Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Turning Off Traffic Lights - Part 2

A couple of years ago I blogged about the counterintuitive idea of removing traffic lights to reduce traffic congestion, accidents, pollution & road clutter.

More recently we have seen the results of the fantastic traffic re-engineering scheme in Poynton, Cheshire which shows how much better roads can be for all users.

This morning I was lucky enough to witness an outage of the traffic lights at the junction of Fosse Road and Hinckley Road in Leicester (one of the first junctions to have lights I believe).

Did this lead to crashes, road rage and general chaos?

Absolutely not. What I saw was a textbook example of how Leicester drivers can behave in a sensible and conscientious way when faced with an ambiguous traffic situation. Drivers spotted the lights were out, approached the junction with care and filtered off politely, stopping to allow nervous pedestrians to cross too. In addition, the typical queues that I witness at this junction every morning on my walk to work were completely absent.

Here's a rather shaky phone video of what I witnessed:-

Update 12/06/13 - here's how the junction is at the same time of day with the traffic lights working:-


  1. No surprises there then. Can imagine what it's like when the signals are "working". A lifetime of obedience to anti-social priority, on roads designed for vehicles rather than people, means pedestrians didn't dare step out until there was a comfortable gap. If they had asserted their equal right to the road space, they would have found drivers deferring to them, which is as it should be. Equality Streets!

  2. So, if we take it that the accident rate would be the same without traffic lights as with them, under these conditions, presumably the only effect would be longer journey times through built up areas.

    I wonder what would happen in conditions with poorer visibility.

  3. No, journey times would be shorter as cars no longer need to sit in stationary queues waiting for their turn to go. better to drive a little more slowly near junctions but keep the flow going than being made to stop every 200 meters.

    As for poor visibility, sensible people will do what they always do and drive more sensibly. Bad drivers on the other hand will be bad whether there are lights or not.

    I'm hoping to film this junction tomorrow morning with the lights on for comparison....

  4. Interesting that a snapshot car count indicates the junction accommodates broadly the same level of conflicting traffic movements when signals are off as when signals are on and could in all likelihood accommodate substantially more if demand were higher.

    With signals back on, the queuing on each approach suggests the junction is probably approaching capacity in its current configuration.

    Provided approach speeds could be managed and appropriate pedestrian crossing arrangements were put in place, there would appear to be a pretty compelling case for investigating simplification of the junction control arrangements.

  5. As you know, I've been making videos and writing articles about this sort of stuff for years. Apart from the start-speed-stop motion you get with signal control, and the dead red time and space, it's remarkable (though not surprising) that noise pollution is greater when the signals are "working".