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Another month, another sensationalist call for traffic light removal

Here we go again!

It seems like every month -- perhaps when real news stories are thin on the ground, a story pops up in the press about how traffic would flow much better if we removed some if not all of the street furniture that govern the use of UK roads.

This month it's a story to remove all traffic lights with the result that accidents will reduce and traffic will flow better with journey times reducing.

So let's work this one through shall we!

Every so often a set of traffic lights fail -- in this case on a busy interchange in Yorkshire. It takes a 'few days' to repair the fault. A couple of local residents comment that they don't see that it caused any problems and indeed it looks like it could be flowing better than before. An industry expert is wheeled out to say that traffic lights are a bad thing.

And..... well that it's it! It's now legitimate to question a UK wide solution that's been in operation for nearly 150 years.

Now we at Clearview Intelligence would never advocate a stagnation of technology and thinking. Quite the opposite, otherwise we would never had been at the forefront of solar powered road studs or traffic management systems over the past 40 years.

But we do recognise that different situations warrant different solutions. Add in adaptive thinking around current or new technology and you can start to apply intelligence to a problem.

And that's what we would always do in circumstance such as optimising traffic flow at a junction. What is the particular set up of the junction, who has priority, how much traffic flows along each road, what are the peak and off peak volumes, what infrastructure challenges are there (power supply etc) and so on.

Only when we understand the specific challenge can anyone propose the right solution.

So back to the current traffic light story. Of course traffic would have slowed down and drivers would be more careful in using the junction at the time of the failure -- because it presented them with a new situation to adapt to and learn how to drive through.

But when the 'newness' of the situation wears off and the only long term beneficiaries seem to be drivers on the priority route, do we really believe road users will continue to be careful and patient?

Consider a driver, at rush hour, who is late for an appointment and knows the quickest way is to 'force' his way through the crossing just by pushing his luck a little. Then times it by 10 because they will not be alone in their thinking. It won't be long before gridlock or something worse happens.

So let's continue to challenge these sensational stories with some intelligent thinking, like putting in place adaptive signal control such as MOVA, and in urban areas SCOOT. That when properly set up will generally improve flows, average speeds and reduce congestion allowing reduced waiting times overall for all routes at a junction.

Cs A78 Fairlie Lowres

When set up properly, adaptive signal controls, using reliable vehicle detection is always going to be better than no signals at all.

Want talk about your traffic flow problems -- call us on +44(0) 1869 362800 or contact us.

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