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Traffic-light plague sweeps UK: Safety culture strangles Blighty

Stealthy 2005 gov rule favoured feet over wheels

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So, where can I get a special 'I'm a bus' transponder that makes the lights turn green?

Full pedestrian stages are now normal across the nation, a new measure which has been official policy since 2005, and the DfT itself admits that "of all the options it has the worst effect on junction capacity ... Also it can produce a long cycle time and a pedestrian arriving at the end of the invitation period has a lengthy wait".

The report says:

The introduction of full pedestrian crossing stages at traffic lights represents a major policy shift which has taken place without any analysis of the benefits in terms of accident reduction and time savings for pedestrians or the costs in terms of delay to traffic.

In London full pedestrian crossing stages generally happen only if a traffic-light button is pushed, but this isn't very helpful at busy junctions except in the middle of the night.

Yass notes that many other countries, including the USA and France, don't have quite such a rigid approach to pedestrian safety: in those nations there is much use of rules which let traffic turn across pedestrian crossings (giving priority to the pedestrian) and of blinking-amber traffic lights at times of low traffic, signalling that drivers may use their own judgement.

The report also goes into the interaction of traffic lights and buses or trams, noting that it's now very common for lights to be aware of bus movements via tracking systems and in many cases to hold a green until a bus is through or bring forward a green to suit an approaching bus. This might cause some motorists to grind their teeth (or alternatively, to try to obtain a fake bus transponder). However, Yass says that actually this is not a bad thing for other drivers, provided that the technology is used as part of an integrated network of interlinked traffic lights such as the SCOOT (split-cycle offset optimisation technique) net which governs many of London's lights and is also popular in urban areas elsewhere.

With SCOOT control bus priority need involve only minimal delay to other traffic: the signals can be set so that bus priority will be given only if subsequent signal stages can adjust automatically to give reasonable compensation to other traffic.

Yass is down, however, on recently seen plans where bus lanes get a green before other traffic does. According to his analysis this is simply a product of dogmatic "bus good, car/truck bad" thinking, perhaps much prevalent in some city governments in recent times.

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