Bad News for Traffic Signal Manufacturers
From the Times of London, a story that seems “ripped from the pages” of Traffic.
The always good transpo correspondent Ben Webster asks:
What would happen if traffic lights were suddenly switched off? Would there be gridlock or would the queues of frustrated drivers miraculously disappear?
People in London are about to find out the answer in Britain’s first test of the theory that removing lights will cure congestion.
For six months, lights at up to seven junctions in Ealing will be concealed by bags and drivers will be left to negotiate their way across by establishing eye contact with pedestrians and other motorists.
The reason for the trial was pure accident:
Ealing found evidence to support its theory when the lights failed one day at a busy junction and traffic flowed better than before. Councillors have approved a report which recommended that they “experimentally remove signals since experience of signal failure showed that junction worked well.”
Of course, careful attention will have to paid to safety results, particularly with pedestrians (the piece refers to some new mid-block crossings but one has to entertain the idea that these treatments may reduce pedestrian’s perception of safety and thus, potentially, one’s inclination to walk). The one day of outage could have represented a novelty effect. But the interesting thing about these novel treatments is that they are often done with much more care and concern than the standard “out of the book” approach that is applied automatically.
Ealing Council believes that, far from improving the flow of traffic, lights cause delays and may even increase road danger. Drivers race towards green lights to make it across before they turn red. Confidence that they have right of way lulls them into a false sense of security, meaning that they fail to anticipate hazards coming from the side. The council hopes that drivers will learn to co-operate, crossing junctions on a first-come first-served basis rather than obeying robotic signals that have no sense of where people are waiting.
(Horn honk to Prashanth)
This entry was posted on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 at 3:22 pm and is filed under Risk, Roads, Traffic Culture, Traffic Psychology, Traffic Signals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.