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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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And why can't cyclists turn left on red?

The report also covers the vexed question of cycles and traffic lights, noting that most serious accidents involving cyclists also involve heavy lorries, generally where the driver turns left and kills or injures a cyclist he (maybe she) was unaware of – especially where a pedestrian "safety" barrier is present along the kerb for the cyclist to be smeared against.

As Yass notes, "this problem should not occur where there are advanced cycle stop lines that allow cyclists to wait ahead of lorries". In fact such stop lines are almost universal: but they aren't universally obeyed by drivers, and it may be difficult for cyclists to get past large stationary vehicles to reach them.

The report points out that "allowing cyclists to turn left through red traffic lights might help to prevent some of these accidents", and indeed many cyclists have already taken the law into their own hands here. Again, though, the fact that "it is a fixed principle in the UK that no other traffic movements are allowed during a pedestrian stage" has prevented any experimentation along these lines – official experimentation, anyway. As anyone who's been outside lately knows, cyclists pay about as much attention to red lights as drivers do to advanced stop-lines and pedestrians to red-man signals.

But the issues of cyclists and buses – large though they loom, perhaps, in the average driver's mind – are sideshows to the main thrust of the report. This is broadly to the effect that the past decade's push to increase convenience and safety for pedestrians (especially disabled ones), while at the same time an effective UK moratorium on new road construction has crept in, is largely responsible for the escalating road congestion seen by motorists in recent years.

This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. So far from helping pay for the infrastructure they use (and destroy, and block up), buses are heavily subsidised: cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free. But the roads budget (no more than £15bn annually) is dwarfed by the revenues received by the government from road tax and fuel duty (£46bn as of last year).

Building more roads may remain politically unrealistic given the dual pressures of nimbyism and the Green movement (and in urban areas, often enough, a lack of anywhere to build them). So what's to be done?

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