Transport for London (TfL) has angered safety campaigners with its proposal to remove 145 sets of traffic lights across the capital. But de-cluttering our streets can actually cut congestion and save lives.
We’ve all been there – stuck waiting at a red light when the road ahead is clear. Sitting at a red light wastes time, causes traffic tailbacks and increases pollution from car exhaust emissions.
Yet TfL’s eminently sensible plan to remove 145 traffic lights across London was met with howls of protest.
Jenny Jones of the Green Party protested: ‘This is all part of the Mayor’s agenda for speeding up traffic. It is not that I want traffic to move slowly, but I do want it to be safe and you can’t have both.’ Really Jenny? I beg to differ.
“You don’t have to put on the red light”
Most traffic lights operate on a simple timer system that takes no account of traffic flow. Or, in the case of pelican crossings, when a button is pressed.
This antiquated means of controlling road users has been with us since 1868, when the first traffic light was installed in London’s Parliament Square. But the best solution for modern cities is getting rid of most traffic lights and ‘street furniture’ altogether. People of Britain: it’s time to de-clutter our streets!
At present, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are divided into separate areas – roads, cycle lanes and pavements respectively. We’re bombarded by a plethora of signs and signals telling us what to do at every stage of our journey.
This creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, causing people to act in a self-interested way that impedes overall traffic flow and causes accidents. Equally, it means we all go about our business on ‘auto pilot’, not paying proper attention to our surroundings.
Making contact with others
By removing traffic lights and other street furniture, road users must rely on common sense rather than blindly following signs. The lack of traditional boundaries forces us to engage our brains and make eye contact with others to signal our intentions.
But don’t take my word for it. The concept of ‘shared space’, where vehicles and pedestrians are free to mix without excessive regulation, has already proven successful in some cities.
The town of Drachten in Holland removed most of its street furniture back in 2003. Accidents and traffic congestion were both cut dramatically as a result. When Kensington High Street in London dispensed with kerbs, signs and other clutter, pedestrian casualties dropped by 40%.
Let’s ditch traffic lights and embrace ‘shared space’
I’m not saying that we should remove every street sign or traffic light. But I do believe that shared spaces can work in urban areas.
Town planners should credit people with some common sense and have the courage to ignore the knee-jerk reactions of safety campaigners who automatically oppose anything that could improve traffic flow.
Getting rid of clutter can make Britain’s streets safer, faster-moving and more attractive. It’s a win-win situation.
Should more traffic lights be removed from our streets?
Yes - there are too many (51%, 225 Votes)
Maybe - some areas could benefit (33%, 147 Votes)
No - this would cause chaos (16%, 73 Votes)
Total Voters: 445