Experimenting with the Elimination of Traffic Lights

Today from the Streetsblog Network, Tom Vanderbilt writes on his How We Drive blog about an upcoming experiment in London. Traffic lights at seven intersections in the borough of Ealing will be covered with bags, and drivers will be expected to safely navigate by making eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists. The move was inspired by an accidental signal failure that resulted in improved traffic flow, catching the eye of planners. Vanderbilt cautions:

157822087_5953f0434c_m.jpgPhoto by Ed Lawes via Flickr.

Of course, careful attention will have to paid to safety results, particularly with pedestrians (the piece refers to some new mid-block crossings but one has to entertain the idea that these treatments may
reduce pedestrian’s perception of safety and thus, potentially, one’s inclination to walk). The one day of outage could have represented a novelty effect. But the interesting thing about these novel treatments
is that they are often done with much more care and concern than the standard “out of the book” approach that is applied automatically.

Eliminating traffic lights is one element of the "shared spaces" planning approach advocated by the late Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. However, without the other elements of Monderman-style design, for example the use of varied street surface texture and color, it remains to be seen if a street without signals serves pedestrians and cyclists as well as drivers.

Other food for thought from around the network: WashCycle enters the debate about what traffic laws merit the most vigorous enforcement; Fifty Car Pileup writes about the growing movement to eliminate urban highways; and Orphan Road argues that while $8 billion may not be much in the grand scheme of things, it does effectively change the national conversation on high-speed rail.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The High Cost of (Bike) Parking

|
Are garages charging bike parking prices that the market is unlikely to bear? (Photo: Bicycles Only via Flickr) Today on the Streetsblog Network, Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt writes at How We Drive about the cost of bike parking at Manhattan garages. (New York’s larger garages have been required to offer bike parking since late last […]

An Attempt to Create Empathy in Drivers

|
One of the issues that continually bedevils the members of the Streetsblog Network is how to get drivers to slow down and pay attention. Photo by Michele McDonald of the Boston Globe via How We Drive. Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic and keeper of the How We Drive blog, writes about one such […]

The Freedom to Not Drive

|
The thought of the day comes to us from the island of Oahu, where Doug Carlson writes the "Yes to Rail" blog. Carlson advocates for construction of the Honolulu rail system, recent recipient of a key approval from the Federal Transit Administration. Over the July 4th weekend, he wrote: Traffic backed up after a collision […]

Fact-Checking the Toyota Hearing: Lower Speeds Increase Safety

|
Megan McArdle at the Atlantic, writing on today’s Toyota hearing in the House oversight committee, hears Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claim that "lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would not save any lives, which is why we have minimum speeds on highways." LaHood, at left, with the president at right. (Photo: whitehouse via Flickr) […]

Syncing Traffic Lights No Sure-Fire Way to Reduce Emissions

|
From a motorist’s perspective, few things are more frustrating than sitting at a red light when the lights ahead are all green. That would help explain the popularity of traffic signal synchronization, neatly timing lights so that someone traveling the speed limit can expect to wait only every several cycles. Many communities have seized on […]