Too many traffic lights?

 

           Yesterday morning a consultation letter turned up, asking for my views on a set of traffic lights.

            I was interested to see it came from an initiative of the Mayor of London to eliminate traffic light sets that are little used or badly sited, to try to help the traffic flow. He wanted to know my view about a set near Westminster.

             I am usually a pedestrian in Westminster. I find walking is the cheapest and best way to get around for most of the journeys I need to do. Given the traffic congestion it is often the quickest for short journeys. As a pedestrian I find there are more crossing points on the roads than I need. I find the all red phases for traffic at some light sets particularly odd, as rarely does a pedestrian need to cross in both directions at the same time. Meanwhile large numbers of buses, cars, lorries and vans are often held up in queues whilst the traffic lights work through their all red phase. I find drivers can get more aggressive in their attitude if they have been held up too often in too much congestion, which is an added hazard for walkers.

           The phasing  out of the bendy bus has been a big advance for us pedestrians. They can be  very dangerous, blocking too much of a road, getting in the way of sight lines to see other traffic. They often wedged themselves across places where you would wish to cross the road.

           The Mayor was first elected with a pledge to ease the flow of traffic, to improve safety, reduce congestion, and reduce needless emissions. He still has a lot to do to progress these aims. Ending all the all red phases on traffic lights would be a welcome start. His current plan to get rid of little used or badly sited lights is a good idea and deserves support.

           Meanwhile, the Leader of Westminster Council has resigned, following the huge row over the Council’s plans to remove more parking places and to charge for parking at evenings andweek-ends where it is currently free. These plans have been widely condemned by many in business trying to serve the public and by many people who want to enjoy the facilities of central London and are helped by free parking.

          If the Mayor of London and and the new Leader of Westminster Council can show us how to make it easier for motorists to drive in and park we will all benefit from the improvements. It does not help having so much traffic endlessly circulating trying to find a parking place, or trying to find affordable parking.  City centres including  London need all the help they can get to prosper. Taxing people for daring to come in is not a good model.

          The message then  needs to spread to other shopping and business centres. Clobbering the motorist is not the same as helping the pedestrian. Quite often they are one and the same person in different phases of their journey.

 

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69 Comments

  1. excalibur
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Much of the irritation arising from red traffic lights is dissipated when seconds countdown displays are used.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    There are too many permanent and temporary traffic lights. I suspect that cheaper technology over the years and the proliferation of HSE has helped the spread. I tend not to go to London because parking is expensive and rare, and the train there is very expensive. I have voted with my feet.

    However, a few years ago I went to a concert in Hyde Park. It wasn’t long after the bombings and my wife refused to use buses or the tube, so we walked between Waterloo and the concert. After the event, we walked back down Piccadilly. A rather distinctive BMW started down the road at the same time. We passed each other several times on our way, and I finally saw it as we crossed the road in Trafalgar Square. The traffic restrictions in force around 22:30 on a Saturday night effectively made those on the roads travel at walking pace.

    However, it’s not all good news out of town – I hate badly configured temporary traffic lights. We often see a pair of portable traffic lights configured so that there is a third phase for a junction, even though they are working on a straight piece of road. The workmen have not set the lights to do the job in hand, so there is a dead third phase when nobody is allowed to move. The related annoyance is the “convoy” vehicles that force traffic down to 10MPH or less through longer roadworks. I suspect that the jams this causes can be seen from space.

    As with the proliferation of ridiculous speed limits, the crazy number of traffic lights encourages drivers to take less notice of them. To those who say that more “red light cameras” are the answer, that’s missing the point. The real solution is to design the traffic flows (take note of the word “flows”) so they can actually work, and only stop the traffic as a last resort. Too much of any restriction eventually devalues it.

  3. lojolondon
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Absolutley!! I am fortunate enough to live in Milton Keynes. I welcome anyone to come and experience our ‘rush hour’ (but not all at once please ;-).
    Multiple parallel roads in a grid system, every junction is a traffic circle and the traffic just FLOWS. Invented by the Romans, traffic circles just work. Traffic lights, by contrast, are really bad for traffic, and they are astoundingly expensive for what they are (£100k for four steel poles, 12 light bulbs and a control box???).
    Traffic lights are perfect for Ken Livingstone, who’s reason d’etre is to bring traffic to a halt to drive people onto busses. They have almost no practical purpose.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Lojo

      Yes that is why roundabouts were invented.

      To try to keep traffic flowing especially in low volume conditions

      Here in Wokingham the Council or highways, have decided that a main feeder road A329 at Winnersh triangle to the A329M, which feeds onto the M4 should have traffic lights operating at EVERY EXIT on the three roundabouts, which are no more than 200 yards apart working and controlling traffic for 24 hours of each day.

      Thus at midnight when little is on the road, you can be stopped twice on each roundabout over a distance of 600 yds when nothing else is on the road.

      Managed madness.

      Be interesting to know how much this scheme actually cost John, was it spare money (so called) because it had to be spent before the end of a financial year. Or a dream scheme that entitled it to claim central government funds.

      Reply I have complaiend several times about this junction, and have recently suggested to the Council they include it in a review of highway obstacles to safe flow of traffic.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Reply to reply

        Thank you.

        Did I expect any less of you, no, well done.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Indeed traffic light are inherently dangerous because it is, alas, human nature to speed up in order to get through before or just after red. Just at the point where collision with pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles is most likely.

        Roundabouts have no need of traffic lights anyway except perhaps in very exceptional circumstances and at peak times.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          I see John Moulton, one of the few sensible people on Newsnight (other than JR) sensible pointed out the other Boris suggestion “Boris Island” Airport is more London politics than common sense. It would would take countless years to implement. Please can we start on the new runways at Gatwick (at least) and Heathrow, and the high speed 15 minute train link between them as soon as possible. This is quite enough high speed trains for the UK at the moment.

      • libertarian
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Alan

        I know how you feel. Where I live ( Ashford) Kent the Tory council has just spent £16m building a roundabout to enable park and ride buses to enter the town. They have also installed traffic lights on every junction of the roundabout. At 2:30 am this morning as the ONLY car on the road it took more than 5 minutes to cross as all the lights changed to red one after the other as I went round.

        Oh and the irony is the park and ride scheme has been scrapped!!!

    • Iain Gill
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      MK is the worst designed place in the country, it’s a criminals paradise, so many rat runs – cycle lanes you can blast down in stolen cars/motorcycles, hiding places behind trees, hidden escape routes from high value targets (etc )

  4. lifelogic
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Indeed over the the last nearly twenty years the proliferation of anti car traffic lights, large pedestrian islands, bus lanes, bike lanes, no right, left, or u turns and lack or parking has brought London to grid lock. One broken down bendy bus is often enough.

    Even in the dead of night with, no real traffic, progress is absurdly slow due to this deliberate vandalism in the name of the “green” religion.

    The measure I particularly liked, for its total absurdity, was the extra wide pavements installed just at bus stops (instead of having a bus lay by for the bus to pull in). This way a one man and usually nearly empty bus, can fully block the road and hold up countless vehicles for ages. This while the passengers find their change. It must do wonders for overall fuel consumptions too with 50 cars held up ticking over behind it stopping and starting every 100 yards.

    Also good news when one of the buses fails at a stop and blocks the whole of the road for hours.

    Environmental areas (road blocks) are good too. Forcing, as they do, people to drive far further that they needed and often to join (and thus enlarge) traffic jams they could otherwise have fully avoided.

    I assume some ex-polytechnic teaches a degree to “transport experts and planners” where they learn all these road blocking techniques.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Well designed extra bridges, tunnels, new roads and flyovers. Real engineering infrastructure solutions not the silly coloured tarmac pictures of bicycles and endless red lights we have has for 20 years or so please.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      As most traffic lights are clearly negative in effect – it is therefore very hard to understand why the authorities installing so many. Is it just fashion or stupidity or something more sinister going on between the suppliers and authorities. The lights also need expensive repairs very regularly too, due to regular crashes and vandalism. There must be a lot of money in it I suspect.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    As far as I can see from the local papers, nothing is quite so important to people as traffic in tiny details like traffic calming, traffic lights and potholes. This must take up a lot of time for politicians. I very much admired the way a friend of mine, when approached by someone with yet another brilliant idea, played a straight bat and blocked the suggestion quite mercilessly and yet politely. The man actually went away smiling!
    Me, I never go to London. I loathe it!

  6. Pete the Bike
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    London has already shown it’s intent with regard to motor vehicles. Starting with the congestion charge and now the Emission Zone. It now costs £100 per day to drive inside the M25 if you dare to own a van that is more than a few years old. Man, many businesses have been forced to sell their perfectly serviceable vehicles and spend a large amount on a newer one simply to continue trading. I am not in the position to spend that extra so any business that now comes my way from the EZ zone will have to be passed on. As far as I am concerned anywhere inside the M25 is less accessible than East Berlin circa 1965. Yet another political dogma costing people mney for no good reason.

    • PayDirt
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Absolutely right, me and my van too. Boris has promoted this LEZ but he has done it in such a way that penalizes workingmen’s vehicles instead of smokey old cars. I’m all for less polluted cities, but this could be achieved by more stringent MOT smoke tests on ALL vehicles. Boris’s clampdown on vans just shows what an out of touch buffoon he is, bloody Sheriff of Nottingham come to our town that he is with his robber barons.

  7. Iain Gill
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I particularly hate red lights which hold up all other traffic to let phantom buses through from the bus lane, particularly at times and on days when the buses are not even running. Some towns have such lights which hold up long lines of traffic on a Sunday when the corresponding buses are not even running. Its completely barking mad.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Iain

      Ah yes the joys of Basingstoke road in Reading.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        send me the source code to the traffic light control system and i’ll fix it over the weekend and send it back if you can get someone to load it 🙂

        you may find the buses waiting an awful lot more though if i get my hands on it

  8. javelin
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    The pedestrian and driver in my experience are in competition. I’ve never questioned the number of traffic lights. I have seen a few extra places they are needed to ease traffic flow – but I find the administrative cost to install them is far too high.

  9. Donna cerca uomo
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

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  10. Amanda
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Fully agree with the sentiment of this blog. Spreading to other areas would be worthwhile – they manage to pick up bad habits about reducing parking and charging quickly enough. When will these people realize that easy access means, more business, and that means a better economy, and happier people.

    On the matter of lights, I understand that there is to be another vote on Friday about the missnamed Daylight Saving Bill (actually the, Put us on CET Time Bill). I understand that , despite the flimsy arguments, and previous failed experiments, the Government is now backing this Bill. I presume that can only be to offer ‘olive branches’ to our Masters in the EU.

    A large lobbying campaign has been going on by people like the humane 10:10 group (of blowing up children who don’t agree with climate change fame). Ms Toynbee is another supporter. They advocate all the people who want to kick a football around between 4pm and 5pm in late December early January to write to their MP’s to support the Bill. Maybe those of us who care about the economy, and health of British people: who don’t want to see it dark in the mornings for 130 days, whilst it is light to nearly 12 midnight in the summer months: who think that trade with the US and Asia is more important than trade with German: would like to also write to our MP’s.

  11. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Walking around London last week was extremely enjoyable. It’s great to see how it has improved due to the attentions of its mayors.

    We felt much safer and more relaxed as pedestrians than we did a decade ago and this definitely made a difference to the way we explored, enjoyed and spent money in the many wonderful businesses London had to offer. On foot we were able to browse bars and restaurants at leisure and really appreciate the quality and ethnic diversity of what’s on offer. Popping in an out of places for one drink we chatted to bar tenders and business owners and got recommendations which took us to places we wouldn’t have noticed to music bars we loved.

    I approve of the continued scrutiny of the use of lights and crossing and from my personal experience of town planning with traffic lights would simply recommend that where changes are made they are carefully tracked in a feedback loop after they are made. Aspects such as the phasing of lights which we are assured will work brilliantly often need to be further adjusted after the initial changes. The most efficient way to do this is to have a consultation before the changes where the highways officer responsible gives out his contact details to participants and asks them to get in touch if they feel the changes are not working out as expected and to ensure that this person is empowered to rectify problems.

    One area of London life which clearly still needs attention is Soho. In a top quality capital city it is awful to watch this illegal industry in full swing. It needs to be legalised to protect all involved, to eliminate crime, to generate tax revenue and to vastly improve the quality of this part of London life.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps moving away from London has made me value it all the more. I love visiting the city now. I used to work in its seemier parts often in the twilight hours and grew tired of it.

      It is an exciting, friendly and diverse place on the whole and most of it is far cleaner, less rushed and less fumey than it used to be.

  12. Robert K
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    There is a strong case for removing traffic lights altogether, along with the vast majority of the road signage that is designed to improve safety and traffic control. Surprising as it may seem to the bureaucrats, the vast majority of road users – drivers, cyclists and pedestrians – do not want to crash into each other or behave recklessly. If you don’t believe me, think of the relatively tiny number of accidents that occur given the billions of road miles covered each year on single carriageway roads with cars passing within a foot of each other at closing speeds of over 100mph.
    In rural South Oxfordshire, where I live, there has been a ludicrous expansion in road signage, to the point where one one quiet stretch the introduction of 100-metre warning signs of a junction has obscured a sign post and a t-junction sign. In our town centres there are so many rumble strips, 20/30/20 mph speed limits, warning signs, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, road markings and so on, that more of a driver’s attention is taken up with absorbing all this diktat rather than noticing what is going on around him.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Robert

      Do you not like the toy town look ?

  13. frank salmon
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    One phenomenon illustrates your point perfectly: The traffic often moves better when traffic lights are turned off! How many of us have noticed that there is a better traffic flow without lights than with them.
    My impression is that the TFL seeks to create traffic jams and maximise revenue rather than create a favourable economic environment.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Indeed it often flows better if the traffic lights are out. They like using traffic lights to hold the cars up so one or two will, in desperation, use the empty bus lanes or do a U turn and get fined I assume.

      • alexmews
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        The spending on lights and signs is more about “use the budget or lose it” principle is not? The evidence suggests this is the case given the number of calming schemes etc that commence at or around year end.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          Indeed as usual with the state sector I am sure they will be just as happy ripping the lights out as they were putting them in. So long as they get good pay and a defined benefit index linked pension.

    • libertarian
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree

      My office is on a High St in a Town Centre. Every day between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm there has been solid traffic sat on the road held up by traffic lights. For the last 3 months they have been resurfacing roads and replacing pavements and have temporarily removed the traffic lights. There has not been ONE single traffic jam since they did that and there have been zero accidents and this is while roadworks are in progress too

  14. Nick Wood
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    In this respect Boris has been a great disappointment, to me at least. Since he became Mayor, TFL has continued to design congestion and pollution into the road network by increasing the number of bus lanes (often on roads where, prior to the introduction of a bus lane, the traffic was freely flowing), narrowing the road, putting in extra crossing points etc. Nowhere is this shown better than the Millbank stretch of Embankment. Prior to the road narrowing and introduction of a “cycle super highway” this was free flowing at almost all times of the day. It is now one of those all too familiar traffic jams at almost all times of the day. Whilst I do not begrudge cyclists their cycle lanes I question whether it was necessary to narrow the road at the same time, or indeed to site the “cycle super highway” on one of London’s main arterial roads. There are numerous other examples of this type of congestion creation throughout London.

    • Damien
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Nick, I have noticed that the embankment is blessed with wide pavements and there are hardly any pedestrians walking along them. I think it would be better to relocate the cycle routes onto the pavements just as they do in Berlin.

  15. PayDirt
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Governements of all shades and colours tax the softest targets first. Shoppers with money to spend or motorists with vehicles to “pollute”. Get used to it. The problem comes when they start taxing the more recalcitrant individuals, which eventually become disaffected groups, then the riots start. They already have.

  16. Electro-Kevin
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    An excellent comment.

    Traffic ‘calming’ in one vicinity can cause overtaking in another as drivers try to make up time.

    Overtaking is a perfectly legitimate manoeuvre and can be done within speed limits but is at the heart of so many serious accidents because few drivers are trained in how to do it properly. It did not feature in my driving test – it was limited strictly.

    Even for experienced drivers the manoeuvre is best avoided. Traffic planners should factor this in.

    It would be interesting to know the statistics on the ‘making-up-time’ factor but as far as I know they are not compiled. They certainly weren’t when I was a police officer dealing with road traffic accidents in central London twenty odd years ago.

  17. oldtimer
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    The rot set in in London when Mr Livingston was mayor. I used to travel in about every three weeks in the evenings for a function run by a charity (in Carlton Gardens). It used to be a straightforward drive in from the M40, quicker, cheaper and safer than taking the train (particularly the return at night). He then changed all the timings on the lights along Piccadilly so that road traffic was stopped for longer and more time was allowed for pedestrians. It added between 10 and 15 minutes to my journey. I persisted with it for a few months but then abandoned my evening visits out of frustration. He succeeded in driving me out of London as was, no doubt, his intention.

    Where I live they introduced a very complicated and expensive set of lights and road furniture to accommodate a new supermarket. Where there was one pedestrian crossing with pedestrian controlled lights there are now a multitude of traffic islands and no less than 15 sets of traffic lights! Needless to say this has caused chaos because they cannot get the sequencing of the lights to match the flow of traffic. The latest news is that the system is to be simplified (they claim) at the cost of another £100,000. The only redeeming feature of this episode is that fact that the supermarket, apparently, is on the hook to pay for the changes.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      oldtimer

      So you live in Winnersh near the cross roads then !

      • oldtimer
        Posted January 20, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        No, not in Winnersh. You are not alone in your miserable traffic light nightmare.

    • lojolondon
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      False economy – the supermarket, we all know, will extract that money from their customers. Which shows how stupid it is – a set of lights that no-one wanted is being moved and the shoppers will pay the bill. The council should pay out of their (our) budget, that would make them think twice.

  18. sm
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Reduce speed-limit to 20mph- reduces the need for traffic calming and traffic crossings. Some traffic lights were introduced to ensure traffic stopped or after accidents, Zebra crossing are a bit like playing chicken.

    How about ensuring street furniture is placed out of the way of traffic and pedestrians. How about covering paths in well used areas with high level atria , particularly, hopsital areas and other heavily used public areas.

    Indeed moving escalators are used in some covered areas for very short journeys.

    Should we not integrate all transport planning, population density,parking,housing,public transport,job availability. Any local parking revenue should fund local transport in the immediate area.

    Whats that a new airport and all to be privately funded, what some airport competition? Well we have an increasing population far in excess of official records.

  19. javelin
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I’d like to hear more discussion on the reform the public sector … at the moment the only public debate I hear is framed by the left – talking about cuts (when there are none).

    1) The unions – are they there to support the workers or the public?
    – For example procedures for sacknig bad teachers or staff

    2) The public sector workers – which jobs do we want to pay for?
    – Teacher, Doctors, public out reach workers, environment coordinators

    3) The public sector workers – should their jobs be dependent on political choices
    – If the public want less money spent on an area then should they be got rid of.

    4) The public – how much transparency should their be of the public sector
    – Should public accounts be made available just like the private sector, so
    we can compare the cost of a traffic light in Hammersmith to hackney.

    5) The public – how much control should they have over the public sector
    – Should mayors be voted in at a micro-level – for example head of local schools.

    6) Member of Parliament – should they get more involved in Government.
    – Should there be more junior ministers managing the civil servants

    7) Responsiblity with public money
    – Should officer level public workers be held criminally responsible for waste

    I have many simple questions – none of which are being discussed publically.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      All worth points of discussion. However, the BBC controls half of all broadcasting, 70% of news dissemination and is the dominant internet force. It is controlled by the socialist elite. Conservatives cannot make any headway on the role of the State without first tackling the elephant in the room.

      • uanime5
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        How can the BBC control 70% of news dissemination when they have 1 news channel and no newspapers?

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        No likely the BBC will be tackled by Cameron appointment of Lord Patten as head of the BBC trustees he is BBC think to the core having clearly learned nothing in Hong Kong.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      1) Unions are groups workers join to campaign for the rights of their members.

      2) A better question is what jobs does society require.

      3) Well if a council wants to spend less money they usually reduce the public sector.

      4) Private sector accounts are only available for public companies, private companies don’t have to publish anything.

      5) A regulatory body would be more effective than a major.

      6) I doubt that having multiple ministers running a department would end well. If there were any problems they’d just blame each other.

      7) Nope. Officer level public workers lack sufficient control over the budget to minimise waste. Those manager and directors do have more control.

      • Bob
        Posted January 20, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        uanime5
        Private companies have to file accounts every year.

  20. Winston Smith
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I too am happy to see the back of bendy buses, which woudl regularlyblock pedestrian crossings, creating a hazard for those on foot. Red Ken had tfl manipulate traffic lights to deliberately create jams for ideological reasons.

    Nonetheless, you highlight another issue, namely the ever widening divide between London and its commuter belt and the rest of the Country. The reason there is such ongoing congestion in London and all the related issues is the centralisation of politics, business, media, arts, sports in one city, to the detriment of the wider economy and society in the rest of the Country. No other major economy in the World has such a skewed national economy. Its no surprise London continues to boom, whilst much of the UK declines.

  21. lola
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Traffic lights are bureaucratic remote controlled road rationing. And since knowledge is dispersed in society and always changing they can never be work. Turn them all off. So having done that what’s the alternative? One, traffic circles. Here drivers co-operate to keep the traffic moving. Two shared space. Here we make the roadway and walkway all one level. Pedestrians and drivers must engage with each other – and surprise surpise they do! Such junction re-engineering has been a huge success in Holland (I think) and Coventry (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-16527148)

    I mean, how hard can it be?

    PS I was a highway design engineer in a previous life…

    • libertarian
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      We have a shared space in Ashford. Its brilliant there are no cars or pedestrians now. Shame all the shops are closed down though. Wonder why?

      The attractive water fountains they put in are great too, well when they can unblock all the kebab, Maccie D and KFC bones from the water jets

    • nemesis
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      I think you and Robert K ( Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:55 am) must be fans of the late great Hans Monderman who introduced shared space schemes which both improve traffic flow and reduce accidents by 40%. The numerous videos of his schemes are well worth a look. Also Martin Cassini’s Equality Streets blog.

  22. Damien
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    JR: The penultimate paragraph seems to say that there is a lack of spaces in and around the west end and that this is likely to get worse over time. Green Park has at least ten roads crossing it that are used by pedestrians and Royal Parks vehicles during the day. If Boris Johnson could arrange for this extra capacity to be made available for parking when the park would otherwise be closed then the park could generate some extra revenue for its upkeep and make some improvements that it might otherwise not be able to afford. Long term we should look to adding underground capacity in the park also.

  23. alexmews
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    slightly off topic but in most part of Canada it is legal for a vehicle to do a right hand turn on a red light if the route is clear to do so. The equivalent in UK is of course is a left hand turn. This has the effect of keeping traffic moving. As previous posters have pointed out – I am never sure that keeping traffic moving is an objective of local councils or the DoT.

  24. Martyn
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I would no more think of driving from Oxfordshire into London that I would consider walking along the middle lane of the M40 to go there. I suspect, however, that during the 2012 Olympics travel into and around the city will become a truly living nightmare.

    Those in charge are saying that all will be fine, a few minor delays perhaps, but since most car and van drivers will follow their advice, leaving their vehicles at home and using public transport to move smoothly into and around the city during the Olympics, everything will be absolutely fine.

    Of course, there are some suspicious gloomy types who predict that everything – roads, buses, tube trains, the whole shebang will grind to a semi-halt during commuter rush hours which will end up being extended by an hour or so each way. I wonder whom we should believe?

  25. David John Wilson
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    There needs to be a serious examinaton as to how traffic lights can be made more efficient for both motorists and pedestrians. Taking Wokingham as an example;
    1) Lengthening the period BETWEEN the red periods by 50% on the crossings by the town hall would considerably improve traffic through the town.
    2) Allowing left turns at T junctions when the light are green for traffic leaving the single road. The Binfield Road Junction by St Crispin’s school is a typical place where this applies.
    Both of the above involve little cost as they are simply a reprogramming job.

    3)We need more pad controlled crossings so that the lights do not change to red when the pedestrian has already crossed taking advantage of a gap in the traffic.

    4) Similarly we need more traffic lights which detect whether there is any traffic requiring them to change. In the days when cameras can read number plates it should be simple to detect whether a vehicle or cyclist requires the lights to change to green.

    Parliament should be considering the possibility of left turns on red traffic lights being applied to most lights. Thus traffic wanting to turn left would treat red lights as though they were a stop sign, giving priority to traffic crossing on the green lights and to pedestrians.

    On most in town journeys motorists waste around 5% of their fuel making unnecessary stops at traffic lights.
    Reply: I support turn left on red, where the light has the same force as a Stop sign. I have suggested to the Council that it reviews the detail of phasings, crossings and junctions, and think your ideas should be part of such a review.

  26. Richard1
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    The reversal of Livingston’s ludicrous one-way / anti-motorist systems eg along Pall Mall and around Trafalgar Square are also an improvement to be built on

  27. uanime5
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    One problem with London is that the number of people there keeps increasing but they can’t increase the roads at a similar rate.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Indeed but blocking them with red traffic lights and bus lanes and islands will not help. They could build more underpasses, flyovers, tube lines and bridges.

  28. James Sutherland
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    My quiet suburban area is now infested with traffic “calming” (sticking four flower-beds in the road, so traffic is always an artificial bottleneck), very slow poorly-timed traffic lights, mini-roundabouts where a simple T-junction would do and “speed bumps” which often catch lower-slung cars even at crawling pace as well as making road noise much worse for the houses nearby. It’s sad – it could all be so much better, so easily, if councils would learn to regard motorists as their paying customers (through council tax, the central taxes which come back to councils and the rates local businesses pay), rather than the enemy or a convenient cash cow!

  29. Jon
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    A few years ago traffic lights and all sorts of traffic calming initiatives seemed to spring up. I assumed councils had too much time and money on their hands.

    I like what Boris has been trying to do, to bring in bendy busses in a city with narrow winging roads was bizarre often ending up straddling a crossing. The war against parking is also short sighted. The Boris bikes have been a success as well.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      “I assumed councils had too much time and money on their hands” that would certainly be true. I am not sure the Boris bikes make much sense I suspect they cost about the same as a roll royce per useful passenger mile. Also trucking them from place to place must be expensive and causes congestion. Bike in central London are very dangerous about 15 times more than a car and as they are fuelled by extra steak & chips or similar they are not even very efficient all in – sun’s energy to packaged and cooked food to bike movement.

  30. Atlas
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    John, I fully agree with your analysis on the waste of resources that many Traffic light installations constitute. Traffic lights are being used to oppress car drivers.

    On a slightly different topic: What about this resource wasting “Daylight Saving Bill” that is to be debated on Friday? I do hope some of your more sensible collegues will see it off. The only people to gain from the Bill are the EU fanatics who wants us all to be on the same time zone – irrespective of the Laws of Physics which apply to where light from the Sun is seen on a rotating Earth! We had all this back in the late 60’s and what a miserable time it was with dark winter mornings – never again.

  31. Barbara Stevens
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t drive so stopping at traffic lights does not bother me at all. However, we live by a large shopping out of town centre so traffic is a problem. We have to live by this traffic, it’s fumes, and the delays they cause. I don’t really come to London very much, twice in five years is my limit, however, we all have problems with traffic. I can though assume and realise the impact traffic as on the community. Parking is free at the centre so atracts many shoppers, at Christmas the whole area is nothing but blocked from all roads entering the centre. Its a difficult question, but if one starts charging for parking then trade will be hit; they’ve found that out in the local towns much to their detriment.

  32. Tedgo
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Andover has gone from no traffic lights to well I have lost count, but we now have monster 3 lane traffic islands with lights every 50 yards. Often one is left waiting with no traffic moving. A complete waste of money.

    Early traffic lights used to have strips in the ground to indicate a vehicle was waiting, but as traffic increased the strips were abandoned due to wear and tear.

    Nowadays with modern electronics and sensors we could go back to sensing the presence of vehicles and optimise the flow through junctions automatically.

  33. Bazman
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    A traffic light hotline is required. Drivers in London know the score and often by choice go in their cars despite there being a very large public transport system despite it’s many failings. What Londoners need to realise is that they could always just move out of London. Get on their bikes if house prices are to high and the traffic is to bad.

  34. Trevor
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Traffic lights are preferred over roundabouts by highways departments because they require ongoing upkeep and justify a higher level of staffing which appeals to the top departmental brass.

    I live in Greenwich and the money that is squandered on all sorts of pavement (they call it social space by the way) and road paraphernalia in my borough beggars belief.

    The Greenwich peninsula wins top prize for waste with large sums squandered when the entire population of the world it would seem was expected to visit the initial exhibition. We even have a pub that is situated in a cul de sac with room for only a dozen cars and that has its own set of traffic lights that change in a set sequence and regularly interrupt the flow of buses to and from the dome. Totally ungreen and totally bonkers.

    • frank salmon
      Posted January 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I can vouch for that re Greenwich. The traffic lights have been put in ahead of development which means there is a crazy road layout and tiresome traffic lights, set to all manner of frustrating timings.
      Also, I believe that traffic lights are preferred over roundabouts because traffic lights are centrally funded whilst roundabout have to be paid for by the council…..

  35. dissertation proposa
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Traffic lights are preferred over roundabouts by highways departments because they require ongoing upkeep and justify a higher level of staffing which appeals to the top departmental brass.

  36. structure
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I can vouch for that re Greenwich. The traffic lights have been put in ahead of development which means there is a crazy road layout and tiresome traffic lights, set to all manner of frustrating timings.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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