Saturday, 23 November 2019

Traffic lights

As I drove home, I noticed that the traffic lights at a fairly busy crossroads at one end of the main road in our village-suburb were turned off and traffic seemed to be flowing smoothly.

I parked at home and walked back and watched for ten minutes. Traffic is at its heaviest on Saturday afternoons, and when the lights are working, there is usually a queue of ten or twenty cars on each of the four approach roads. The longest queue that formed was no more than three or four cars on one approach road if the car in front wanted to turn right (the most awkward turn on those particular cross roads). Within a few seconds, there would be a gap or somebody would just slow down and let them in.

Drivers also stopped more or less immediately for pedestrians who wanted to cross; buses could plough straight through. I crossed at the pedestrian crossing (Pelican crossing) a little further up the hill. Even though those lights were turned off as well, cars stopped for pedestrians more or less immediately

It filled my heart with joy. I wonder whether the council (or whichever authority is in charge) will see sense and leave them turned off permanently? If they want to do 'something', I think a yellow box wouldn't go amiss.


Bayard said...

I think you need to find the bloke in charge of fixing the lights and buy him a drink, then persuade him to tell his bosses that the fault is unfixable.

Penseivat said...

You have to be careful about yellow boxes at crossroads, especially if they are controlled by traffic lights. As motorists in London, and possibly other places, have found, you can have a motorist wanting to turn right, and entering the yellow box after going through a green light, only to find that motorists going the other way, also through a green light, may not stop to let you in. This leaves you stuck in a revenue raising trap set by the council. I understand one London borough raises millions of Pounds in fines because of this.
My local council is not a motorist hater and where there are yellow boxes at junctions, in the main, the traffic lights are set to allow vehicles turning right while other vehicles, intending to continue straight on, face red lights.
If you are interested enough, interrogate your local council, borough or county, about this and their intentions, possibly reminding them that elections are on the horizon.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, there's more bureaucracy involved than that.

PS, I mean a yellow box WITHOUT traffic lights. Just something to put drivers on alert. Maybe we need a new kind of yellow box (to replace traffic lights)...

Rule 1 - you're not allowed to drive on unless your way off is clear (same)

Rule 2 - a car which is already on the box has right of way over a car that is still outside it (like on roundabouts)

mombers said...

Put in a roundabout?

ThomasBHall said...

@ mombers- no space for a roundabout.

I sadly missed this, as I was away for the weekend, but I'm certain you're talking about the lights on my road. The queues in the morning are FAR more than 20 cars coming down the hill. Walking the kids up to school, it is often solid traffic almost the whole way up the hill, i.e. 400m-500m.

Tracking down the persons who could run a trial on turning the lights off for good sounds worthwhile.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TBH, sure, during the rush hour when lights are on, there are 50 - 100 cars in each queue. Takes about ten minutes to get through.

But i was comparing like with like.
Saturday afternoon WITH lights vs Saturday afternoon WITHOUT lights.

I am sure that things would be better during rush hour WITHOUT lights but I do not how much better and can't compare rush hour with lights and Saturday afternoon without lights.

That's a diagonal comparison.

Lola said...

It is well known that traffic lights in many locations are a failure and cause congestion. It's been tested in Holland, where light controlled junctions were replaced by 'shared spaces' and traffic flowed smoothly, slower, with less congestion and less accidents.

Traffic lights are a bureaucrats wet dream. They are road rationing by remote control. It's a form of central planning. Highway engineers can play with like children play with train sets. One of the excuses they use is that light controlled junctions with long duration pedestrian phases make 'people feel safer'. This is of course exactly what you do not want. Pedestrians and drivers need to feel unsafe. Making them feel safe introduces moral hazard.

I was a highway engineer in a previous life. I have read endless papers etc on this argument and also by simple observation it is clear that the vast majority of traffic light controls are not only unnecessary but also precipitate other negative effects including extra emissions.

(My town, Ipswich, is particularly bedeviled with the things).

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, principles are fine, I just observe what I see.

The few times traffic lights have been turned off, for whatever reason, everything just runs better, for drivers, pedestrians, bus driver and bus passengers; not to mention the reduced emissions from idling engines.

"Pedestrians and drivers need to feel unsafe. Making them feel safe introduces moral hazard."

Indeed. As one visionary said, the best way to encourage people to drive sensibly would be scrap seat-belts and have a sharp spike in the middle of the steering wheel pointed directly at your chest.

Bayard said...

"My town, Ipswich, is particularly bedeviled with the things."

It's only since the Millennium that my local biggish town in West Wales got it's first set of fixed traffic lights, and I'm convinced that was only because the Council got Tesco's to pay for them. Now the blasted things are all over the place, causing congestion where there was none before.