Talk about Newsnight


The case against traffic lights

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jan 08, 12:57 PM

redlight203.jpgDo we need traffic lights? Campaigner Martin Cassini doesn't think so. He says, "They take our eyes off the road. They make us stop when it's safe to go. They increase journey times. They maximise congestion, which costs the economy £20bn a year. They maximise emissions and fuel use from the stop-start drive cycle. They deface streetscapes. They cost the earth to install and run".

Read his full article on why they should go and the system of "peaceful anarchy" he says should replace them - and watch his highly entertaining report tonight.

But what do you think - has he got a point?

Comments  Post your comment

Great idea, but the Treasury will be having kittens about such a suggestion; how will they find a replacement traffic light tax they currently enjoy? ie the Red Light Camera tax???

  • 2.
  • At 01:43 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Bossingham wrote:

I seem to remember in Germany they are turned off when not needed. That strikes me as a really good idea.

I particularly hate traffic lights on roundabouts. That seems to be a senseless system that just creates more chaos - particularly when you are taking a 3rd or 4th and you are stopped at every set on the way round.

  • 3.
  • At 01:44 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

It's interesting to note that Cowley Road in Oxford has had a "landmark" traffic calming scheme applied to it to make it safer for the huge numbers of cyclists, that seems to consist primarily of removing road markings, and making the traditional boundaries between pavement and road much more fluid.

The more drivers have to think, the more they'll concentrate on what they're doing. With lots of markings and instructions, people can give up their individual judgement and simply "follow the rules", safe in the knowledge that if something bad happens then it's not their fault.

Removing traffic lights - and maybe even replacing them with roundabouts, which seem to be a marvel of free-moving traffic at busy intersections - would seem to most certainly be a good idea, that may force people to take more responsibility for their actions on our roads.

Further research can only be a good idea.

  • 4.
  • At 01:45 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Gem wrote:

I walk to work every morning. Without traffic lights I would be stuck at the first road I have to cross until long after I am due in the office.

  • 5.
  • At 01:46 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Robert Rienstra wrote:

Do we need Traffic lights???
No, but instead of those distracting lights, how about traffic circles (roundabouts). Disadvantage takes more space but traffic will flow better.
Of course there is nothing (in this matter) where my voice may make a difference 'cause I live in the US.

  • 6.
  • At 01:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • James wrote:

I agree with Cassini's article and would add speed cameras to the list of systems that replace human judgement.

There are large roundabouts where you would never be able to join without the help of traffic lights - but these are very much a minority.

At the very least traffic lights could be sequenced to allow far more efficient traffic flow.

I'm happy for traffic lights to be removed provided they aren't replaced by those awful stop junctions from the US - where you have to stop even if it is clear for miles around.

  • 7.
  • At 01:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • J Klaar wrote:

All very well for the car drivers, but what about the pedestrians, dodging between all the drivers 'doing what comes naturally' at all the junctions. Traffic lights are very good crossing points for foot travellers--or does he plan on installing more pedestrian crossings - with lights of course!

  • 8.
  • At 01:48 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Julian Corner wrote:

When the floods hit Carlisle a year or so ago and all the traffic lights went out the traffic flowed beautifully without them.

There is only one set of lights where I live but when they fail traffic speeds up. At all other times there are cars waiting at three lanes while cars move from the fourth.

Sometimes all four lanes are empty because the lights are green and there are no cars wanting to cross. Meanwhile three other lanes wait for them.

I asked if we could have an experiment by switching the lights off and monitoring traffic flow. I think they thought I'd taken leave of my senses.

  • 9.
  • At 01:49 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • de castro wrote:

martin cassani
is absolutely "bonkers"
We have discipline, we need discipline, we are a disciplined drivers overall than anyone else in euroland or on the planet...... statistics speak for themselves.
And some lunatic wishes to change that....
Yes some traffic lights are totally uneccessary but "trial and error" will remove all bottle necks ...matter for our POLICE and LOCAL authorities to sort out.

I rest my case

compton de castro crawley sussex

  • 10.
  • At 01:49 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Edward wrote:

What an interesting idea. I think this is an excellent idea and substituting roundabouts for traffic lights is a process that clearly works. Sadly, I doubt it will ever happen though but I would be in favour of it.

  • 11.
  • At 01:50 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Deborah wrote:

Yes, he has the point, I totally agree, it is time the government look at the many problems traffic lights caused and we have taken for granted as part of the furniture and landscape. Before traffic lights invented or in village where no traffic lights in operation, life is much healthier, more humane, true and real

  • 12.
  • At 01:50 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Farrell-Vinay wrote:

Martin Cassini has an Italian name. Possibly he is Italian. I doubt it. If he wants to see an example of traffic anarchy he should try driving in Naples. Perhaps then he could ask some London-based Neapolitans where they prefer driving.

Note that Naples has this double advantage: it has paid for the traffic lights and still it 'enjoys' anarchy. If Neapolitan traffic is his idea of peacfiul anarchy I'd rather not see his idea of war.

Didn't realise the silly season had started.

  • 13.
  • At 01:50 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Colin S wrote:

Martin Cassani is obviously a car driver and not a pedestrian.

He states -
"Priority makes roads dangerous by giving one set of roadusers right-of-way over others - not because they had arrived first, which is the civilised way to behave, but because of the contrived distinction between major and minor roads".

He seems to have completly forgotten that a driver encased in a car is rather better protected than a pedestrian. Car drivers may get some advanatage from this proposal but pedestrians would lose out.

Traffic lights do slow down traffic.
However, considering the number of speeding tickets issued a large number of drivers are unable to adhere to speed limits and need to be slowed.

Furthermore, traffic lights/the rules of the road have not killed more people than died in the two world wards. That is down to poor driving, drunk driving, speeding, poor car design etc.

  • 14.
  • At 01:51 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Rose wrote:

Traffic lights should - at least - be turned off at night - I've spend half my life (it seems) sitting at red at two o'clock in the morning on a deserted street.

  • 15.
  • At 01:51 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Hughes wrote:

I am appalled at the naivety displayed by the writer. Example: an 'anarchy' roundabout near a Tesco supermarket. I can wait ten minutes for the 'equal status' traffic stream from my right to let me onto the roundabout. The Leazes Bowl roundabout in Durham is even worse. Contrast: new traffic lights at Shincliffe crossroads - vastly improved traffic flow and substantially reduced accidents. Lose the anarchy. Keep the lights!

  • 16.
  • At 01:52 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • georgepowell wrote:

I have never heard anything so daft. He clearly has never been to places in Asia and elsewhere that have tried a culture of 'serve yourself' and it does not work.

  • 17.
  • At 01:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rik wrote:

Haven't we already had this debate, which is why the roundabout is so popular with traffic planners these days. Look at the motoring joy that is Milton Keynes where a world without traffic lights very nearly already exists...

  • 18.
  • At 01:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Edward Cowling wrote:

We had a power cut in SE11 the other night so tgere were no traffic lights. The cars managed well and there wasn't the usual tail back at Vauxhall roundabout. But for pedestrians trying to cross the road was pre hell. The elderly wouldn't stand a chance.
So nice idea, but not like many good ideas... not really thought through.

  • 19.
  • At 01:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • oulwan wrote:

I can see all the arguments for getting rid of them. It does makes sense.

BUT, the courtesy people show when lights break down, is, I fear, because we all know it's a temporary sitaution, soon to go back to normal. So we feel we can afford to be magnanimous.

If *no* traffic lights was the norm, I dread to think of the road rage at intersections.

The answer (as ever) is a trial period, closely monitored by police and emergency services!!

  • 20.
  • At 01:54 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Sara Alarabi wrote:

As a non-driving urbanite who lives within walking distance to shops, work, my son's school how are pedestrains supposed to cross very busy roads? My journey time to 10 mins to son's school and 20 minutes to work would double or possibly triple wihout traffic lights.

  • 21.
  • At 01:54 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Sophie wrote:

as a pedestrian who lives and works in central London I would initially say please don't get rid of them however, I suppose zebra crossings would do the trick.

I understand that Kensington High St removed a lot of street furniture, markings, signage etc and that it has reduced accidents.

The experiment to measure whether it is faster and safer to do without traffic lights is played out every day somewhere in the UK.
We approach a familiar set of lights to find that it is unusually quiet, that the traffic is moving more freely and, consequently, that we arive at our destination more quickly.

Why? Because the traffic lights aren't working and no-one's yet arrived from the police service to help 'manage' the traffic. Somehow, we drivers do it better than the traffic management algorith in the light control system.

Every day, the same experiment. And every day, the same result. Anarchy-managed junctions are more efficient.

And as for the fool who first though that it would be a good idea to put traffic lights on roundabouts...

  • 23.
  • At 01:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul from Barking wrote:

I think that we need a balance of traffic lights with a large amount covering "Peak Time" only.

If you look at, as an example, the junction underneath J11 M1 (Luton & Dinstable). This is a roundabout... When it's really busy (like during the day), the lights can help the traffic flow. But at 2am, if on pulling up one has missed the green "go" phase, one might sit there for 5 minutes with the engine idling wasting fuel along with the completely unnecessary time delay. There is also the cost of all the electricity too to consider, in keeping these lights (which are all across the country) working 24/7 when perhaps the 3 hours twice daily encompassing the rush hours would be sufficient.

  • 24.
  • At 01:57 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

Brilliant idea, well argued, credible and highly sensible. Which by default probably makes it highly unlikely ever to be inplemented.

  • 25.
  • At 01:59 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Nigel Bane wrote:

I think there is a case for traffic lights, at certain peak times, in certain locations. BUT, like speed cameras, they take your eye off the road and away from where you should be looking. The number of times I've comes to lights at red - there's nothing coming in any direction and all I can do legally is wait.
As one very wise man (quite) recently said "the government takes more and more control away from us, yet still leaves us with the responsibility".
Let's get back to people thinking for themselves. If we do need traffic lights, all over the place, then how come traffic still flows ok when they stop working ? All of a sudden drivers have to really look at what's happening, judge distances, speeds, weigh up what pedestrians might do etc etc. We're definitely in danger of becoming automatons. We need to observe better, plan better, judge better, anticipate better. Not too much to ask surely.

  • 26.
  • At 02:00 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • P Smith wrote:

When I lived in Aylesbury 10 years ago, there were hardly any traffic lights there, and I remember thinking how wonderful it was.

Roundabouts are far more efficient at handling traffic in 90% of cases (there are a few traffic flow situations where roundabouts don't work well), and automatically handle the 'there's no traffic around so why have I got to stop' problem with traffic lights.

As far as pedestrian's crossing the road goes, I don't see anything wrong with intelligent pedestrian crossings. The old pelican crossings are really bad at handling situations such as kids pressing the button for fun, without actually wanting to cross. Even older-fashioned zebra crossings may be better in many cases.

Anyone crossing at normal traffic lights is risking their life, as drivers are often more interested in watching the lights than noticing that someone has just started to cross in front of them just before the lights changed...

  • 27.
  • At 02:01 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tom Anderson wrote:

It's a lovely idea, but unfortunately, an incorrect one.

I'm lucky enough to cycle to work through the King's Cross area in London every day; due to the epic works around St Pancras, there are routinely sets of lights out of action, so i've seen the effect of this proposal first-hand. I regret to report that it doesn't work. Rather than any kind of lovey-dovey jumpers-for-goalposts peaceful anarchy, it turns into mob rule: once a stream of traffic gets going from one direction, it keeps going, with cars from the other direction stacking up, waiting for a crack at the junction which may never come.

Where there isn't too much traffic, or other lights further upstream to break up the flow (say at the York Road - Goods Way junction), things do eventually (in fact pretty quickly) work out, and everyone gets through. But where there's a constant flow of traffic from one direction (for example at the Euston Road - Judd Street junction, which is currently without lights, or at least was all last week), all that happens is that the main road gang seize the junction, and the side road posse sit there helplessly, enjoying some quality tapping-the-steering-wheel (or in my case, poking at the cycle computer) time.

I do have a lot of sympathy for a general critique of traffic lights, though. I have to confess to being a semi-professional red light jumper. I take the attitude that lights and other signs and instructions are there to even-handedly regulate interactions between people, be they road users or pedestrians: thus, as long as there are other people about, i obey them, and if there aren't, i don't. To wait at a red light when there's no other traffic around, and i can be sure of that fact, seems to me the height of petty-mindedness. And unfortunately, there are plenty of times when that's the case - effectively, when lights are giving the wrong instruction.

This is a tricky problem to fix, though. Either you find a technical solution, which will mean much more sophisticated and expensive traffic lights, or you change the rules of the road to allow drivers to ignore them when necessary, which will inevitably lead to mistakes and thus deaths and injuries.

Although, of course, this whole problem would be trivial to solve if you first banned cars ...

-- tom

Traffic lights are an essential part of control I do think it was time they could identfy the traffic flow and work automatically and allow traffic to flow more easily I also think that if it is safe to do so traffic should be allowed to turn left when the lights are on red

  • 29.
  • At 02:02 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Dan Keini wrote:

This is a totaly absurd idea.
It would bring along a colossal chaos in any major city, and increase the traffic accidents ten times.

  • 30.
  • At 02:02 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rod Harding wrote:

Traffic lights are so outdated we had traffic lights in our town and they were replaced by the mini roundabout people complained at the time but every now and then traffic lights are put up for road repairs and there is complete chaos and when I tell people we use to have traffic lights here all the time they are astonished.I believe we were the first town in England to have the mini roundabout about 40 years ago the town is Bideford Devon.

You have got to be joking! No traffic lights would = chaotic Calcutta!!!As for accidents against pedestrians - how many fold would that increase?

  • 32.
  • At 02:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Alan Constable wrote:

There are some roads that are so busy that for pedestrians, they are uncrossable without a pedestrian phase or a Pelican crossing.

  • 33.
  • At 02:06 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • rebecca fordham wrote:

Traffic lights should be staggered so that cycleists have 15 seconds advance before vehicles. The area in front of cars for cyclists is dangerous as cyclists obviously can not accelerate like motorists. Lorries and buses can not see cyclists at lights. This encourages cyclists to jump red lights as it is safer than battling with them when the lights change.

  • 34.
  • At 02:07 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Winsor Lewis wrote:

The man is an idiot! The only possible thing to accept would be the flashing lights at non-peak times. car drivers have NO courtesy at all so that would be no help at all and gongestion will, sadly increase.
I live in frankfurt- the city of traffic lights. the problem here is that traffic is not managed and lights work agianst each other to create congestion.

  • 35.
  • At 02:08 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

In most of Canada it is legal to turn right at a red light if it is safe to do so. In the UK it would be very simple, as a first step, to do likewise (for left turns, of course!).

  • 36.
  • At 02:09 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Brown wrote:

Once again someone who wants air time, that you fall for on days when there is far more important news. In some instances this does work. In high traffic volume areas, it just leads to gridlock. From someone who lives and works in east Africa I can point to Nairobi and Kampala as perfect examples of utter network shutdown, and in the case of Kampala new traffic lights made the situation better. Whilst in some suburban and peri-urban areas the system has merit (and saves money, possibly lives) it relies on one massive coordination hope which is that everyone will behave like the average. However, a few will not, and they will make the system legally unworkable because it becomes very difficult to show what law they broke etc.

  • 37.
  • At 02:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • john w wrote:

I live in Berwickshire which spans the border between Scotland and England. I am told there is not a single traffic light in the whole county - I've lived here for seven years and have not found one. We do have pedestrian crossings controlled by lights but no red/amber/green things.

  • 38.
  • At 02:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

Perhaps we could keep them to slow speeding cars down? I'm sure I read that in some European countries if you go through a Gatso too fast, all it does is turn the next set of traffic lights red which stops you - far more beneficial to road safety than issuing a belated speeding ticket!

  • 39.
  • At 02:11 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rob Wagner wrote:

Interesting to see this article coming from the UK, which have far fewer traffic lights than we have in the States.

In the States, petrol is cheap, and the stupid traffic lights are timed to make you stop at each and every light. No wonder they're all hanging on the phone, inattentive to the road.

Yet another bright idea that wont work from the academics. Replacing traffic lights with roundabouts wont significantly reduce CO2 because every single vehicle on the main route is forced to slow down to crawling pace in which case you might just as well stop. The only problem with traffic lights is that many eco-fascist leaning traffic managers always set them up to cause the most congestion. It is often the case that traffic is held up on the main route awaiting imaginary traffic from a side road, perhaps we need to go back to the 1960s pressure strips so that the lights only change when there is traffic there. Read the brossen99 link to find out more.

  • 41.
  • At 02:13 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Shabir wrote:

I would tend to agree with the article in general, simply because road planners in every borough appear to have nothing else to do but plan where the next set of traffic lights will go. It appears these lights are like cancer, for they keep increasing, and NEVER decrease. Clear roads, which hardly suffered from congestion before are now subjected to long ques, for years later on (e.g. at the junction of Garratt Lane and Burntwood Road in Wandsworth). Some pedestrian lights are spaced at a mere 100 yards apart if not less. The trouble with traffic lights is that they are just robots and cannot think. If there is no traffic on the road and you are the only one approaching, they will happily turn red at the appointed time to fulfill their program, and to hell with the CO2 emissions that result as a consequenc, (since CO2 doesnt affect robots directly)

  • 42.
  • At 02:14 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Michael Isaacs wrote:

I agree 100%. Take a case in point. A33 Reading Relief Road at Rose Kiln Lane. Used to be a roundabout - traffic flowing smoothly. Then the Council decided to replace this with a set of traffic lights costing over £1M to install. Result? Congestion along both approaches all day long. That's progress for you!

  • 43.
  • At 02:14 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Matt Brown wrote:

Interesting idea. I think you'd have to bring speed limits down so that pedestrians could cross fast roads without taking their lives in their hands. That's before considering adults with pushchairs/small children.

I wonder if you can manage without a system in situations with very heavy traffic, think London A-roads during rush hour. Don't mathematicians set the timings of traffic lights to manage traffic flow best?

  • 44.
  • At 02:18 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John Sims wrote:

Visiting Paris in November last year I was fascinated to watch nine lanes of traffic merging at right angles with five lanes of traffic at the Bastille intersection with no traffic lights just a white line. Including bike riders! After 10 minutes I had to reluctantly move on as my initial reactions were confounded: there were not even any near accidents. In fact my impression of all motoring in France is that you are treated more as a mature adult rather than an irresponsible child. For instance, see a space go for it, lose a space concede gracefully. Although I would find it difficult to rationalise all those dented number plates in the parking spots!

  • 45.
  • At 02:20 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • peter watson wrote:

How much extra cost will the health system sustain because of accidents? Who has right of way? Tell that to drivers who insist that they own the road.
Whilst they may be expensive and are not a pretty sight, they do save lives.
I would suggest that we study history as to why they were introduced. For safety and traffic control.In those day the volume was zulch in comparison with todays traffic.
I looked at the calender when I read the report, today is not April 1st.
Sorry but thus is a daft & not thought through idea.

  • 46.
  • At 02:21 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Maks Mubita wrote:

You must be mad - In Africa we have both systems, good roads with traffic lights in places where the tourists and Government dignatories pass (to impress the IMF and get more funding for the swiss accounts)
and no traffic lights in others where the ordinary people live.

Guess where the traffic moves faster and where there are fewer accidents. Roads with traffic lights ofcourse dumb you.

U can turn London into Lagos. We are happy to welcome you into the third world of anarchy- its getting lonely

Traffic lights are a blessing for several categories: people who sell and install them, politicians who charge us for them, health & safety freaks.
And they are extremely dangerous for pedestrians too. Here is why.
The mainstream theory is that pedestrians are good, while car drivers are bad (the idea that they are basically the same people is too hard to grasp and do not even cross their mind). Consequently, the always alert PC police now phase them in such a crazy way in which pedestrians are allowed to cross ONLY when ALL cars stop (not only those crossing the pedestrians’ way). And dead times between red on the car side and green on the pedestrians are so long that most of the times pedestrians ignore them. This is the real danger.

Traffic lights need a drastic reduction in number and a more intelligent less penalizing and health-&-safety-madness-free management. They also need a smart system to avoid keeping busses still for hours, discourageing people from using them.

  • 48.
  • At 02:35 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Yeatman wrote:

One of the largest peace-time demonstrations to take place in Portishead, Somerset, was to protest over a complicated multi-phase set of traffic lights that once installed caused queues and delays that had apparently never been experienced previously. The collision rate also increased markedly largely through assumption that a Green light means 'proceed without looking'

I like the sentiments behind the research and I feel that pedestrians could benefit as well. However, the Portshead lights remain and reality suggests that no one in authority is ever going to sanction their removal

Yes - I think it is a good idea, I have often thougt the same way myself.
Traffic lights increases the use of fuel - they make people stop unnecessarily and it takes fuel to start and speed up again, and the outlet of dangerous pollution as benzophyrenes and other cancer creating stuff is highest when the engune run and the car stands still.
Traffic lights can easily be replaced by roundabouts - or simply by the common rule that the car/bycycke/pedestrian thar comes from the right have the right to drive or walk first.
To remove traffic lights would decrease pollution and health risks from pollution, and it is also obvious that in a crossing with only the person-from-right-goes-first-rule cars will have to speed down to maybe five or ten miles per hour, and if two cars would happen to crash in that speed nobody gets hurt.
But if people drive in high speed through the crossing and somebody do not see a red light - by example for having the sun straight into his eyes - it can create a big crash with many cars involved.
Besides that I think thar politicians and authority should let people take responsibility by themselves instead of behaving like a big mother, father or Big Brother for the whole population.

  • 50.
  • At 02:36 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Horst Beck wrote:

If the person is standing at an intersection and there is no gap to switch into the queue, then he will pray for a traffic light.

  • 51.
  • At 02:41 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Alan Murray wrote:

If anyone would like to try driving in city traffic without traffic lights, any major city in South Africa would be a perfect way to test the traffic light free theory and see the anarchy that results. The cost of damage claims to insurance companies is so high that they have considered taking municipal traffic authorities to court to recover their losses.
The traffic lights seldom work because no one bothers to maintain them.

  • 52.
  • At 02:43 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • tony burleton wrote:

Horse manure. Tony Burleton.

  • 53.
  • At 02:48 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Heather Barrett wrote:

Even if traffic lights were abolished and roundabouts, for instance, were used in their place, it would still mean waiting for ages, sometimes, in order to get out and engines would continue to idle causing pollution and wasting fuel.

  • 54.
  • At 02:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John R Harwood wrote:

I live in Ontario and I agree that street lights are all you say they are, I much prefer the roundabout system where there is room for them. The Region of Waterloo in Ontario has many roudabouts and they are a joy to use.

The last time I was in the UK I saw a USA visitor who was absolutley terrified of the roundabouts and was heading to the airport to return his car. He never made it, when I saw him he was sweating with fear and had just phoned the car company to come and collect him. It is just a matter of road education and then he would have been fine

  • 55.
  • At 03:05 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mark Mercer wrote:

There are many junctions where traffic from a minor road has to take immense risks to get into the main road stream. Road rage develops behind the driver who dare not take the risk. To say we can do without the lights is crazy.
What we could and should do is to allow drivers to filter left on a red as they do in America. This would be a great saving of time and fuel. We should also be free to move off at pelican crossings after the pedestrians have gone.

  • 56.
  • At 03:09 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rita Elliott wrote:

No traffic lights? Daft idea. When I came to live in a small Caribbean island -30 years ago- there were practically no traffic light. This meant road congestions and utter chaos. You risked your life going out merely to buy a bag of groceries

Now, the country has a serious network of traffic light, roundabouts and islands that split the main thoroughfare

With the sharp increase in vehicules imported here over the 10 last years, imagine what the situation would be if these measures had not been put into place!

  • 57.
  • At 03:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Ivan Camden wrote:

If we were a nation of polite, courteous and good mannered. It would be a good idea. As we have very little of these traits in this so called modern society. I say leave the traffic lights where they are. You do eventually get your chance to move forward. Do away with roundabouts. That is where bad manners are shown up to their worst.

  • 58.
  • At 03:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • K wrote:

I am British, currently living in the USA and one of my main complaints about the USA is the number of seemingly unnecessary traffic lights. Therefore any move to reduce the number of traffic lights is a good thing. I always notice a huge difference when driving in the UK with less traffic lights and more roundabouts. Equally I think that pedestrians need to be able to cross the roads safely.

One good rule that we do have here in some USA states is being able to turn right on a red light, if it is safe to do so. A similar rule could be implemented in the UK to allow people to turn left on red lights, again to help the flow of traffic.

Traffic lights need to be synchronized to ensure that they help the traffic flow, not hold it up. Roundabouts are certainly great, but as with everything, there is an arguement for and an arguement against. Any decision needs to be based on an individual case review.

  • 59.
  • At 03:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Martyn wrote:

One problem with any "improvement" to our roads is that pretty much as soon as it is made, extra cars fill up the additional capacity. That goes for improving junctions by removing traffic lights/puttin in roundabouts just as much as for extra lanes on motorways, bypasses etc. This isn;t noticed when we have lights out for a few hours because of a power cut - but if oyu changed it permanently it certainly would be.

Bite the bullet - its less cars we need, more alternatives, and better planned town so we don't have to drive so much to get the things we need.

  • 60.
  • At 03:21 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Hazel Robbins wrote:

"Peaceful anarchy"?! There's no such thing! It's a contradiction in terms.
Drivers are increasingly "jumping the lights" as it is - they aren't going to give way to other road users where a major road meets a minor road, especially if they are in a hurry to get somewhere. The police would never agree to it anyway.
I do think traffic lights are a very bad way of regulating traffic, but human nature being what it is (me first!) we need clear rules to abide by to keep everyone safe.

  • 61.
  • At 03:24 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Larry St Croix wrote:

Frankly, I don’t think anyone knows the right answer but I do think it is a great idea to try switching them off for a specified period to see how useful it could be. Or at least identify a large number that could be considered unnecessary as every little helps.

It is ironic to sit there at the lights waiting to go when there are no obstacles and your car is just belching out unnecessary waste. Walking alongside a line of traffic near a set of lights that are on red when they need not be is not a healthy option.

I honestly feel that if anything involves revenue for the government it is always a hard task to reverse the use or need of lights no matter what – I do not believe that anyone will listen!

Larry St Croix

  • 62.
  • At 03:24 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • bobmartinez wrote:

I have long thought that traffic lights are counterproductive. We have two home, one in a medium sized city in Connecticut and one on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. In the former location, where traffic lights abound, drivers are rude and impatient, cutting each other off at every opportunity. On Cape Ann, which has very few traffic lights, drivers are courteous. They go out of their way to yield right of way to pedestrians and to each other. Friendly waves abound. The contrast is truly asoudning.

Just my thoughts from here on the other side of the pond.

  • 63.
  • At 03:25 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Not sure about how a traffic light free existence would work but why not adopt a US 'turn right on red' (left in our case)

The road user can turn left even if the light is red as long as it is safe to do so.

Queues at lights would be cut by at least a third instantly!

  • 64.
  • At 03:26 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Steven Green wrote:

I seem to remember being in Bristol in the early 1980's when they experimented with turning the city centre traffic lights off. Traffic flowed better than with the lights - but then they turned them back on and forgot about it.

  • 65.
  • At 03:29 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Donald E Wells wrote:

Ever been in traffic when the lights went out?

  • 66.
  • At 03:31 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Farthing wrote:


In London we have perverse situation where, presumably on the basis of favouring the underdog, lights are often prioritised for the minor roads. Try the A4 going west from Earls Court. You'll almost never reach the M4 without being stopped at 3 minor sets of lights, not mentioning the ridiculous lights on the Hogarth roundabout.

The only system that works properly - with the apparent objective of keeping the traffic moving - is the excellent "green wave" on the Euston road, keeping traffic moving by and large day or night.

How about a traffic light amnesty? A one day trial with the lights at their off-peak settings? Changing less frequently and prioritising the main routes for a change?


  • 68.
  • At 03:38 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Nation wrote:

Interesting that this question has popped up. I've just come back from a regular run to find that a completely redundant set of lights is being installed [verrrrryyy slooooowly] on a junction that had a perfectly workable filter lane and only 150 yards from a roundabout - itself unnecessarily controlled by lights. I find that Bristol as a whole has far too many lights and ludicrous, meaningless, confusing amounts of road paint.

All in all, this is an excellent idea, in the majority of cases where a pedestrian crossing point is not req'd. If you have ever driven round L'Etoile in Paris, you know for sure that lights are not needed on a roundabout. [I once drove round it in a rhd minibus full of Americans. This prompted so much fear and screaming, I went round again..]

I like the idea they have in Spain, where lights on a main street control access from side streets. Outside rush hour, the lights only stop you if sensors pick your speed as being too fast for the junction, so driving at 20-25 mph you can go the whole length of the town without being stopped at a light. If you go faster, you are repeatedly stopped. This is joined-up thinking, something that the road planners in this country are not very good at.

I think most of the decision-makers in traffic departments are on some form of payola with the road-paint contractors.

  • 69.
  • At 03:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • J Collier wrote:

No more traffic lights, hmm most drivers think that's happened already. I have yet to see drivers stopping when the lights change to red on my journey to work. I've even had drivers who were up to 50 yards behind me when I stop on amber overtake me rather than stop.

On my route into Manchester the traffic lights seem set to create as much congestion as possible so maybe there's something in the idea. Though of course council's around here are hoping to raise money through a congestion charge aren't they?

  • 70.
  • At 03:49 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Keats wrote:

An interesting idea, surely, but hopelessly impractical. However, are we not faced with the update needed to the current situation? I seem to recall that somewhere in the USA (maybe all the USA - I don't know) they allow red light filter, if the road is clear. That means that if you want to turn left (not straight ahead or turning right) then you should be allowed to go, if the road is clear. Why not? Any attempt to keep the traffic moving is an improvement.

  • 71.
  • At 03:49 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Helen R. wrote:

Yes. Definitely. Traffic lights serves as a deterent to those foolish and reckless drivers. Let's face it, we are a people of law and order and without which it would be chaotic.

  • 72.
  • At 04:01 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Rich wrote:

That is the most delusional idea I have heard in the new year. It's premised on a wholly ridiculous extrapolation from a different context (teenagers in a skate park, indeed), it's suffused with the most facile radical politics imaginable (metaphor for disenfranchisement?), and the environmental claims make no sense (one big stop-and-idle vs. 10 or 20 small ones...I'll vote for the big one).

File under Eccentricities, British.

  • 73.
  • At 04:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Nick Thornsby wrote:

It's an interesting idea, but the idiotic drivers who pay little attention to road rules now, will surely not become polite drivers in the absence of lights, but will go at stupid speeds and try their best to go before everyone else. Would it really work?

  • 74.
  • At 04:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • S. Barraclough wrote:

I am just reading an article in "Mature Times", someone who objects to the elderly 'holding up' with their slow ways, those with more purpose in their life. I have recently given up driving because of just such people in cars, harrying and hurrying me, and can just imagine what it would be like for those iditots if there were no traffic lights to 'hinder their progress'! Sheer mayhem and bloody murder!

  • 75.
  • At 04:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Eva W wrote:

At first it seems reasonable, but it isn't. In heavy traffic the traffic in the opposite direction to the flow has a big wait - they grow impatient and accidents happen.
Also there are gung ho characters who would thoroughly enjoy putting pressure on others to gain the right of way

  • 76.
  • At 04:16 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • G Rangarajan wrote:

This is an absurd suggestion-as absurd as the notion that all drivers are normal when behind the wheel! Without traffic lights, the pedastrians' rights would be destroyed to- tally. They would have to wait at the crossings eternally. I have yet to come across a driver who is compassionate to pedastrians. Roads are not for drivers only.

  • 77.
  • At 04:22 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Glynis wrote:

1-yes let's have the equivalent of the French 'priorite a droite' - the thought of tractors pulling out in front of everything should slow things down - but i won't be driving my tractor into the 'main road' as i don't fancy that particular death, thanks.why do you think the French stopped it ?? Lights & keeping traffic 'stored' in side streets is the only way to beat gridlock at peak times.
2-i'd certainly never get out of a side-turning without lights - too many intimidating boy (& girl) racers i'm afraid. & i write as someone who ALWAYS lets other traffic filter in ahead of me if reasonable.
3-If we really want to improve observation skills, get rid of that nasty new proliferation of arbitrary speed limits that are everywhere now, such that unless you know the road well you are forced to decide between good observation & constant speed-checking.

  • 78.
  • At 04:24 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • colin wrote:

I agree totally. Traffic lights are an utter pain when they're in the wrong place and poorly sequenced.
A review is a really great idea.
I can see them as working well in areas of high pedestrian footfall, but yes, a review is needed. I've never seen a set of lights so aptly under performing at such an appropriately named junction as the ones at Ardleigh Green Rd - or the 'Ardleigh Green' lights as they are known on the A127 in Essex, they are indeed Hardly Green, and cause huge jams. Please review them first.

  • 79.
  • At 04:34 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jonathan wrote:

What a great idea - so sensible it will never happen with this government in charge who like to control everything and everyone.

At the most, traffic lights should be peak-time only. I mainly drive off-peak in the evening and at night and nothing is more irritating than waiting at traffic lights with no other cars in sight.

For the problems of pedestrians crossing - there is a very good system already available called zebra crossings. Why are they increasingly being replaced by more lights? These never turn red when the person wants to cross, so they dodge the traffic, leaving it all to stop once they have gone - crazy!

Lets have a "turn off the lights day" and monitor what happens.

  • 80.
  • At 04:35 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • newsniightjunkie wrote:

Dont be silly - what about the pedestrians who mainly benefit.
Without traffic lights they would have to wait for hours to cross the road.

  • 81.
  • At 04:42 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • JCMcAndrew wrote:

Dear Humanity

I have long held that country roads should be given over to a single marked lane in the middle of the road with pedestrians, cyclists, riders etc making use of the flanks. Vehicular traffic would be confined to the middle lane unless passing each other. Given equal access to the road and the knowledge that speed would mean accidents and even death drivers would be obliged to travel slowly and carefully as befits a country road. Drivers would also take responsibilty for any accidents involving pedestrians etc. This should restore sanity.

The Bishop of Kilmore, St John of Briefs

  • 82.
  • At 05:02 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Matt Ross wrote:

Call me a pedant, but how can burning one litre of fuel release 2.4kg of CO2? Fuel weighs less than water - look at the way that oil and petrol sit on the surface of puddles - so, given that one litre of water weighs 1kg, a litre of fuel must weigh less than that.

Perhaps a scientist can explain to me how the internal combustion engine supposedly extracts 2.4kg of CO2 from less than 1kg of fuel?


  • 83.
  • At 05:02 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Stockdale wrote:

The man is an idiot, he couldn't think his way out of a paper bag.
There is not one logical reason for doing away with traffic lights.
Pedestrians get consideration from only a tiny minority of drivers now, the mind boggles at what it would be like with the "free-for-all" of having no traffic lights
It would be a wonderful asset for car repairers and one can imagine the 2000% increase in "Road Rage" cases as all those selfish drivers vied for precedence over each other

  • 84.
  • At 05:04 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jane Mosse wrote:

As a resident of Guernsey I have to comment on the fact that this island must have the most courteous drivers on the planet. The reason? A filter in turn system that does away with the need for traffic lights. No, not a temporary thing, as drivers everyone considers everyone else. It is rare not to be helped to escape from a difficult exit as other drivers naturally give way as the filter system becomes an integral part of driving etiquette. The only chaos we do have is where traffic lights HAVE been installed causing unnecessary delays. The success of the system has nothing to do with the low density of traffic as with a population of 60000 people we have almost the highest car ownership stats in the world.

  • 85.
  • At 05:09 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John Wilson wrote:

There is a need for a review but not a removal. An intelligent system could improve most of the aforementioned negatives. There are far more reasons to have lights than not take the case of a very busy main road - no-one would stop to let you out and in any case we do have give way junctions already.
What nonsense.

  • 86.
  • At 05:22 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Len King wrote:

Absolutely. After 55 years of driving on Australian urban roads I've realised just lately that our intuitive need to fit in with other road users is constantly eroded by other people's enforceable rules, traffic lights being one of them. These days I live in a seaside town of 12,000 residents, a population which doubles over summer. We have one set of traffic lights which are completely unnecessary, but otherwise garden-filled roundabouts do the trick. But once we get out on the highway we've inherited all the confusing roadside furniture of frequently changing maximum speed-change signage, punitive cameras, and "slow down to a crawl in school vicinities" (if you are alert enough to see the sign in an unfamiliar area). Like you, we spend more time looking for signs telling us how to behave, and less time concentrating on the traffic.

  • 87.
  • At 05:23 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Maks Mubita wrote:

The only reason why junctions with no traffic lights appear to regulate traffic more efficiently than those with the "colour robots" is because of the preceding junctions leading to that point that have traffic lights creating intermittent flow of cars. This allows user crossing at the subsequent junction to pass thru the junction as traffic ebbs and flows.

Remove all the "colour robots" and you will find out why they were invented in the first place.

The case that needs to be made is that not all junctions need to have traffic lights. I have been visiting large cities for over 20 years and my best friend is the traffic light at the zebra crossing.

  • 88.
  • At 05:26 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • tim hale (sheffield) wrote:

I shall look forward to watching this later tonight. His last sentence is intriguing - "At the very least, flashing lights that allow filtering on opportunity should replace mandatory lights that forbid it." I have long been advocating the American system of allowing left turns at red lights, provided its safe to do so. Flashing red might be interesting. However, I can think of several places where traffic lights at junctions of crossroads do prevent accidents, so am not (at present) in favour of removing them completely.

  • 89.
  • At 05:36 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Terence Michael Sheehan wrote:

I'm very sorry I'm a jay walker without traffic, even on a zebro crossing you try to mow me down when the incident's happen the patrol oficer reminded me and said " we don't worry about the highway code now day's" sorry for existing perhaps I need a tank or a armoured escourt to go walking to my local shopping centre

  • 90.
  • At 05:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • anne wrote:

though there is nothing scientific in comparing traffic levels in guernsey and london it might still be of interest to note that the traffic flows more smoothly in rush hour when one of the few traffic lights isn't working. everyone resorts to taking turns which is what happens normally at 'filter in turn' junctions; i have to agree with those earlier who think it would be hopeless for pedestrians at busy times;still, there is something less efiecient than lights - sticking a policeman to control traffic!

  • 91.
  • At 06:35 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

In Beirut during the 80s there were two golden rules to be observed at the few operating traffic lights: (1) stop at a green light because there was bound to be a driver jumping the red light; (2) Go on a red light because the driver with a green light would stop [see (1)]. Seemed to work quite well!

  • 92.
  • At 06:39 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Leandra wrote:

Am I correct in saying that in California including Los Angeles EVERYONE HAS to STOP at crossroads, and the first gets precedence - but only after all have stopped. Where there are traffic lights e.g. the main road/cross street, then cars in the right hand lane can (MUST) slide into the right turn if traffic is clear (for right read left in the UK). Pedestrians MUST cross the road at cross streets (corners) and cars MUST give them precedence. And there was somewhere in the Netherlands where too many "controls" meant chaos, so they were ALL removed, and the traffic moved freely and safely ? Let's do (try) it here in the UK!

  • 93.
  • At 06:40 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • countrywino wrote:

I as an older motorist welcome the introduction of traffic lights on roundabouts or anywhere else and to remove them would just give the younger inexperienced motorist a chance to cut up others to impress their mates/girlfriends etc. hence more accidents. I think I am right in saying that traffic lights are now controlled by traffic e.g infra red censors etc. rather than by sequence.

Oh (some of) ye of little faith in human nature! In urban settings with no lights or priority, a new hierarchy emerges with vulnerable road-users at the top. The pedestrian is King and Queen wherever shared space has been introduced. “One thing we know for sure,” says the US Highway Best Practices Safety Institute, “is that when given a choice, the vast majority act in a co-operative manner.” - Lights set up intolerable conflicts: what do you do if you’re approaching a green light at a legal 30 and a pedestrian appears in your path, but a ten-ton truck is on your tail? It doesn’t bear thinking about. But it’s those very conflicts that are contrived by the rules of the road. When we’re free of vexatious rules, snarls turn to smiles. We should start with a clean slate and introduce part-time controls only if and when they prove essential. If we harnessed human nature instead of hampering it, we might see our road safety, road rage and congestion problems disappear. I’ve been called an idiot in some of these postings, but you see things with your own eyes and know they’re wrong. Traffic control is based on false assumptions. Progress is based on observation. Among allies to the cause is President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mark Whitby: “We should remove all white lines and traffic lights. When you came to a junction you would just squeeze in and out. It would be frightening to begin with but it works in other countries and reduces accidents and congestion enormously.” By the way, I'm a pedestrian and cyclist as well as a driver. I have been without a car for three years. Until there is an alternative to private transport that is equally convenient in all circumstances, I'll defend anyone's right to choose to drive. Let's have more viable, affordable eco-cars.

Why is there an increase in weight when CO2 is produced by burning a kg of petrol? Petrol is a compound of hydrogen and carbon. Carbon accounts for most of the weight (atomic mass ~12, compared with atomic mass ~1 for H). Each carbon atom bonds two oxygen atoms (atomic weight ~16) from the air, thus 2.4kg of CO2 produced.

  • 95.
  • At 06:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Cecil Brown wrote:

As an experienced driver of some 45 years experience in UK,USA,Egypt, Israel and the continent, I have never heard of such a more stupid suggestion than that! I NEVER trust other drivers purely from a wealth of experience,haviong seen and experienced careless driving, we urgently need traffic lights to make people stop at every intersection, otherwise the result would be chaos!!

  • 96.
  • At 06:52 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Leandra wrote:

Yes, we should do this as soon as possible! In Los Angeles (and California) EVERYONE MUST stop at cross roads - and the first to arrive gets to go first. Also, where there are traffic lights (main roads/cross streets) then you MUST slide left if the road is clear and you are in the right lane (for right read left in the UK). In Holland there was somewhere where there were so many signs that the city fathers just dropped them all, and the result was clear and safe traffic flow! When IS the UK going to GROW UP ?!!

  • 97.
  • At 06:55 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Frank wrote:

Are you kidding ? Have you ever been caught at an intersection where the lights don't work. It"s a free for all, with the bullies first. It would at least double your, with a light, stop time.

  • 98.
  • At 06:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tom Anderson wrote:

@Matt Ross: yes, a litre of petrol makes about 2.4 kg of CO2 when it burns. Look again at the formula for CO2: what do you think the 'O' means, and where do you think it comes from?

All the best,
a scientist

  • 99.
  • At 07:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

I totally agree with Martin, I regularly travel to work early in the morning when there is little or no traffic, but find myself constantly being stopped by traffic lights for no reason other than the fact that the lights are there. This wastes fuel, brake linings, time and causes stress.
Pelicon crossings also fall into this category, the amount of fuel wasted by these crossings nation wide must be astronomical. There is one road in Sheffield where there are two in 50 metres, the traffic jams caused in this area can be huge! Why not have more underpasses or bridges for pedestrians?

  • 100.
  • At 07:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Zuendorf wrote:

Sure, quite a good point in many ways. I myself have been arguing for a long time that traffic lights should work as yield signs, but not as mandatory stops once they are red. This would save time, petrol and nerves, and traffic control would not be hampered.
Yet certainly the Treasury would not be so happy . . . ;-)

  • 101.
  • At 07:35 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jack Ramsey wrote:

Very good idea; however, he has never lived in Los Angeles obviously. Traffic lights there at any time of the 24 hour day are necessary. I know as I lived there 40 years before moving to the relatively sane Sacramento area.

  • 102.
  • At 07:41 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Ian Howell wrote:

Just one example here in Hull proves the sense of Martin Cassini's theory. Some years ago a roundabout was replaced with a complex traffic light system on a major junction outside the Hull Infirmary.

Before the change traffic moved freely throughout the day. Since the change I have never passed the junction - in any direction - without a wait, often for more than one change of lights.

An absolute nonsense and a waste of both time and money.

  • 103.
  • At 07:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jack Ramsey wrote:

Try crossing streets in Los Angeles where lights not yet installed, though they will be as soon as money can be found. I did it for 40 years before moving to relatively sane Sacramento.

  • 104.
  • At 08:18 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • neil robertson wrote:

I remember when the first 'robots' were installed in lesotho in 1978.

For the first few weeks crashes
actually increased - until word
reached the mountains that the
robots had taken over in Maseru.

People adjusted eventually - but 30 years on in that most courteous of
African societies people still pine
for the traffic policemen with their
long white gloves and their umbrella.

A 'Nash Equilibrium' is I think one of the technical terms economists use to describe the situation when
both traffic cops and 'robots' are
removed ... others call it anarchy!

  • 105.
  • At 08:38 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Idris Francis wrote:

His arguments might well be valid in some places, but most certainly not in others.

When I moved to West Meon in 1981 there were frequent collisions at the junction of the A32 and A272. Traffic from either direction on the North/South A32 had come down long downhill stretches and tended to be fast because drivers knew they had the right of way. Drivers on the East/West A272 (aka as "The longest lane in England" had priority all the way from East of Gatwick, and too many assumed they still had it when they pulled out into the path of A32 vehicles. Fatalities were not uncommon - but both accidents and fatalities ceased when traffic lights were installed.

  • 106.
  • At 09:00 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Les Morris wrote:

I totally agree with the removal of traffic lights. When I visit France every year I notice the removal of several traffic lights. This it would seem speeds up the traffic and produces less emissions.

  • 107.
  • At 09:04 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • christopher wrote:

Arc de Triomphe or Marble Arch............................?!

As mad as removing traffic wardens from St Albans.

  • 108.
  • At 09:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John Goddard wrote:

I have only just happened upon this "Do we need traffic lights." article. This is just one of several 'road issues' that I feel could do with radical change. I agree with much of what is said for the case of removing traffic lights to assist traffic flow, the subsequent economical and ecological benefits. However, just as traffic lights did not all appear at once because each set had it's own reason and merit so I feel it would be folly to be rid of them 'on block.' There was a time when the DVLC and it's predecessors would communicate with the driving public on matters of road safety each time communication by paper took place. More recently postal inclusions seem to feature sales of such as 'cherished personalised numbers'. Can I go back to the situation that existed before roundabouts? We paid for roundabouts usually at junctions to allow traffic from minor roads to have fair access to larger traffic flows. This worked quite well for some years but now driving culture has changed all that. The situation has reverted to the state that existed before the roundabout only even worse. What is wrong with finding a way to ensure that only 'traffic from the right on the roundabout has precedence' not the next dozen vehicles that have not even reached the roundabout. As in so many other spheres the better communication 'c' become, the more Communication 'C' deteriorates. I have several issues that I feel need airing and look forward to this evenings program. Perhaps the BBC will have further programs on such topics and give the too often frustrated motorist some airtime.

  • 109.
  • At 09:27 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Alan Parker wrote:

Utter nonsense. Go to Cairo and see what traffic is like with no traffic lights, oh they do have them but they are ignored unless there's a police officer there.

As for emissions, the real answer is cars that switch their engines off in neutral as more and more cars are doing now. Of course even better will be electric cars for most peoples daily commute, those days are coming!

  • 110.
  • At 09:59 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Nice wrote:

"Sir"(?) Cassini,maybe it's possible in England or other developed countries.Do you know Brasil? São Paulo,Rio?In these BIG cities it will be impossible...So, continue dreamming...We must be worried about our world but I am sure that the traffic lights are a small problem if you compare with many others, all over the world ...

  • 111.
  • At 10:17 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Averil wrote:

Hi,I think its a must to have traffic lights,Ive never seen any that don't work.We need traffic lights ,can you imagin the mess on the roads without them ? Averil

  • 112.
  • At 10:18 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Diack wrote:

What a daft idea, as both a pedestrian (I walk to work across some very busy roads) and a driver. For both groups, removing traffic control measures such as traffic lights is just daft. I am 100 % certain a surge in accidents would be caused by such an absurd idea.


  • 113.
  • At 10:40 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

The problem which can happen without any control at a junction is that if one traffic stream is greater than the other then the lesser stream doesn't get a chance to go through the junction. Traffic includes pedestrians, cyclists, all forms of traffic.
What we need is something which can invert the priority. Imagine if the red light meant "give way" instead of "stop even if there is nothing coming", the situation would be a lot easier.
For most normal junctions we need some way of signalling "you have priority" vs. "give way" rather than "go" vs. "stop".

  • 114.
  • At 10:41 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • ed hawkins wrote:

Congestion isn't caused by traffic lights, its caused by the number of vehicals on the road. We should be trying to reduce traffic volumes. We need massive investment in public transport.

This is the lone nut theory of journalism, right? Blaming traffic lights for pedestrian deaths is the worst bloggertarian nonsense since the Amero.

  • 116.
  • At 11:04 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Carl Defoe wrote:

As a cyclist and pedestrian I agree with Martin. Pelican lights should in all but the most congested areas be replaced with the old-fashioned zebra crossings which give pedestrians right of way to cross. All too often pelican crossings remain on red, holding up huge traffic volumes whilst whoever pressed the button is several streets away. All vehicles would have to show respect for pedestrians waiting to cross (especially the blind, etc.), but vehicles can be on their way again within seconds rather than the current age. The savings in energy would be enormous across the whole country.

Thank you, oh thank you for doing a piece which exposes the weird and wonderful strangeness and insanity of the roads lobbyists.

I always believe that if you give people freedom of speech they will show their true natures in the end.

  • 118.
  • At 11:13 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Lawrence wrote:

I live in Jersey in the Channel Islands. Some of our road junctions have traffic lights and some have signs saying "Filter in Turn".

It works here. If you doubt it then you can come and visit. See for yourself.

  • 119.
  • At 11:16 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Caroline Bowker wrote:

An interesting idea but not one new in the British Isles.
Here in Guernsey we have a system called "Filter in Turn" which functions just as the title says.
We do have some traffic lights - but predominantly we use this system and I believe that it makes the drivers here (in general) more considerate.
Come and see how it works!!

  • 120.
  • At 11:18 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John Macintyre wrote:

Surely this misses the point.

What we need is a *full* ban on all traffic in our towns and cities (not congestion charges that simply price out the poor). Then, having got *all* private traffic out of our centres (with punitive punishments for those that refuse) replace the transport needs with free (yes free) public transport.

This way we get the most efficient means of moving people around, and significantly reduce pollution, congestion and a painful way to move around town and city centres.

Think of the benefits -- more people are moved more quickly; an individual's transport costs will be reduced, thus progressively helping the poor; and our economy will be much more efficient.

It will have to happen sooner or later -- but we need to do something now to make our working locations a more acceptable place to be.

  • 121.
  • At 11:19 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Philip wrote:

The suggestions made in the program only really work for low traffic volumes. I live in London, and as a pedestrian there is no way I could cross busier roads if there weren't traffic will not stop voluntarily for pedestrians.

Wirral's highways department have some revolutionary conceptions of trafic management, and in the execution of these revolutionary ideas make a very substantial contribution to global warming. The St. James's Church traffic scheme in Birkenhead replaced a roundabout with a surreal road layout and traffic lights that allow motorists, who are now invariably delayed, to contemplate the ingenuity and competence of the highways authority, while silently cursing the imbeciles who have brought in a system that results in increased delays, confusion and invariably greater carbon emissions. If only the BBC would investigate this example of municiple incompetence!

I can't believe that the Filter-In-Turn system in Guernsey and Jersey wasn't mentioned during this report- it works pretty much perfectly, slows traffic from (fairly) high speeds, and does just about everything that lights can do. Why not give a current working example that's actually from Britain rather than the new junctions in Sweden and the Netherlands? Come on BBC, we pay our license fee too!

  • 124.
  • At 11:28 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • paul hadlum wrote:

Are you insane? have any of you people been to Ashford lately? If we are the shining example of traffic control then we seriously need to re-consider our policy. Before we used to have a one way system where you would travel around the town to get to the other side this added....hmmm 2 maybe minutes to the journey? now they have had the brilliant idea of making the system 2 way.....ultimately adding more traffic lights and more systems to control traffic going the wrong way as to what people want...I leave it to you, but Ashford being a typical example? seriously I think news night should reconsider their sources before taking into account what one council says. Visit the town and decide for yourself. If this place is a traffic free zone then I'm a monkey uncle.

  • 125.
  • At 11:29 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Michael Wade wrote:

Martin Cassini - you are my HERO !

How rarely do I scream at the television set with a "YES" "YES" ?!

Your viewpoint to be welcomed so much and hope that you will call on Boris to pursuade him too.

The scandal of the traffic in London is an untold story thus far; so much 'congestion' is merely utter incompetence.

And another question - who cares ? The Police do not, the local Authorities do not - they couldn't give a damn if the roads are blocked.

They have no incentive to ensure that traffic moves; the City of London actually has a strategy of blocking vehicle movement - ask any taxi driver.

I'll stop - but Martin Cassini all power to you.

Michael Wade

  • 126.
  • At 11:31 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • kevin johnson wrote:

I think this is a great idea it would make people respect each other more and would slow people at junctions. How many times have you stopped at a junction at night or another time when there is no other traffic and the light is red, its frustrating to say the least. traffic lights are TRAFFIC LIGHTS get rid of them. They are spreading like a plague like other 'safety' devices. Try trusting our human logic more we arent zombies. I think there should be a some kind of survey for this idea it would get my tick in the box. Unfortunately all these rules make for nice stealth taxes for the government so a trial is unlikely.

  • 127.
  • At 11:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

I have been a practicing Traffic Engineer for a number of years. I agree with Martin Cassini's comments made on Newsnight and share the views that different and innovative solutions ought to be considered. I have, for a long time, promoted the sort of solutions presented on the programme. Yet I agree with the traffic safety advisor, that each situation should be considered very carefully.

However please do not make Traffic Engineers out to be the bad guys, and certainly do not make Architects out to be the Gods of all knowledge.

Landscape Architects should work together with Transport Engineers to produce balanced solutions that present correct environments for people to live and work in. Believe me there are a number of developments around the UK that are now following that philosophy. A new manual for streets has been produced which moves in this direction. It is now the responsibility of local authorities to pursue this new vision for urban environments.

  • 128.
  • At 11:33 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tom Greatorex wrote:

Given the population density of this country, it's not anarchy that would result from this proposal, but the realisation of the economic and policy trends of the last century; the dictatorship of the motorist.

  • 129.
  • At 11:33 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • micheeky wrote:

This topic reminds me of famous youtube video clip on India's traffic
I think it works to a certain extnt

  • 130.
  • At 11:33 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tony Quartermain wrote:

On first arriving in India, what at first appeared to be total chaos, horns honking and everyone apparently competing for space at junctions, I soon realised that they operated the system proposed on Newsnight tonight.
With a mixture af The little "Tuk Tuk" taxis, cars, the odd oxe cart, cycle taxis & bikes, it was in fact far from chaos.
By being prepared to ease off the speed a little the flow was far faster than with traffic lights.
Does Newsnight have any stock footage of this to do a follow up?

  • 131.
  • At 11:36 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Graeme Allan wrote:

When I was living in Crystal Palace, South London the powers that be made the 'triangle' that makes up the centre a one way system. Worse than that they replaced a perfectly good island with traffic lights.

What was a very simple journey of less than a minute from my house to leave the roundabout behind on my way to the city became a daily frustrating 10-15 minute queue to get to the front of the lights.

I moved out of London soon after.

Please, please, please lets try this and get rid of all the ugly street markings whilst we're there.

Oh, and to those people who say we need lights to get onto big islands - just take a minute to think how the French do it around the Arc de Triomph. It looks chaos but it works.

  • 132.
  • At 11:38 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Hopwood wrote:

I couldn't agree more with this idea. As a pedestrian on a pelican crossing, I was seriously injured by a driver who was speeding to try and make it through an amber light. If he was concerned about watching for other human beings rather than viewing his road-going experience as one great challenge against his right to travel fast in a BMW, would I still have two healthy legs? It's certainly worth some research.

  • 133.
  • At 11:38 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • chris wrote:

i drive a lot at night,i am forever being held up for up to five minutes at some lights so lets try turning them off at night when it is not so busy on the road and see how that goes and then maybe move towards trying in the day when it is not so busy and if this works would we then get a cut in the taxes we have to pay to drive now days

  • 134.
  • At 11:43 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • M. Murphy wrote:

There are many badly engineered road systems in this country, London is a very clear example of this.

But removing traffic lights is not the answer to the ever-increasing congestion problem!

The Swedish example shown in the report of "free space unrestricted passage to all" would not work in this country and certainly NOT in London for a number of reasons.

Most prevailing of those reasons is that many people drive aggressively and have the wrong attitude when behind the wheel.

  • 135.
  • At 11:46 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • kevin johnson wrote:

I think this is a great idea it would make people respect each other more and would slow people at junctions. How many times have you stopped at a junction at night or another time when there is no other traffic and the light is red, its frustrating to say the least. traffic lights are TRAFFIC LIGHTS get rid of them. They are spreading like a plague like other 'safety' devices. Try trusting our human logic more we arent zombies. I think there should be a some kind of survey for this idea it would get my tick in the box. Unfortunately all these rules make for nice stealth taxes for the government so a trial is unlikely.

  • 136.
  • At 11:46 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • philip aspden wrote:

martin cassini is not genuine.

if he were really concerned about congestion, fuel wastage, carbon emissions, road safety etc he would seek to reduce the number of cars in our lives by making communities safer for walking and cycling. i.e. 20 mph for all communities on all roads.

but no he is just concerned about giving car drivers more rights to drive through communities without stopping. tried crossing at a zebra recently ?

most drivers do not stop.

cassani should get out his car and cycle or walk for a while and experience the disgusting behaviour of car drivers from road noise to road death to global warming.

we should be encouraging other modes of moving i.e. less moving not giving car drivers more rights to inflict their terrible habits on the community.

i suspect cassani is a part of the assoc of british drivers ?

who funded this film anyway ?

by the way i used to drive but now i cycle and i would like a safe and quiet britain again so my friends arent scared to join me.

power to the people not to the car manufacturers. we have all lost loved ones to car crashes. princess diana for one. i know i have lost friends. we need to change but not cassanis way. we want less speed and ultimately less cars.

if the speedsters wanna speed build them a track so they can speed but away from the community.

i am very disappointed with this film and the bbc. not once did it mention cyclists. or the need for less speed / less cars.

cassani is not being genuine.

Excellent report from Martin Cassini. It should have been at the front of the program instead of all that drivel about Hain. Traffic lights and traffic problems affect nearly all of us whereas the vagaries of Hain's political career are of merely transient relevance or interest.
Illuminating that TFL didn't want to take part in either Martin Cassini's report (OK, Paxman was right, it was more of a polemic) or the Newsnight discussion. But of course TFL etc are the personification of arrogance, contempt and control-freakery. Funny how politicians are always banging on about giving us 'more choice' these days whilst spending all their time removing it.

  • 138.
  • At 11:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Gladwell wrote:

I remember standing at the edge of a six lane carriageway running along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, wondering how on earth I would get across. After a long time dithering I decided just to step out. To my amazement, the cars responded organically, making way for a pedestrian. I had a similar experience in Tirana trying to cross the main square. Recalling my Istanbul experience, I stepped out. Same result.
Watching this evening's broadcast I realised that this wasn't a quality peculiar to Ottoman drivers, but a natural response to 'unregulated' traffic flow: drivers regulated it for themselves.
PS Can we please get rid of 'traffic calming' measures too. They might look fine on some designer's drawing board but they are a real hazard for drivers unfamiliar with the idiosyncracies of a particular stretch of road.

  • 139.
  • At 11:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • john cooper wrote:

It was inetersting to note that TFL declined to attend the program. They have an anti-car mentality which ends up being anti-everyone. By way of example:

Why do all traffic lights go to red and the walk signs appear when not one pedestrian is in sight?

Why do we not have green left turn filters at every T junction that comes on automatically/

Why do we halt traffic on a major road when there is no traffic waiting to enter from the minor road?

Why in a busy pedestrian street - Kings Road, Chelsea, do they not all pedestrian crossings go to red at the same time rather than at random driven by pedestrians by way of pressing traffic light "Wait" signs.

And so on ......

  • 140.
  • At 11:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Mick Lavery wrote:

I have just watched the show and I think this was a polarised debate that frustrated me and led to this my first post on this site. It ignored some of the basic tenants of why traffic lights are necessary: because people claim their right of way unless they are forced to abandon that principle: why else would we have have traffic lights on round-a-bouts?

I believe that to rely on a gentile approach would become an unmanageable and un-policeable free-for-all that would encourage bully behaviour. I don't believe we British are as polite as the Dutch or the Swedes.

I live close to a single-file bridge controlled by traffic lights which are on red at both ends until triggered at one side: first come first served. I agree that waiting at red lights makes no sense, but to me it's a simple solution: make the technology in the traffic light equipment better and more rapidly responsive.

We can't go back to trust once the genie is out of the bottle.

  • 141.
  • At 11:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Janet wrote:

I think there are good traffic lights and bad traffic lights. It depends on where they are and how well they've been programmed.

Don't believe that traffic lights are always there to help traffic flow either. I've worked in Liverpool for over 20 years and until the last 3 encountered few problems as a motorist or pedestrian. It has been said that the timing of the traffic lights has been changed to put people off driving close to the centre. Pedestrian crossings I use have also been redesigned resulting in longer waiting times. On other major junctions pedestrians aren't catered for at all, motorists jump the lights, so crossing the road becomes a real art! The result as far as I'm concerned - more traffic queues, more pollution and more frustration.

  • 142.
  • At 12:11 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • David Gee wrote:

Cant believe newsnight gave airtime to such a dumb idea.
As for the idea that the absence of traffic lights make motorists considerate to pedestrians - what PLANET does he live on ! ? (I nearly fell off my chair laughing).
I have to cross busy roads on my walk to work. Even when congestion reduces the cars to two miles-per-hour the drivers STILL wont stop and let you cross, grimly staring straight ahead and pretending they cant see you even as you inch forward to the point where their door mirror wipes across the front of your coat.

  • 143.
  • At 12:17 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • June Gibson wrote:

An interesting idea and one certainly worth trying. I think people get narked and bullish because of accumulated delays experienced previously on their journeys. It would need re-education of all drivers making them understand that it is better to take things easy - and with a range of stiff penalties for disobeying the new rules. If that was understood, there is no reason why it shouldn't work. The reason why drivers keep going over intersections where traffic light fail is because they don't realise that the traffic lights have failed. If there were none they would all proceed with caution, surely?

  • 144.
  • At 12:19 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Dave Street wrote:

A point not made in the programme is that lights don't just affect the one junction. The other morning I, unusually, sailed through a local town to find the roads almost deserted. Bank Holiday? School holidays? No, lights on a nearby main road had failed and the improved traffic flow meant there were no tail backs blocking other junctions. Oh, and because of the reduced traffic flow pedestrians were crossing easily.
Of course each situation must be judged by the individual circumstances. Unfortunately some councils such as Gloucestershire County Council have this ridiculous edict that roundabouts are not pedestrian or cyclist friendly. It doesn't matter that they are dealing with a by-pass, the rule must apply. So traffic lights at every junction irrespective of need.

  • 145.
  • At 12:20 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Kristina Green wrote:

I live at Grove Park, SE12 which has a real problem with traffic flow. Last year when Lewisham Mayor set up public meetings to hear comments about the borough the item of traffic conjestion came up. The town officials kept fudging the issue and one didn´t even know where Grove Park was. Nevertheless a bus driver stood up and said. ´If the traffic lights are working we are always behing schedule and when they are out of action we are always ahead!´ The officials has no reply to this. From time-to-time the traffic lights seem to get out of sequence and then there are massive queues and delays.

  • 146.
  • At 12:35 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Tan wrote:

Yes, to a limited extent. I'm in Singapore where the authorities LOVE traffic lights and I'm left fuming when it's off-peak and I'm waiting at the red light when there's no traffic. There was a time when there were more roundabouts here - I'd like to see more introduced and traffic lights switched off or changed to flashing lights on non-peak hours.

  • 147.
  • At 12:36 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Barrie Davis wrote:

What a turn-up for the book!

I had come to the same negative conclusions re. traffic lights some decades ago. Back then Cassini's current arguments were so clear in my mind, I felt obliged to assume MY reasoning must have been flawed in some basic way.... I mean, otherwise they'd have stopped installing the accursed things, wouldn't they?

Does this mean things changing at last?! Am I about to be vindicated? If so, please let's get on with the change. I am an old man now, and want my chance to do some heavyweight gloating. I want MY chance to say "I told you so!"

  • 148.
  • At 12:39 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Petra wrote:

The idea to scrap lights is plain daft and dangerous with current traffic levels.

I remember many a terrifying journey to work in a mini on a chock-a-bloc 3 lane roundabout. I was being bullied by larger, pushier cars and frequently had my wing mirrors clipped, before they installed lights there. Blessed relief.

Where we live now it can easily take 5 minutes before a slot becomes available to go onto the main road. I wish there was a traffic light!

As others have said, for cyclists and pedestrians getting green-light priority is literally a life saver.

As a car driver I like the system of a timed sequence of green lights: If a driver observes the speed limit and with little traffic, the next light will be green, and the one after that and so on. I wish this was installed in more places.

  • 149.
  • At 01:07 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Pedestrians - can I remind you roads are built for cars... NOT pedestrians, you have pavements! Those whining about 'longer to walk to work' should count the cost in time for motorists stopping at crossings night and day with no pedestrians in the remotest facinity!!

This programme is about common-sense that's lacking in Govt traffic policy that has no targets on improving traffic efficiency just mindless unmeasurable safety issues.

As road users our common sense tells us what creates congestion (us stopping) and traffic jams... and the answer isn’t motorists! So how completely refreshing it was to see a programme by Martin Cassini on Newsnight tonight proposing traffic lights be removed and the natural progress of man and driver be left unhindered to run free and efficiently from moronic government control.

A huge weight (anger!) was released as many experts questioned the validity of traffic lights that cost a fortune in fuel bills for motorists stopping and starting and a further fortune for Councils to install and maintain. How many thousands of times have I stopped at lights that stop traffic for no reason, at pedestrian crossings with no pedestrians and at junctions where free flowing systems would allow you to move rather than build frustration at wasting our time and undermine the quality of life.

I believe road rage is not a symptom of peoples lack of respect for each other. Road rage is the daily build up of frustration with time wasted getting from A to B by the inefficiency and incompetence of Government road planning.

I truly hope Martin Cassini’s undoubted wisdom is treated with similar common sense in Government and traffic lights are removed to greatly reduce the £20bn a year bill Govt/Councils road policies costs the nation in jams.

  • 150.
  • At 01:16 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

The short-sightedness of the 'greens' in this debate is amazing!

Claiming drivers are 'aggressive' and won't behave in a 'gentile' manner if the lights are turned off is truly sour thinking. Also claiming Brit's aren't as nice drivers as the Dutch or Sweeds is seriously cynical of you.

It's not what nationality you are. As a very experienced driver across Europe I've found human nature (as others have posted here) is identical across European nations. We follow natural patterns of flow, speed, efficiency, in-built safety rules etc etc.

It is the greens who have no experience or knowledge about this issue that turn this debate into bunkum and scaremongering at humanity left free to follow its natural course.

  • 151.
  • At 03:04 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • A. S. wrote:

This seems like a moderately sensible idea provided it is limited in scope and to areas with a low density of traffic. The reason I normally vehemently object to ideas such as this is that they usually emanate from anti-car nutters who you know will simply use this as a starting point; look what the lunatic Livingstone has done in London – merged the pavement with the road in certain areas, so giving pedestrians, some of whom don’t look before they step in front of you at the best of times, even less incentive to look before crossing the road. As we all know, motorists are responsible for a pedestrian’s lack of basic road safety knowledge.

I fail to understand what the proposer and supporter meant when they stated “...drivers dominate the street...” Drivers drive their cars on the tarmac part of the road – the part of the road specifically designed for them – while pedestrians stick to their part of the road, called the pavement. The tarmac part of the road is wider than the pavement because cars are wider. If a pedestrian wishes to cross the road, he/she should use a dedicated crossing point or, at the very least, look before crossing. The fact most injuries to and deaths of pedestrians occur on the TARMAC part of the road proves most of the injuries/deaths are the fault of the PEDESTRIANS - most presumably weren't trying to commit suicide when they crossed the road. Traffic lights provide a way of stopping traffic to allow pedestrians to cross safely.

Not mentioned at all were the legal implications of such a policy. Unlike Sweden and The Netherlands, Britain has a compensation culture and so a general ‘free-for-all’ when walking or driving, regarding rights-of-way, would be legal anarchy, although a gold-mine for solicitors and lawyers. Traffic lights would have to be re-installed to restore some sense of calm – an irony that would be lost on politicians.

  • 152.
  • At 03:10 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John Lish wrote:

The saddest thing about the responses to this argument is the level of abuse directed at Cassini and car drivers by some contributors.

I found the polemic interesting and stimulating. I too feel road rage when driving around. The lack of co-operation on the roads and the inability to conform to current regulations contributes to the frustrating experience of the ordinary motorist.

There is also the perverse correlations that need to be considered. One such is that since seatbelts have become compulsory, speeds have increased. Why? Because they decrease the driver's interaction with their driving. The experience of stopping at speed and feeling your nose press against the windscreen has the effect of calming future driving speeds. Its certainly should be part of everybody's driving lessons to experience that effect.

Another perverse correlation has been seen from the increased safety built into car design. Reckless and careless behaviour has increased. This is just a natural human response.

The two things that appeal to me about Cassini's argument is that it brings back increased fear levels and personal responsibility into driving.

What was briefly touched on by the film was changing the relationship between road users. This requires radical redesigns of urban streets to facilitate this. The current state of British streets would not encourage such a shift of attitude.

Its certainly worth trialling such schemes to assess their impacts on traffic flows.

  • 153.
  • At 03:35 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • p.mesent wrote:

In Canada, B.C. we have many crossroads that have the 4-wat stop procedure, whereby you arrive at the crossing make note of who was there before you and simply take your turn. Anyone going out of sequence will no doubt quickly be made aware of his mistake by other drivers. Also it seemed to me coming here from UK that the system whereby you can turn right on a red light (would be turn left in UK) works well and you dont sit there waiting for the lights to change. Major crossing still have traffic lights but most don't and adopt the 4-way stop procedure

  • 154.
  • At 04:41 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • wappaho wrote:

I always believed that mini-roundabouts were a 3-way stop but my sons tell me they are give way to the right but it seems quite a few drivers don't know who to give way to.

John 151 makes a good point - the relationship that environmentalists have with 'nature' would be very interesting to study. I heard a Rad 4 prog about where the protestant ethic has gone and most panellists seemed to agree that it has transmuted into the food and environment lobby, which on the one hand holds 'nature' in high esteem and yet on the other completely distrusts human nature. this has echoes of the sinful body syndrome of puritanism. and the awe of non-human nature echoes sentiments about wild nature - for those in peril etc...

so it would help if we got the idea that cars are sinful out of any debate about traffic systems

i'm sure god is whizzing around in his xxxxx at this very moment (fill in according to your favorite sterotype of god)_

  • 155.
  • At 05:07 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Brook wrote:

I have yet to see a junction with traffic lights that could not be replaced with a roundabout. That way we could keep everyone moving. Driving in Watford is a nightmare!

When we moved to Telford in 1999 it was a revelation - no traffic lights, proper roundabouts. everything was working to keep traffic moving. Then we had more and more totally unnecessary traffic lights, doing nothing except to hinder vehicular flow. A local roundabout acquired lights at every exit point. RESULT : chaos.

Yes, ditch traffic lights, replace with Pelican-controlled roundabouts.

AND a cycle trap for the antisocial cyclists, who pay no road tax or insurance, yet DEMAND parity on the road and mostly ignore traffic lights anyway. He who pays the piper ... calls the tune.

  • 157.
  • At 07:33 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Rosier wrote:

Guernsey manages very well with filter-in-turn junctions.

For the sake of pedestrians we need lights at some junctions, but there are others which should certainly be removed and many which should be switched to part-time only.

The change would have to be phased-in slowly with driver education. Thanks to traffic engineers, a whole generation of drivers have never had to think for themselves. Except on some country roads, we simply follow the lane markings and steer round the bollards and other obstacles.

  • 158.
  • At 07:55 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • RAY FREW wrote:

Traffic lights are not usefull; for all the reasons quoted. They are an example of very old and narrow thinking but money comes in to play when to replace with something right! An example is the simplicity of roundabouts, and to solve their only con would be an overpass, underpass or pedestrian crossing, which only activates when required.

  • 159.
  • At 08:20 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Ebs wrote:

My main concern is that without traffic lights people will have to guess whether it's safe to drive or wait. You can relate this to Game Theory, your actions will be dependent on what you think the other drive would do stop or drive! With traffic lights we have people making wrong judgements and causing accidents. I fear it will be worse without.

  • 160.
  • At 08:28 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • H Allen wrote:

A brilliant suggestion - a man after my own heart. Who's going to campaign to get politicians to listen to this sensible advice? I especially agree with Martin Cassini about exhaust emissions and stop-start traffic caused by lights. Painted mini roundabouts couls replace many sets of traffic lights. Thonk of the cost savings!

  • 161.
  • At 08:30 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Drew Caulfield wrote:

Boston in Lincolnshire is currently undertaking an experiment in turning off traffic lights. It does seem that traffic flow is eased. I agree with Mr Cassini completely and all traffic lights in towns and cities should be scrapped.

  • 162.
  • At 08:32 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John Copeman wrote:

Traffic light conspiracy has been going for years, back handers an the old school tie for the lucrative business. Why put in a mini roundabout etc when lots of public dough can be redistributed to board members etc.

  • 163.
  • At 08:53 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Adam Osen wrote:

I cycled into London for 6 years. Cyclists are probably the most vulnerable road users. As you are aware many cyclists treat traffic lights as if they don't exist(as do many pedestrians). This is because it works. The heavier the traffic, the better off you are without traffic lights, as the problem is worse and slow moving traffic is less dangerous. I have written to Tfl and the DfT about this, but they are both too arrogant to listen.
The only word of caution I would sound is that TfL say they have statistics which show that accidents increase when the lights are out. I suspect that, if this is true, the accidents are either minor or occur in light traffic. In light traffic impetuous drivers may gamble that there will be nobody else crossing the junction and go through at speed. Sensor controlled lights seem to work well in these situations, if you approach slowly they will usually change for you. I would hate to see this good idea fall down because it tried to go too far.

  • 164.
  • At 09:07 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Zunaira Ansari wrote:

People who are against traffic lights sould pay a visit to Pakistan where it makes no difference, whatsoever, to have or not to have traffic lights as not many people obey traffic rules (and lights). I am sure they would change their minds.

It might be a silly / bad / wrong idea. But unless it is tested we won't know (great ideas often emerge from ideas that, at first, seemed silly / bad / wrong).

  • 166.
  • At 09:52 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Brilliant. At long last! a free thinking idea and one that does not come from the Health and Safety Police that now runs the nation! Look at me. In a 13 mile journey to work from Huddersfield to Bradford, the last distance coming into Bradford are to be dreaded. Over just two mile (yes two mile)you have to hope and pray that the 24 (yes 24!!) sets of traffic lights might be in a good mood and show off their "green" characteristics. No way. red is the order of the day.
Can' we at least make them more intelligent? How many times do we sit at red at busy junctions with no traffic coming the other way?? Certainly flashing red for a left turn must be brought in - I am intelligent enough to make the decision to pull out without killing myself - I don't need some kind of Robot to think for me! Even the Yanks have a flashing red to make their right turns. Stop over controlling us! we can think for ourselves! George Orwell you were right - 1984 has arrived but looks here to stay as long as we have an overbearing control freak Government that does not believe we can actually be in charge our own destinies!

  • 167.
  • At 09:57 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • stevie wrote:

Great idea. I go to the gym each morning and the traffic lights go out sometimes and the traffic flow is easier. I know the one drag is intense traffic flow but on medium traffic this could have legs and the treasury would like it. Having driven in Palermo and Naples and that is an experience but in all the mayhem there are very few accidents and the kids on bikes just sail around like wasps. The planners do not appreciate how many of us have a built-in awareness of danger, but the centre of Paris does scare me!

  • 168.
  • At 10:02 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Sweet wrote:

Before traffic lights were as abundant as now, police controlled traffic at peak times ( point duty ).
In Bristol which had and still has a traffic flow problem, an experiment was proposed to discontinue point duty. For one month no control was placed on the traffic. The police never returned to that duty as most of the bottlenecks disapeared. If a human with eyes, a brain and radio link to other officers cannot control the flow then no automated system stands a chance.
The proliferation of controls is just a symptom of the the nanny state and council meddling.

The 5 sets of signals on M20 J10 in Ashford are notorious for causing delays, not helped by people routinely jumping the lights - reference was made to this in Kevin McLeod's three part series on Ashford's future in 2007. The signals were inoperative for much 2007 while junction improvements took place, resulting in an extended period of Cassini's "peaceful anarchy" and it ran like a dream.

  • 170.
  • At 11:02 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Stephen Crane wrote:

I drive in Brighton a lot. I've noticed over the last couple of years, that some of the traffic lights have been re-timed/redesigned exactly to cause the highest levels of congestion.

Some traffic lights which previously only went red when cars coming from the right wished to turn, now turn red when there are no cars waiting from the right.

Some lights are now chained together so a green light at one set will result in the following set turning red on approach. The timing on some of these is so precise that it has to be by design.

Roads where there was previously 2 lanes at the lights (one turn left the other turn right) have now been redesigned so that the is only one lane and a queue twice the length.

All these result in drivers racing to get though the next set of lights or risk being held up needlessly due to bad road design.

  • 171.
  • At 11:07 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

'Over the years they have helped kill more people than died in two world wars.'

I was with Mr Cassini up until that point - I would like to see some evidence to back that fanciful claim up.

By the way, they are already trialling a similar concept to this in Bristol - as most cars simply don't pay any attention to traffic lights [or bother using any indicators] and will happily sail through red lights to the consternation of pedestrians.

This is one of those proposals like 24hr drinking - great in theory [more continental style relaxed drinking] but which requires a mindset very different from that of modern Britain to make it work effectively...

  • 172.
  • At 11:10 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Gary wrote:

I can't stand the things and as a pedestrian I NEVER press the button at a crossing or change my course to use one if I think it's too far away. I wait for a gap in the traffic then run, and I'll climb over any metal fencing in the middle of the road if I have to. I've seen lazy people make a single car stop at a crossing just so they can get across the road ten seconds earlier. And traffic lights that stop the traffic on the main road so others can get out of car parks should be abolished.

  • 173.
  • At 11:25 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • AndyL wrote:

Its not just traffic lights, its the reduction of free parking spaces, increase in speed cameras, speed humps all contribute to making our roads inefficient and in the desensitising of drivers.

Safe driving is essentially about drivers concentrating fully on driving, and on reaching their destination can quickly and easily leave the road network rather than having to drive around in congested circles trying to find a suitable parking space.

In Telford, we have a road system originally designed to allow the free flow of traffic with good roads and junction – and no traffic lights.

In the past 5 years, we have seen the council rush to introduce traffic lights on roundabouts and junctions where there was never a problem. The result is obvious. We now have congestion instead of free flowing roads. Before the lights, roads were clear and journey times were lower. Now these lights are installed, costing millions of pounds, we have congested junctions and longer journey times. Indeed, driving through Wellington is a stop-start journey when it used to be clear.

Martin Cassini has a valid argument. Traffic lights do take away responsibility from road users and gives it to a dumb box of coloured lights. At the very least, any driver approaching traffic lights concentrates on the lights instead of the road ahead, there is simply no choice. This causes accidents rather than removes them. The experience of towns in Europe who have experimented with this idea has been positive. In every case, accidents have gone down significantly and congestion has all but disappeared.

It is time for traffic planners to trust the intelligence of the people using the roads and stop this control mentality. The same could be said for government as a whole, trust the people and let’s have less of the control freak mentality.

  • 175.
  • At 12:08 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Perhaps a start would be to stop traffic lights from working on roundabouts (which work anyway) after say 8pm until 7am. There is nothing worse than being stuck at a red light at 4 in the morning.


  • 177.
  • At 12:22 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mark Rivers wrote:

What tosh! Particularly the bit about drivers treating pedestrians as fellow road users. Pelican crossings (pedestrian crossings with traffic lights) were only invented because drivers couldn't be trusted to give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings. In Cairo nobody takes a blind bit of notice of traffic lights unless there's a police officer who runs out into the road blowing a whistle when the lights turn red. Cairo is hardly a city without congestion when drivers are left to their own devices.
It never ceases to amaze me how drivers insist that every measure to make our roads safer is actually adding danger, just because it forces them to give way to more vulnerable road users or drive at a sensible speed.

  • 178.
  • At 01:12 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Bishop wrote:

Will removing traffic lights help? In 99% of cases, of course not.

The result? Probably squished pedestrians and nobody being able to get out of side roads. Buses would be stuck in jams and not able to get by the traffic queues caused by all the accidents.

Residential and low traffic flow areas? Sure, why not. In fact you'd probably find the DfT's own guidance wouldn't justify traffic signals in such cases.

I thought Newsnight was a serious news programme? The piece was just provocative nonsense.

  • 179.
  • At 01:18 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Simon Bull wrote:

I can't believe all those believing that roundabouts are the answer. Try getting onto a roundabout from a minor road in the rush hour. Are other road users reasonable - I think not.

  • 180.
  • At 01:19 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Waters wrote:

Many traffic light systems are centrally controlled like in Southampton and London. The traffic light system is often programmed to discourage traffic from driving through the centres of cities by purposely holing up the traffic with red lights. Conversely I see on the Continent the system is used to run blocks of traffic through the cities timing each light to be green.

  • 181.
  • At 01:28 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • David Pedley wrote:

I lived in South Africa for three years where they have both the four-way stop system that Martin Cassini advocates and traffic lights. When traffic lights fail drivers automatically revert to the four-way stop system (moving off in order of arrival at the junction). At busy junctions this always meant longer traffic queues than when the lights were working.

At less busy junctions four-way stops can work, but as someone else has pointed out you often have to stop at an empty junction. I used to long for the British system where the busier road would have priority and the drivers entering it from side roads could do so without stopping if the road were clear.

Roundabouts v traffic lights - my observations from living in a number of countries is that roundabouts are best until the roads get to busy. But a point is reached where you need traffic lights instead; otherwise you get gridlock.

  • 182.
  • At 01:59 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Phil wrote:

Many pedestrians have trouble crossing the streets near their homes because the don't have an equal right of way and we are scared to let our children walk or cycle. It is time to change the rules of the road.

I think the polite attitude of the British will accept an equal right of way.

Remember the introduction of 'Merge in Turn' signs ? Most people queued fairly in one lane, now people merge fairly. A simple solution without the need for traffic lights.

  • 183.
  • At 02:06 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Patrick M. D. Hunter wrote:

Atlast!!! Someone talking common sense! I have been suggesting exactly what Martin Cassini was saying last night, for years!

It makes an enormous amount of sense to remove all these senseless and thoughtless restrictions and I believe the results would, given a chance, surprise all those "yes, but ... " paranoid cynics.

Traffic lights are just one example of control and restriction that we allow ourselves to be surrounded by in this, so called developed, part of the world. These controls and restrictions remove the responsibility from the individual and they also remove the need to communicate. Remove the restriction/control (e.g. traffic lights) and immediately the individual using the environment in question, has to exercise caution; look up; take some responsibility; communicate with another environment user etc etc. Traffic lights add to the mad and currently warped 'street user hierarchy' that exists. Removing the restriction/control will force caution and human interaction and immediately reduce such a hierarchy.

The effects of this increase in individual responsibilty and person to person communication will, I believe, ripple out and have a positive affect on communities and on street life.

Bravo Martin Cassini for getting some common sense broadcast.


  • 184.
  • At 02:13 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Baker wrote:

Great news item - I absolutely agree with Martin Cassini. People actually respond very well to being given responsibility over their own actions, it is just years of the government telling us what to do that has made us think otherwise!

Pedestrians can be easily catered for - busy crossing junctions will be obvious (e.g. near tube stations) because there'll be loads of people and drivers will slow.

Add speed cameras to the list as they do not catch bad driving. Re-educate the British public to not drive in the middle lane of the motorway and we won't have to build any more new roads either!

  • 185.
  • At 02:24 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Roman wrote:

As far as I can tell, the majority of the comments which deny the argument are counter-intellectual and largely reactionary. It is, I'm afraid, sadly typical of the 21st Century attitude to change, which broadly speaking is the Little Britain-esque "Don't like it!".

There are, of course, some valid points made by opposers of the scheme, points which should be addressed - for example, what happens at night? - but blind opposition, which generally takes the form of 'No, no it just wouldn't work it would be chaos', is largely counter-productive. Our current system clearly does not work, and Martin highlights the cause of many of the problems; his analysis is undoubtably correct.

For example, the assumption taken by many drivers that a junction will be clear of pedestrians when a green light shows, and as a result accelerate, is one which has caused thousands of road deaths. Likewise, cars WILL move slower, and more carefully across junctions if drivers are not simply relying on external controls to safeguard them.

How exactly the new system would work, in more detail, is clearly explained in some of Martin's other articles, and it is quite obvious that many of the protesters to the scheme haven't bothered to read them.

The close-minded responses that some people have given make sad reading: It is an unfortunate time when people not only feel that they can so unquestioningly accept untested authority (indeed, any authority). but actually attempt to defend it without any evidence, just speculation, to back up their argument.

Traffic lights have never been properly tested for effectiveness, while Shared Space has. As I see it, that makes it Shared Space 1, Traffic Lights 0.

Traffic lights, in my opinion, should be guilty until proven innocent.

  • 186.
  • At 02:27 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • William Dickens wrote:

Would pedestrian controlled traffic lights be done away with ?

Would double and single yellow lines be eliminated together with all road markings and parking meters ?

Would the motorist continue to own that section of highway outside his home address ?

Will the motorist ever pay the real repeat real, cost of motoring ?

  • 187.
  • At 02:39 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • AndyL wrote:

Some on here talk about motorists as if they are irresponsible drivers with the sole intent on 'squishing' pedestrians. Pedestrians need to also take some responsibility too and not just balme the motorist for accidents - it is not always the case.

There is a lot more that can be done to improve roads for all users, until the real issues of road safety are addressed no one wins - traffic lights and other congestion inducing measures and the surrounding dangers these measures cause will not be addressed whilst people continue to spar around the political propaganda spouted by government. We pay a great deal for our road network and that money is not being spent on improving our roads.

  • 188.
  • At 02:51 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

A. S. wrote 'This seems like a moderately sensible idea provided it is limited in scope and to areas with a low density of traffic..'

The whole point of switching off these lights is to reduce high density traffic to low density traffic!! And why apply a system of free flow that's 'limited in scope' when if it works it should be applied everywhere? I agree entirely with the rest of your post I just don't understand these errant limitations.

And again to all the pedestrians and pro-bus activists posting nonsense here can I suggest you all take your cynical natures (of human nature) to the dry cleaners for a clean up! For example;

Richard Bishop and Simon Bull both complain getting onto a main road from a minor road is almost impossible in heavy traffic. That's because you don't understand nature and flow. Your minor road is not the 'priority' (ie. a few on a minor road are less important than the movement of many on a major road). So you have to wait a bit if that's ok!

And David Pedley's experience with lights versus 'four-way-stops' runs counter to my own experience. Stopping traffic creates congestion whereas free-flow keeps it moving. That's why heart attacks need operations for arteries to be un-blocked which is exactly what lights do to the road network, creates seizure and bottlenecks.

Lights also have a 'change-over' period where all traffic is completely clogged whilst lights turn red and before they turn green in another area. No natural system would waste such time and create such pile-ups by stopping all movement!

  • 189.
  • At 02:55 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Sue Birkett wrote:

Everything has been said previously, regarding my views on traffic lights and pollution. I can only add: Let's go the whole hog and ban CARS!Bliss!

  • 190.
  • At 02:57 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Dominic Wheatley wrote:

I have always thought this was a good idea for certain roads and junctions, but clearly not all.

They should trial it!

  • 191.
  • At 03:37 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • neil clements wrote:

i work in a reasonably busy city and they have lights on the roundabouts, i have lost 3 cars to overheating, burst pipes etc, simply because of the traffic jams

however once i get through the lights, the roads are empty!!

i now leave an hour early to get to work because the traffic lights arent turned on that early in the morning

the problem is alot of people cant drive, they cant use traffic lights so removing them would only make life harder for those poor (usually elderly) people

personally i think the same as you, lights are time wasting, fuel wasting, eco destorying piles of crap

and as mentioned above probably only exist so that our greedy government can make a few quid off those that run the lights

all in all, scrap lights, re-assess over 60's and raise income tax instead of flaming everything else

  • 192.
  • At 03:42 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

William Dickens wrote 'would pedestrian controlled traffic lights be done away with?'

My answer would be yes wherever possible. Where pedestrians need to cross bizzy roads I'd suggest Councils take the savings from traffic lights and put them into over or under-passes (with escalators) as they have in Hong Kong.

William also wrote 'Would double and single yellow lines be eliminated together with all road markings and parking meters?'

Again my answer is yes. If Wesminster County Council spent their annual theft, sorry haul, from parking fines of £250M from motorists pockets and did what they claim on the parking tickets ("invest every penny back into improving roads") they'd have built about 200 (free) multi-storey parking lots for locals, visitors and tourists to enjoy London better. Instead of this they tax the poor (motorist) to pay the rich (perverse companies involved in towing away peoples private property!

Finally Mr Dickens asks 'Will the motorist ever pay the real repeat real, cost of motoring?'

Well I don't know if Mr Dickens has noticed Govt taxing bankrupts or failure but can I suggest Govt can only afford to subsidise failure (ie. buses and trains) by taxing success (cars/motorists).

And if Mr Dickens is looking for balanced books the Govt should be refunding motorists about £40bn a year taken in petrol duties, car tax and other duties such as VAT on sales of vehicles that it doesn't invest in the road network.

All in all Mr Dickens and other anti-car protestors need to do the maths before I'm sad to say they talk their usual nonesense!

  • 193.
  • At 04:11 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Jeremy wrote:

I am not sure it is that simple.

Having worked for a leading traffic controls company I was dismayed to find that much of the development work on prioritising traffic on a demand basis and keep some roads flowing (in the 1970s and early 80s) has been fallen into disuse as local authoritity traffic departments set other pririties.

For example the so called "green wave" approach along a fast road allowing moving traffic to pass through many junctions without stopping is now thought to increase the incidence of speeding and therefore not utilised with the aim of decreasing accident severity.

Traffic signals are put onto roundabouts for the same reason and thheir filtering benefits are lost.

  • 194.
  • At 04:24 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Hugh Devlin wrote:

You think traffic lights are polluting what about HUMPS every few yards, speeding up then slowing down on and on its a nightmare.

  • 195.
  • At 04:28 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Ben wrote:

An excellent polemic on an important social and political issue, saving an otherwise very dull Newsnight. Well done Martin Cassini and the BBC for challenging long-standing assumptions that make zombies of citizens. A great piece! More on the subject, please!

  • 196.
  • At 04:40 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Les Leeds wrote:

I think there will never be a scientifically justified traffic management scheme. Most people with a taste for government have a specific model of the world. The only permitted architecture is that of people acting under command. In all aspects of life, ever more regulations restrict us to an ever-narrowing path. Observe the horror that greets the suggestion that people are capable of taking responsibility for their own safety!

  • 197.
  • At 04:49 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Jess wrote:

Mr Cassini's arguments seem a bit muddled to me and, most glaringly as a frequent PEDESTRIAN, devoid of consideration for how non-drivers will fit into this.
It is generally recognised amongst transport planners that there are instances where removal of engineering measures can create a psychological sense of uncertainty about the road ahead, which can work in slowing drivers for road safety purposes and sometimes allow a shared street environment giving greater priority to sustainable modes of travel; they do it in some streets in Holland, where it can work well.
However, I can't see how this can be a blanket approach which would work everywhere - especially in this country which tends to have a car-is-king mentality. Imagine a main road in a town centre at night with enough traffic to make it hard to find a crossing gap, but not enough to slow it right down. How will people cross the road? Will elderly people have the courage? Perhaps more zebra crossings would work - but only if motorists stop and people have the courage to step out where traffic is fast. Mr Cassini's comments also mention how drivers will give way to one another at busy junctions, but will they also have an eye out for pedestrians? I know for a fact that if drivers don't have to stop for a pedestrian they often won't (although some do), let alone when they are competing to get a space to go across a junction.
Therefore any changes to the street environment of this sort would have to be very carefully considered. Urban street environments should place the convenience and safety of pedestrians and cyclists as a high priority, as well as considering the needs of motorists - this might mean fewer engineering controls, or it might mean more, eg better crossings and greater pedestrian priority.
As for the concern that traffic lights 'cause' CO2 emmissions, haven't the drivers themselves got something to do with this? Some trips need to be taken by car, but others do not - I wonder what proportion of the drivers of those idling cars could have walked or taken public transport.

  • 198.
  • At 06:32 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Ishe Zeereus wrote:

Without Main Road Priority, main road users will be constantly braking and accelerating - presumably not very green (nor safe).

  • 199.
  • At 06:51 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Stephen Judge wrote:

Brilliant - absolutely brilliant and about time too. But reading the posts I feel a lot of people aren't grasping that a change in attitude is needed to co-exist with a reduction in traffic lights.
Of course. if thousands of lights were suddenly removed overnight, people will not have had time to adjust to different travel conditions. A reduction in lights needs to be tested, phased and accompanied by education (Highway Code, driving test, schools, workplaces etc).
Legal rights and responsibilities would also need to be reviewed, for example by placing the burden of proof in the case of an accident on the road user likley to do most damage (that way car drivers, like me, would have to keep a keen eye on the cyclists and pedestrians).
This is all about changing driving habits as much as getting rid of traffic lights. Of course the other problem is that there are just too damned many of us here in the UK (Optimum Population Trust calculates a sustainable UK population of 18M, the rest of us are supported by importing the wealth of other nations).

  • 200.
  • At 07:35 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Simon Rodrigues wrote:

I dont agree, as much as i would like the idea of traffic lights one has to think of the implications this would cause. Pedestrians will then suffer and if we lived in a society that realised what gratadude actually stands for so be it. There is also the revenue to consider for those that wish to not respect the highways of the road and jump the red causing many accidents. Yes they should be fined as they are not paying attention in the first place and with that if they were removed, people of this nature would just continue with no consideration. Lets get real about this and forget the idea.

  • 201.
  • At 07:49 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Rebecca wrote:

Traffic lights fool people into believing they are safe.

My father was hit by a driver who drove through a set of red lights.

  • 202.
  • At 08:51 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Jess wrote 'Mr Cassini's arguments seem a bit muddled to me and, most glaringly as a frequent PEDESTRIAN, devoid of consideration for how non-drivers will fit into this.'

No Jess it is you who is 'muddled'. This topic is about roads, where cars drive, getting A to B efficiently and without totally unnecessary bottlenecks and NOT about pavements and pedestrians!

How do pedesrians fit into roads? Follow the Green Cross Code and look both ways before crossing to the other pavement!

Stephen Judge wrote 'Legal rights and responsibilities would also need to be reviewed... placing the burden.. of an accident on the road user likley to do most damage (that way car drivers, like me, would have to keep a keen eye on the cyclists and pedestrians).'

Stephen the Swiss also place responsibility on drivers and both you and the Swiss are completly wrong to do so. The Green Cross Code requests pedestrians look for a safe place to cross and only cross when safe to do so. That's what should happen. It's the pedestrians reponsibility on a road (the drivers if he mounts the pavement).

You seem to believe it would make it safer for some reason if drivers had to take responsibility but pedestrians and cyclists can behave without! Bit one-sided to my mind!

  • 203.
  • At 08:51 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

1 Turn them off at night in quiet areas.
2 Allow turn left on red light as per USA.
3 Junctions without traffic lights is not a new concept, elsewhere it's known as a 4 way stop and works pretty well.
There are a few new sets in Bolton which I use as a give way junction. Bolton council seems hell bent on bringing new road features into force which are supposed to make the roads safer and traffic slower. Most often they do neither very well and often polarise the speed of cars, they are either stopped in a queue or driving faster than they used to do in order to make up the lost time in the queue . Near us we have a few chicane type features where traffic has to give way through a single file section of road. This is even more stupid since it promotes two things: Queues and head on collisions. Bolton council must think this is progress??? If I did not have to sit in traffic for so long I might have time to learn proper spelling and grammer or at least use a dictionary!!!

  • 204.
  • At 08:54 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Suresh Thalange wrote:

It seems to make sense. Often when traffic lights fail, the world just gets on with it by behaving as you describe. However, we would need some rules on priorities for pedestrians etc.

If you want to see a world without traffic lights, go to some Indian towns off the beaten track. You will see a huge mix of vehicular traffic co-existing without horrendous accident levels. It can be scary at first when you see a family of 5 precariosuly perched on a scooter successfully negotiate a road junction surrounded by trucks, 4WD veicles, cars & animal drawn carts etc, so there is evidence to suggest that it would work

There could be some useful interim measures such as being able to turn left at a red light which would improve traffic flows without reducing road safety. Other countries do the equivalent without endagering life.

There was an experiment in Germany where the they removed road markings, signs etc. This led to an improvement in road safety becuase everybody had to drive more carefully. I don't know what happened in the end, but sometimes these apparently obtuse things produce the results that too much control do not give us.

  • 205.
  • At 09:43 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Dowd wrote:

Martin Cassini's report has been one of the most interesting items I have seen for a long while.
Being a strong advocate of these policies myself - as a Landscape Architect it was pleasing to see the successful work of Helena Hasselberg in Sweden, Contract this to the design team meetings I attend within Local Authorities here in the UK where all is fine until the traffic 'engineer' walks in and with a sweep of his hand simply demands all the ugly engineering 'solutuions' to take priority over what you are trying to achieve. And of course there is the obligatory attendent visual pollution and clutter of signage, lights, and road markings ( many because they are EU directive compliant of course) which places an effective end to integrity of any scheme of environmental improvement that you were working upon. Traffic and 'engineering' is simply considered king and people like Landscape Architects and Urban Designers such as Ben Hamilton Ballie are just treated as air headed fluff who don't live in the 'real world'. Sounds a bit harsh? - I am afriad this is all too true. Some years ago I worked within a local authority in Manchester where the Landscape Architecture section was actually put in as part of the traffic division! I saw for two years at first hand how traffic 'engineers' think and what is the real reason behind their motivation to deface our environments. I also saw their utter contempt for not only my own profession but just about anyone else who did not fit in to their narrow blinkered prefered criteria of human existence in the 21st century. No wonder the UK is such an ugly country. There is a hard battle ahead -very hard but it can be won with reasoned arguments of a contrary view at last being heard. Warmest congratulations then to Mr Cassini and to Newsnight for commissioning and broadcasting this piece - It's nice to know you are not alone.

  • 206.
  • At 10:12 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • John Byng wrote:

I come from Australia where the traffic-light is king. you Brits just don't understand how to use them properly. For example, you place traffic lights on the near side of the junction and in many cases don't bother to provide a set across the other side, so I have to crane my head to look up at the ones nearest me to see when they change!

Even worse, you can't even agree on a nationwide scheme. In Australia a green arrow is ALWAYS for turning right (or left). A green full is ALWAYS for straight ahead. That's the sensible way. Unfortunately here in the UK not only do you have the ludicrous system of having full green for turns and arrows for straight, but sometimes I've seen lights that do have full green for straight and the arrow for a turn!

No wonder traffic accidents occur. It seems your addiction to roundabouts has made you giddy and unable to create a proper scheme.

  • 207.
  • At 10:23 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Jan wrote:

As a woman, I hate having to sit at red lights late at night when there's no traffic around as I feel very vulnerable. I believe that at the very least, traffic lights ought to be turned off between 10 pm and 6 am on everything but the busiest roads.

I'd also like speed cameras to be turned off between, say, midnight and 6 am. I regularly have to drive at 30 mph along a local road that is long, straight, wide and very empty, (and clearly warrants a speed of around 45 mph) in the evenings and at night, simply because there is a school in it. Of course the schoolchildren aren't around most of the time, so why should we limit our speeds for them?

Like several of those who've posted above, I think lots of local councils instal and set lights to work in order to create traffic problems and try to get us off the roads and onto public transport... but with crime the way it is these days, they're unlikely to be able to succeed, I'm afraid.

And as for road humps...

  • 208.
  • At 10:30 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Lionel Tiger wrote:

Where the worst problems are, the most effective solutions are often found. The traffic in Leicester has always been a problem. There is a public transport system that is poorly funded, outdated, and poorly connected to connecting regions with a road system that favours the car, albeit with traffic lights at virtually every junction. This has been improved, with traffic now centrally managed, with flow control. Some roundabouts now have traffic lights, some only in operation during peak periods. Recently Bus lanes have appeared, and there is now increased interest in Park and ride schemes. However the Labour run City Council disagrees with the more Tory County Council on many issues. This has hindered development of Park and Ride schemes and public transport, leading at one stage to a requirement for pensioners to be kicked off the bus due to Free bus passes held by county residents only covering the county, despite bus routes running into the city. Now, due to an ageing population, in their wisdom, the local authorities are lengthening the timers for pedestrians to cross at crossings (due to them now having to walk). There is also a high population of ethnic groups, many of whom are highly religious. Priorities are frequently determind by caste and status, and fate determines junction safety. Mercedes with wonky wheen hubcaps wander across carriageways by drivers whose only qualified training has been the Indian Driving Authority. Anarchy ? Ever been to Leicester ? Needless to say, don't try looking for a toilet. Local laxitives aren't recommended.

  • 209.
  • At 10:41 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Tonkin wrote:

A world without Traffic Lights wouldnt it be great......... Now get a grip the 4X4's would give way even less than they do now. Pedestrians and bicycles would never get a chance. We have had traffic lights since the 1930's because basically to many of us are poor drivers looking for someone to blame. Give way to the person who arrives fist...... ahhhhhh such a nice idea are these the same people who think they have right of way when they are 100M from a roundabout doing 60MPH. Traffic lights that switch off at night .. Otherwise known as part time signals and allowed in UK under HA (Highways Agency) regulations almost always converted to full time by all local Authorities due to the very high accident rate whilst they are switched off. I suggest if you want to be rid of traffic signals get rid of all the 4X4's and German cars (agressive drivers in the main) get everyone into Fiestas and Novas Increase the driver skill base remove the time preasures from proffesional drivers (White Van Man) and the Truck drivers of course till then forget it your all doomed to more and more and even more traffic signals and in the main it serves us all right

  • 210.
  • At 11:35 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Sean wrote:

An interesting idea put across in an obviously biased way, which increases the controversy and reduces the likely consequences... unfortunate and counter productive. I'm a pedestrian that frequently crosses without using pedestrian crossings - but sometimes they are required. The most sensible idea is a cautious trial and evaluation - taking all traffic lights away is ludicrous.

  • 211.
  • At 11:43 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Dave Hunt wrote:

Like most debates in this country, it seems that we have to take sides with one extreme or the other.
I have never agreed with this.
Obviously traffic lights are needed at certain junctions due to the traffic flow and pedestrian needs. Equally there are many junctions where they have been installed where their usefulness is questionable at best, especially at certain times of the day. In some cases there are lights where it is totally counter-productive to good traffic management.But to get the local council to change this policy will require much effort, especially given that large numbers of people like to cling to one of the extremes.

  • 212.
  • At 12:20 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

A demand based traffic management system is the answer, with adaptive lights that change as needed to keep traffic flowing. There are far too many ignorant, inexperienced, lawbreaking and loutish drivers in the UK to permit all drivers to use discretion, as the bullies will rule.

  • 213.
  • At 05:12 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Rob McDougall wrote:

I very much like the idea of getting rid of traffic lights. It's obvious to me that Cassini knows what he's talking about.

I especially like the point he made during the interview about drivers only using the inside lane except for overtaking on the motorway. Have you seen the M25 on a Sunday? Empty inside, full outside!

Also, ban trucks from overtaking !!

  • 214.
  • At 10:05 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Mehdi Langroudi wrote:

If anyone can honestly argue that Oxford Circus, Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, and other busy junctions in London's congested road network can work without traffic signals, then they need to start learning the basic principles of traffic control...

The 'shared space' idea that Cassini argues has been applied in other countries, and has been successful, but in areas of low flow and conflict. Not strategically important intersections, with large traffic demands which would otherwise be grid locking the whole network.

As far as road safety goes, an able person would struggle to cross a 4 lane road at a busy intersection, let alone the less able pedestrians such as elderly, children, and blind and disabled people, which people do not seem to be considered in the 'shared space' argument by Cassini. Try telling a blind/disabled person to cross a simple road with no signalised pedestrian crossing...

  • 215.
  • At 12:40 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

The M25 is fine we don't need traffic lights there, it’s not residential. I like the idea of not having to stop in my really high performance car that I love driving. Any excuse and I am behind the wheel and I hate pressing the brake pedal which creates brake dust and dirties my polish lip wheels. But I have really big concerns with uncontrolled vehicle traffic, I have many family members and friends who I would fear for when they are crossing the road, because people like myself will not be able to react quick enough to stop for pedestrians in the road, a pedestrian does not have 360 degree vision, they need to look left and right and keep on doing it will they cross? In court fatal accidents would get thrown out as drivers would simply claim that 'the person just step out in front of my car' and the head line would be People Need To Stop Steeping Out In Front Of Cars, yeah right if your not a car then you don't have right of way. We are doing 40mph and they are doing 3mph who was going too fast for their brain too not react quickly enough and stop. Am I not able to understand the concept of OAP's and people with prams being allowed any where near a public road with heavy vehicle freight. SAFETY is number one on this topic and we are all equally important why I should fell better that I am not delayed on my really important journey.
I would rather be cleaning brake dust of my wheels than someone’s blood off my bumper as well.

15 years ago yes, I could close my eyes and drive with a very low chance of someone pulling out from a side road or pedestrian darting out in front of me because it the first reasonable gap of opportunity they have seen in the last 5 mins while they been standing on the kerb,,,,, now days no chance, aggressive drivers in London don't give way to each other or am I mistaken when my gran says see won't risk the journey into town.

In critical/residential/shopping/high streets/train stations areas uncontrolled traffic would simply create problems. In other areas outside cities I completely agree.

Personal preferance/opinion will not stand up here only facts and statistics.

  • 216.
  • At 01:37 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Patrick Meuris wrote:

The article on the BBC website says "every litre of fuel burned releases 2.4kg of CO2". Surely that can't be more than 2.4 mg! We would have choked in CO2 long ago if every litre of fuel produced more than twice its weight in CO2.

  • 217.
  • At 02:42 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Liam Coughlan wrote: A demand based traffic management system is the answer, with adaptive lights that change as needed to keep traffic flowing. There are far too many ignorant.... loutish drivers in the UK.... to use discretion..'

To answer your 2 points firstly allowing traffic to flow freely IS a 'demand based system' where individuals make decisions a Cray computer couldn't come close to organising as efficiently as a human. Secondly the 'loutish' behaviour will significantly diminish once we're all enjoying the greatly reduced stress and frustration levels that freedom of movement allows.. trust me.

Mehdi Langroudi wrote: 'If anyone can honestly argue that Oxford Circus, Hyde Park Corner... other busy junctions in London's congested road network can work without traffic signals, then they need to start learning the basic principles of traffic control...'

Mehdi we don't need 'traffic control' don't you get it? We control ourselves as individuals and we all know 'the basiic principles. Try getting your laptop to programme instructions for you to go to the kitchen and make a chicken sandwich. When you've finished programming your laptop give me a call.. I should still be here in 2014!!

Humans still make any computer or software system look like the first rung on the evolutionary ladder.

As for your fears about Oxford Circus and Hyde Park being free flow I can't wait as both are congested miserable nightmares with the current lights.. it would allow serious improvements overnight with immediate benefits to all in getting through efficiently.

And no worries these junctions don't come close in complexity or size to the Arch de Triump roundabout and that works so no problems there.

  • 218.
  • At 02:53 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Paul wrote 'Personal preferance/opinion will not stand up here only facts and statistics.'

Paul says he's concerned with pedetrian safety and he thinks it would work 'outside town' but not in inner cities... which I presume is Pauls personal opinion!

Well if you'd watched the article Paul you'd understand that in Dutch towns and cities accidents fell by 30%. That's a fact.

  • 219.
  • At 03:21 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Barker wrote:

I listened with great interest to Martin Cassini's report on 'The case against traffic lights'.

I have felt for many years that there is a vast over supply of their use and agree whole heartedly with the need for a balanced review.

At the very least, there is a strong case for the vast majority of lights to be run on a part-time basis when the shere weight of traffic demands some sort of order. At all other times they should experiment with a 'redundancy' of the system.

I would like to see Newsnight have some sort of recuring review of this topic. This could be ideal for someone like Boris Johnson to champion in the forthcoming London elections!

Peter Barker

  • 220.
  • At 03:36 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Eddie wrote:

I think the removal of traffic lights is a great idea.

In South Africa (where car jacking is a distinct possibility) after 9pm you do not have to stop at a red light if the junction is clear. Why not introduce that here?

And to all those pedestrians who worry about crossing the road safely. Yes it would be harder and more dangerous, but wouldn't you feel so much more alive walking into work every morning having narrowly missed death!?

As a campaigner in NL against traffic lights etc. I welcome Cassini's clear and conclusive statement.
The arguments against his case are thin.
Let me add that a Dutch study revealed that intersections with lights have the most accidents, adjusted for the number of vehicles.
At are videos of the splendid flow when light are off.

Paul (No.215) - on unregulated, busy streets you would be driving at a speed appropriate to the context in which you found yourself. At junctions with lights I see
congestion and aggression. When lights are out of action, I see safe, efficient, civilised filtering. Remove priority - main road, left or right priority - and you remove the "need" for lights. Without lights we approach junctions slowly and filter. Instead of having to obey rules which defy commonsense, we concentrate on the job in hand: getting from A-B safely, expeditiously, and with minimum environmental impact. Like teens in a skateboard park, we use our innate skills to negotiate movement. All road-users, on foot or on wheels, can then co-exist peacefully. In a busy urban context, drivers only speed if there are lights to beat. Otherwise they drive according to the conditions, giving way to others who were there first. They don’t want to hurt others any more than they want to get hurt themselves. When the road is clear, they can go faster, so it’s a perfect trade-off. In the current diabolical system, the onus is on pedestrians, and CHILDREN for Pete's sake, to beware vehicles. When the infernal rules are removed, the coin is flipped: now the onus is on drivers to avoid pedestrians which, of course, is how it should be, and how it works when we are free of controls and free to use commonsense and common courtesy. I recommend many of the other comments here - 217 gets the idea!

  • 223.
  • At 01:15 PM on 17 Jan 2008,
  • John Shepherd wrote:

Martin Cassini's film is spot on. About time too. Of course the government won't have the guts to do anything about it. It would be nice to think that rational argument and a few judicious traffic experiments could sort this debate out but that won't happen. This lot wait for pressure from the polls before they do anything new.

Most traffic lights are useless and counter productive but most other traffic controls are as well. They cause congestion, delay and pollution. They cost the economy billions a year in wasted time and wasted fuel and they disfigure our streets.

However, if you're a car hating, public transport adoring, controlling, PC fanatic, you will be happy about all the above because more misery for motorists means more more buses and trains. The objective is to force us onto public transport, for idealogical, social engineering reasons; nothing to do with the pragmatic business of traffic management.

Motorists can then be charged for roads they have already paid for, banned from streets that have been stolen from them by bus companies, and fined for parking and speeding. Meanwhile, buses run empty except at rush hours, and continue to gobble subsidies. Those fat arsed, diesel guzzling, cancer inducing, road robbing monsters also employ thousands of people in completely useless, redundant jobs. This is how we are governed.

  • 224.
  • At 09:34 PM on 17 Jan 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

The article on Newsnight was rubbish. I live in Ashford where the idiots that run the Council are obsessed with this shared space idea.

So far the morons have changed a excellent one way ring road system into two way chaos. Traffic queues now mean it can take 45 minutes to go around the road where it used to take 10.

These shared space ideas are OK for small Countries with intelliegent drivers and sensible Councils. In the UK we have neither.

Why didn't Newsnight go to Ashford to see the mess the over paid idiots are making of the towns' traffic?

Just read our local papers to see how fed up people are.

  • 225.
  • At 02:18 AM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Martin how can you say it was "rubbish" when experiments have shown how beneficial it is! I tried the web for info on your new traffic system but could only find news on a pub being taken to court for allowing smoking and the protest they're trying to organise!
Like to find out more about your new traffic system as none of the changes being made in the UK are lead by this type of progressive 'free flow' systems to my knowledge, transport is still being commanded/jammed-up by these safety nerds.

  • 226.
  • At 11:50 AM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

According to Dr Stephen, Minster for Transport in an online discussion from 10 Downing Street in Feb'07 on congestion and road-picing he advised 'We are planning to spend £140bn of central Govt money in the 10 years up to 2014/15 on transport... But despite all this we still predict congestion will be 25% worse by 2015.'

Dr Stephen advised on taxing roads further because 'we only need 4% of people to change their behaviour to get a 40% improvement in congestion.'

So the Transport Ministers 'plan' is to invest £Billions and still fail. He is admitting the Transport Depts' not competent enough to tackle the problem despite throwing £Billions at the problem and taxing motorists to discourage using their cars!

The target is to fail.. and the failure to manage the problem will get worse. Namely they're not up to the job. Maybe this is the '4% of peopele' that needs to change their behaviour' not the motorist!

To me it suggests the Minister, indeed the Transport Dept. is incompetant (they admit it!) and needs to resign en'block.. we need people who can do a proper job with least cost solutions not these £Billions in subsidies, investments and draconian extra taxes on the already groslly over-taxed motorist.

  • 227.
  • At 12:11 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Eduardo A Vasconcellos wrote:

This is one of those ideas that appear nice at the first moment but that are inherently naive and essentially wrong. Most people will love it – as shown by the large number of commentators – as they will love similar ideas such as paying no more taxes. Traffic signals are just a way of regulating physical conficts and with the exception of those that may be not warranted or are wrongly timed we would face much worse congestion and pollution conditions without them. The problem is not traffic signals but the way road space is divided among users, which favors the most powerful that have access to private automobiles. This is especially unfair in developing countries, where pedestrians, cyclists and bus users are extremely damaged in their rights.

  • 228.
  • At 08:53 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Ken Pollard wrote:

Having read a selection of the comments so far, I am reinforced in the view that most lights can be replaced by islands or filter-in-turn junctions. The remaining should be made into priority lights where fashing red means you do not have priority but can proceed if there is no conflicting traffic. Flashing green means you have priority but slow down and look for conflicting traffic. These measures will help eliminate the 'right of way' mentality and replace it by courtesy and consideration. Road traffic planners seem to think that lights are the answer to every conjestion problem and do not have motivation to try other alternatives. You would think that global warming would be enough!

  • 229.
  • At 12:41 PM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Eduardo, try inserting traffic lights in a market or bizzy shopping centre. Where once there was free flowing shoppers and merry progress there would quickly develop people being stopped, ques forming and considerably more 'physical conflicts' as a silly lolly-pop box takes over from the intelligence of the human brain.
Your laptop PC would grind to a halt in a matter of seconds if the packets of commands and information had to flow through 5 or 10 'crossings' that blinked on and off at 5 or 10sec intervals.
This daily congestion is a physical realisation of the failure of the Dept of Transport. And a very real daily example of the incompetance of our political system to solve problems.
The DFT's long term 'plan' to 2010/15 is to support a failed system, tax motorists and mobility more and spend billions on new technology and their target is that congestion willbe "25% worse in 10 years time!
As a businessman I'd sack the loonies within seconds of this plan dropping on my desk and give the department a complete overhaul. In a democracy I'm dumbfounded how they can get away with it!

They tried it successfully at a junction near the Law Faculty in Toulouse, France. The lights were removed, and to make sure people slowed, or were aware of the junction, the whole junction area was raised to form a square sleeping policemen, a safety measure possibly made necessary by the amount of drunk drivers leaving the bars late at night. I am interested to know if someone has studied driver behaviour in a place like Naples or Rio de Janeiro where traffic lights are routinely ignored, and all drivers are aware of this fact. Could it be said that the lights have already been de facto abolished in such places, and what does it show in terms of results?

  • 231.
  • At 05:55 PM on 20 Jan 2008,
  • P. Clark wrote:

Its about time someone raised these issues. We are slowly clogging up the roads with traffic lights. Recently, the ring road around Chatham was changed with the result that if you travelled arount it in its entirety you would need to negotiate around 17 sets of lights! It is now not uncommon in the rush hour to sit and watch the lights go through their sequence without actually moving at all. I think if Martin Cassini would like a project he should come to the Medway towns.

The moment a traffic control stops traffic you have a Government sanctioned traffic jam and that includes traffic lights that have wasted millions of gallons or litres of fuel.
All present intersection designs either stop or slow traffic.
They force drivers to do unnatural things like getting in the left lane to turn right from freeways and major roads.
Current designs for roundabouts are designed for light traffic.Even two level roundabouts do this.
As for the freeway intersections around the world they also are not user friendly.
At there are models and explanations of Liquid Flow intersections that allow all drivers to enter and exit any intersection without stopping.
A search of WIPO has the patent application for these designs.
Do you want to cross town without stopping at a single intersection on any major road?
Jozef Goj CEO UBTSC Pty Ltd

  • 233.
  • At 03:37 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Jozef your UBTSC free flow modelling is excellent. Stopping traffic is inefficient and creates delay and frustration and your model ends that major problem.

My criticism of it is a major one as it doesn't fully understand traffic flow but that can be easily rectified.

You are filing traffic off both sides of the road. This misunderstands the faster/slower traffic relationship and I believe would create conflict/accidents. By having slower traffic flowing across faster lanes to move to an exit the other side you mix traffic priorities.

The solution is simple. Whether you want to turn left or right you take exit ramps off the left (in a RHD country). Namely faster traffic always crosses/exits through slower lanes.

  • 234.
  • At 01:07 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Brian Jenkinson wrote:

I agree that the number of junctions controlled by traffic lights has increased enormously over the past 10yrs and should be removed wherever possible.
In the United States, they switch to flashing amber late at night until early morning converting the junctions to 'Give Way' this would be a very sensible first step.
Traffic lights are very inefficient for keeping traffic moving and every set introduces 'dead time' when nothing is moving. This effect has become considerably worse with the integration of cycle and pedestrian access.
Much of the perceived growth in traffic and city congestion is down to over control through excessive use of traffic lights, bus lanes and other deliberately restrictive measures on cars rather than the number of cars.


  • 235.
  • At 02:00 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

Oh no, yet another overly optimistic "Shared Space" write up in English.

I now live in the Netherlands and we've a few of these areas locally. Without exception, they're the least pleasant places to walk or cycle, where you're more likely to find yourself on the wrong end of aggression from motorists.

While there's any amount of hype in English, you don't see the same in Dutch. They're contraversial precisely because they cause problems and are definitely not universally liked over here.

  • 236.
  • At 06:45 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Kennett wrote:

London is one of the slowest moving capital cities.The congestion pricing hasn't worked and I think this probably says that traffic lights don't either.But its good money for those who install them and look after them.Especially in cases like outside Portsmouth Dockyard where we have a roundabout for a few years then we traffic lights for a few years,then back to roundabouts and so on.WHO PROFITS?????????????????This must happen else where around the country,does it???

  • 237.
  • At 08:00 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Kennett wrote:

London has one of the slowest moving traffic systems of any capital city.
The congestion charge has not worked ,unless you call raising millions in taxes working.
It seems as though this article proves that traffic lights don't work either, on a number of counts.
There are traffic lights outside Portsmouth Dockyard,which worked well,before that there was a roundabout before that there were traffic lights,not sure about previous to that but again possibly traffic lights....Who Profits????????
Does this occur else where??
The roundabout at North Harbour Portsmouth was replaced by a very complicated traffic light system at a mere snip of I think 17 million.....

  • 238.
  • At 08:34 PM on 22 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

David you're in the Netherlands and write "without exception, they're the least pleasant places to walk or cycle.." but you don't say if they've improved congestion?
If a car mounts the pavement would pedestrians get a bit aggressive because I don't see why pedestrians feel they have a right to the road AND the pavement! A roads priority is cars/vans etc and where they mix pedestrians need to give way and wait to cross safely.

Chris Kennett - Yes the fact is the congestion zone has cost £100's of millions and traffic is now slower than when it started, pollution hasn't changed at all and congestion is back to where it was, square 1.
I like ol'Ken but he's never made a bigger or more expensive mistake in his political career!

Here's a link for more info:

Yet we have another hair brained scheme to get the traffic flowing more. Ok it might work and make it easier to travel on the roads, I don't really know.

What happens next is after the bottle neck has been emptied a little more, then straight away it feels up more with cars.

We need less motors on the road :-)

  • 240.
  • At 12:37 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • David Simmons wrote:

The point is not that traffic lights are bad per se - its how they are APPLIED whichis the problem..!
Take pedestrian crossings - firstly we had beacon-cotrolled crossings. Work perfectly well in most circumstances - pedestrians indicate their intention to cross - traffic stops. Then came Pelican crossings - traffic lights with a flashing amber sequence - again - work fine. THEN traffic engineers decide they still aren't satisfied - so you get fully light-controlled crossings - with a lengthy dwell times which hold the traffic up for much longer - all sitting there idling and producing CO2.
The fact is - there seems to be no 'force majeur' to keep the traffic moving - its all about control at all costs...

  • 241.
  • At 05:19 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Duncan Ecob wrote:

Our streets should be for all users with priority always for pedestrians followed by cycles, public transport and other vehicles (they have their own heirearchy starting with Emergency vehicles , thru deliveries to private vehicles with one driver(!))
On the south circular in Eat Sheen they use Zebra crossings (how quaint, and of course in the most part it works. Make peopl take responsibility, look at each other and foce a smile out!

  • 242.
  • At 01:42 AM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • John wrote:

Duncan precisely how do you get your priorities for the streets so badly messed up?!!

Streets (or roads) are for (paid for by) motorists. At no point has either pedestrians, buses or cyclists paid for the road. The Govt rips £40Bn a year out of motorists pockets and they pay back £2Bn a year on roads while private bus companies and trains get subsidised £6-£8bn each. Govt at its most rediculous!

And pedestrians have a thing called 'pavements'. Pavement is a pedestrianised walkway. A road is a motorised roadway. Very simple this English language!

Unless you understand this and understand priorities you'll never make any system work. And as soon as safety goons start prioritising pedestrians or buses or any other minority activity above motorists (that move 30M around a day) then any system you come up with will be fundamentally flawed and mighty inefficient!

  • 243.
  • At 06:06 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Alastair wrote:

I don't think this is an issue to be taken seriously. They are there for a number of reasons: to help pedestrians, especially during rush hour, stop traffic jams when two main roads meet or when there is a constant flow of traffic along one road preventing drivers on side roads from moving forward. I do think that at certain times of the day it would be safe to turn them off.

As for road priorities, the system we have at the moment is much safer than giving right of way to the first person to arrive. That would simply result in arguments between drivers.

A 'peaceful coexistence between drivers'? What planet has he been living on? If you stop at a junction to let someone out a huge line of cars follows them and you can't move forward for what seems like an eternity.

Could you imagine London running without traffic lights? That truly would be anarchy, though I doubt it would be so peaceful.

  • 244.
  • At 09:10 PM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • rich wrote:

when a set of lights are out in Barcelona, whilst cycling, there is an enormous air of fear as I approach, and is quite often bedlam when I get there. Spanish drivers simply don't have the patience or have any consueqence in mind whilst driving. A silly idea.

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