in about 1929 when the authorities were trying to work out how to regulate the new form of locomotion - the motor car.
Main road priority licenses main road traffic to plough on regardless of who was there first, including side road traffic and people on foot waiting to cross.
If you're driving along a main road do you even notice that mother with a pram on a traffic island trying to cross the road?



You might notice her but you can't really stop and let her go if there's a 10-ton truck on your tail, especially if there's a green light ahead.
The intolerable conflicts that arise, arise purely and simply from this rule of priority.
So what did they do to solve the problem of priority to enable us to cross the road in relative safety? They put up traffic lights, so they make us "stop to avoid the inconvenience of slowing down", to quote traffic writer Kenneth Todd.
If the lights weren't there, naturally we would approach slowly and carefully and see what other people were doing and filter through, but the traffic lights make us speed up to beat them.
But what about the maniacs? If we had no traffic control, what would happen?
You can't even legislate for maniacs, so why hobble the vast majority with "one size fits all" rules devised to catch the hypothetical deviant?
My solution is to remove the fatal flaw at the heart of the system - the original sin of priority, because once you've removed priority you've removed the need for traffic lights and the need for speed because we're in no rush any more.


We're not rushing to beat that light, we're not stressed out waiting in a queue that's caused purely and simply by that red light.
Traffic volume can be a drama but volume plus control equals crisis. If you're leaving say, a pop concert in a car, the volume of traffic we can live with. What gets our goat is if we're sitting at a red light for no reason other than that it's red.


In Portishead near Bristol where I showed my video, The Case for a Traffic Lights Trial to the council, a trial began on 14 September 2000.
The lights were switched off at a junction where there had been excessive queues and within minutes of the lights being bagged over the queues disappeared.
That trial has gone permanent and the monitoring has shown that journey times fell by over half with no loss of safety.


Various organisations have put the cost of lost productivity to the UK economy as a result of congestion at £20bn so in my opinion traffic system reform is a rich source of painless spending cuts.


BBC News - Viewpoint: Is it time to get rid of traffic lights?

This is an edited version of Martin Cassini's Four Thought talk for BBC Radio 4. Hear the full programme on Wednesday, 16 May at 20:45 BST or download the podcast.
 
#2
The stupid traffic lights on rounabouts should be the very first to go! Particularly those ones that are not signposted.
 
#3
It wouldn't work, as human nature and selfishness would rear it's head! Over here (Germany) we have Rechts vor Links - right before left, there are enough problems with that and that is in the 30Kmh zones - sod trying it in any higher speeds!

Another way of looking at it, is how poorly dual carriageways filter down at roadworks. Instead of the 'zipper effect' coming into play and traffic moving reasonably, everyone demands that they have the right of not letting anyone in!
 
#4
Get rid of all road signs, markings and lights. Apparently this does not lead to a Darwinesque survival of the fittest and death and destruction on a huge scale.

Works in Holland. Drachten to be precise.

Is this the end of the road for traffic lights? - Telegraph

Good to see the UK is only about 5 years behind the curve.
 

jarrod248

LE
Gallery Guru
#6
It wouldn't work, as human nature and selfishness would rear it's head! Over here (Germany) we have Rechts vor Links - right before left, there are enough problems with that and that is in the 30Kmh zones - sod trying it in any higher speeds!

Another way of looking at it, is how poorly dual carriageways filter down at roadworks. Instead of the 'zipper effect' coming into play and traffic moving reasonably, everyone demands that they have the right of not letting anyone in!
Well they'd better behave themselves next week when I turn up then. My passport clearly says '...without let or hindrance...'
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#7
Boris instigated removal of sequenced lights at some major routes with minor junctions (Linehouse link etc) during his first stint in office. It works, there are lights which are pedestrian activated only and the route journey time has been reduced. Here in Gods waiting room we have a new road layout (about 10 years old now) near me. They cant sequence the lights properly as they redisgned a simple junction making it complex leaving drivers facing a red with no converging routes ahead. Causes nothing but bewilderment and maybe frustration.
Most town traffic planners cant see past the old designs and regs and need to risk assess each installation in the same way that a railway signalling designer would (or close to), this would allow for removal of traffic signals which protect nothing!
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#8
Instinctively, we want to be kind to each other, especially out on the road. When you first meet a stranger, unless you're a mugger, you want to be nice to that stranger.

Where the hell does he live? Nicely St. Nice? And given the alarming rise in half blind coffin dodgers bumbling about in silly little cars I'd say traffic lights are keeping many of us alive. Most of them cant drive even with the aid of lights to spoon feed them.
 
#10
Having seen the amount of spastics on the road that drive as though they got their license in a lucky bag no i dont think it is time to get rid of traffic lights. The article is a pile of tripe and any courteous, competent, experienced driver can go about their daily lives without traffic lights being a hindrance. A good driver would not speed up to beat the lights, ignore someone attempting to cross the road or pay more attention to a green light than the road itself etc...
Im sure a large majority on here have seen the mayhem that can erupt at a busy junction when the lights are out. And they would trust all drivers to think for themselves and use common sense by getting rid of a traffic control system? No thanks.
Remember, if sense was common then everyone would have it.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#11
Having seen the amount of spastics on the road that drive as though they got their license in a lucky bag no i dont think it is time to get rid of traffic lights. The article is a pile of tripe and any courteous, competent, experienced driver can go about their daily lives without traffic lights being a hindrance. A good driver would not speed up to beat the lights, ignore someone attempting to cross the road or pay more attention to a green light than the road itself etc...
Im sure a large majority on here have seen the mayhem that can erupt at a busy junction when the lights are out. And they would trust all drivers to think for themselves and use common sense by getting rid of a traffic control system? No thanks.
Remember, if sense was common then everyone would have it.
Interesting however many places have seen the lights go, first by removing them to part time only status esp at roundabouts which in anyones mind shouldnt have lights and in other places where no converging routes exist.
This leaves the lights in places such as pedestrian crossings and lights solely for traffic regulation into large towns and cities removed unless they are for junction protection.
You cant stop people being ********* behind the wheel, they arent enough coppers and courts for that but you can ease congestion by removing them where they exist for traffic regulation only.
 
#12
Ample research proving this has been around for twenty years or more. I suspect that no Council will voluntarily relinquish the vast budget they squander on these devices, not to mention all the agreeable lunches, fact-finding trips etc that i'm sure the manufacturers are happy to arrange.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#13
Well it has been shown that the money pot isnt any bigger in fact its getting less so smart use of traffic control and money saved can be used to fund other jollies I mean vital council works.
 
#14
Ample research proving this has been around for twenty years or more. I suspect that no Council will voluntarily relinquish the vast budget they squander on these devices, not to mention all the agreeable lunches, fact-finding trips etc that i'm sure the manufacturers are happy to arrange.[/QUOT

My local council has decided to squander its budget on a ridiculously oversized roundabout as opposed to a set of traffic lights. I live in a small town and next to a moderately busy, straight main road which only really sees traffic build up around morning and afternoon rush hours. As it is a residential area there have been concerns with regards to traffic speeding on this road. Two sets of traffic lights at points along the road to allow pedestrians to cross safely would have been more than sufficient, or, if they were genuinely concerned about speeding, perhaps a speed camera or some other kind of traffic calming measure. Instead of any of these methods, which undoubtedly would have saved the council millions, they have decided to build a very large roundabout which has not only been a major pain in the arse for traffic but has also ruined the look of what used to be a very nice area.

I agree wholeheartedly though on the waste of money that is traffic lights on roundabouts.
 
#15
Ample research proving this has been around for twenty years or more. I suspect that no Council will voluntarily relinquish the vast budget they squander on these devices, not to mention all the agreeable lunches, fact-finding trips etc that i'm sure the manufacturers are happy to arrange.
I couldn't agree more, as someone who travels anything up to 20,000 mile around this blessed isle each year I am repeatedly stunned by the number of places sporting inappropriate traffic lights often where an untrained monkey could have discerned a roundabout as more appropriate to maintain the flow of traffic. I get the feeling there are manufacturers offering lots of nice business lunches, conferences and 'encouragement' to convince the planning muppets that lights are the best solution to a non existent problem!

Incidentally I was recently at a construction conference and found myself at dinner plonked next to a traffic planner, when we got onto the subject of how crap he must be at his job (despite his many qualifications including aspects of queueing theory etc) someone at the table suggested to him that the rate of traffic flow could easily be increased, at this point he put his hand up and suggested his job wasn't to increase the rate of traffic flow but to assure a safe rate of flow, his job was to protect us from ourselves often by decreasing the rate of flow, hence traffic lights offer a great solution! What are they teaching these people?
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#16
Roundabouts are serously expensive, in the late 1990's I put in the rail connections to a big freight terminal in the Midlands, the bill for all the track and signalling work was under 4 million. That same freight terminal had to fund a roundabout and strengthen a rail bridge as part of its construction. The rails bridge wasnt cheap but the roundabout was 4 million quid on its own. However a roundabout there was justified!
 
#18
The council in Slough, which I unfortunately sometimes have to visit, have just installed a monstrosity of a crossroads, with something like 4 lanes on both sides of the road on all approaches except the approach from the south, which is only accesible to buses. If a mere car driver wishes to turn right or go straight on, they have to loop round to the left, cross the A4 about 300m further west than the actual crossroads (and obviously neccesitating another set of traffic lights), and then drive up the western approach. Its chuffing ridiculous.

The junction used to be a lights controlled roundabout, but during its transformation it was just a normal, 'free-for-all' roundabout, which worked far better than either the comedy cross roads or the previous setup.

There's a similar horrendous setup at the end of the dual carriageway into Windsor, probably consisting of 10-12 seperate sets of lights on one single roundabout that serves 5 roads. Its confusing for us that live here, I dread to think what the tourists make of their first sight of Windsor.
 
#19
Meanwhile in Ashford "Shared Space" is in use.
From Wikipedia.
In spring 2008, shared space was introduced in Ashford, Kent. The award-winning scheme, delivered by lead designers Whitelaw Turkington Landscape Architects, replaced a section of Ashford’s former four lane ring road with two-way streets on which drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have equal priority. Unnecessary street furniture, road markings and traffic lights have been removed and the speed limit cut to 20 mph.[31] The scheme has vastly improved safety records since it opened. Between November 2008 and January 2011, there have been four road casualties there, resulting from the six reported accidents.[32]. Claims about the success of the Ashford scheme were called into question during 2011 by a study conducted by the University of the West of England[17].

Following the initial reports claiming a success for the Ashford scheme, other UK local councils planned to use a similar approach; these include Southend-on-Sea, Staines, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hereford and Edinburgh.[33]
 
#20
Local authority traffic engineers nightmare. What are they going to do with their time if there's no traffic lights schemes to design and implement. Cull em I say! :)
 

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