California Autos Examiner

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Traffic Lights Are So Overrated: London Borough of Ealing Temporarily Aces Signals

The humble traffic signal, so simple in its design and yet so complex in its nature: Green means go, yellow means speed up and red means a ticket if you get caught. We've all done it, asses the actual color of the light. How green is that signal? Did it just turn? Is that yellow fresh or about to become red?

What if one day they all disappeared? The London Borough of Ealing seems to think that intersections without lights might actually improve things by causing people to slow down, look and listen. Personally I predict pandemonium. I don't know about you, but I've seen how people act when the power goes out and the signals stop working. It's not pretty folks, it's downright scary. The timid become even more hesitant, gumming up the works while the brash simply barge ahead without much regard to who was actually there first. That leaves us good drivers to sort out the mess. Show me a failed signal and I'll show you a traffic queue that stretches for blocks.

But what the heck do I know? Ben Hamilton Baillie, a transport consultant who has studied schemes on the Continent where lights have been removed, said that traffic flow and safety tended to improve. I wonder if Mr. Hamilton has driven in Belgium?

Whatever the case, I'll be interested to hear how successful Ealing is with its campaign to turn out the lights.

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