back to article Traffic-light plague sweeps UK: Safety culture strangles Blighty

A massive increase in the number of traffic lights – and an un-discussed 2005 increase in the priority given to pedestrians – is gradually causing the roads to grind to a halt, according to a new report. In London for instance, despite a large number of motorists having been permanently deterred from driving by congestion …

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Anonymous Coward

I'd be interested to see flow figures from Oxford Circus

as it always seems to me that the much-lauded X-crossing doesn't make much difference to pedestrian journeys, while slowing down the road traffic. The period between X-crossing shutdowns is so long that it's quicker to just cross two sides of the junction exactly as before, and when those X-crossing shutdowns do happen, no traffic can move at all.

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But it's mostly Cabs and Buses

It's mostly Cabs and Buses, would motorists make more than one or two passes through in a day? I'm sure if they took a deep breath (OK maybe not with the Cab pollution) they could stand it and not go Clarkson on everyone.

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Re: Oxford Circus

The main benefit of the X-crossing as a pedestrian is that the pavement nearby is no longer so over crowded. IMO it is a big improvement over what was there before.

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Anonymous Coward

When will the electorate and politicians realise....

Every new traffic light comes with an obvious continuing cost! It is not the purchase cost alone but these damn things have to be powered, serviced and replaced in time. I can't recall ever having seen a traffic light or other similar piece of street furniture being removed and not replaced with something more costly or complicated... Why!!! IT requires taxes and people. While ever we continue with this lunacy public service expenditure will never be properly controlled

I've no doubt that some folks do need extended time to cross and that some systems are essential for safety or effectiveness but how many systems are put in because 'Lives *might* be lost if we don't and then who would be liable....'

Perhaps I'm just getting cynical with age...

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Happy

Easy enough for a cyclist to turn left at red legally

In fact it's very easy for a cyclist to turn left (legally) at a red light. Simply get off the bike (before any pedestrian barriers) and push it round the corner. I'd particularly recommend it over trying to cycle down the inside of heavy vehicles.

On of the advantages of cyclists is that they can readily turn themselves into pedestrians subject only to their being space on the pavement (or sidewalk - a more logical name).

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Unhappy

Surprisingly illegal

It's no more legal to get off your bike and push it round the corner against a red light (whether you use the pavement or not) than it is to get out of your car and push that . I was told this by a prosecuting solicitor with a special interest in road traffic law. Of course, you're unlikely to be prosecuted for it.

Additionally, if motorists turning at junctions obeyed the law by giving priority to pedestrians then we wouldn't need pedestrian phases.

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Anonymous Coward

A more logical name

Oh yes, because I walk sideways on the pavement all the time.

It's called a pavement because it's paved. The name dates to a time when roads were mud or cobbles and the paved area (quicker to lay but not good for weight [unless you're a Roman]) was for pedestrians (or more logically, 'walkers').

Are you American?

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Happy

Almost

I think you will find you need to be arrying the bike for this to be legal - if you push it, it is still a vehicle. If you carry it, you are a pedestrian and the bike is a parcel.

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Happy

Sidewalk = walking pavement on side of road.

The term "sidewalk" makes perfect sense on this side of the pond, especially considering that "pavement" is a generic term for both roads and pedestrian areas over here.

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Bronze badge

Pavement vs Sidewalk

Originally a pavement simply meant a hard, paved surface which could be used for road traffic or walking. Indeed there was little difference at one point. It is therefore an ambiguous term. Sidewalk is quite logical in this respect (not all American usages are so supportable).

******************************************

As for it being illegal for a cyclist to get off their bike and push it round a corner at a red light, then I'd like some case law? Does that hold true for getting off a bike and crossing over to the other side to avoid a no right turn sign? What the highway code says (and I know this is not a definition of law as such) is that a cyclist cannot cross the stop line at a red light. However, I'm not suggesting that - in the case I'm referring to you would be getting off the bike before the junction, not at the junction.

Of course, do it right at the junction and it's a bit more questionable, but I'd like to hear of cases. Indeed in some circumstances the Highway Code actually recommends getting off your bike and pushing it on safety grounds, albeit not under these precise circumstances. It would be a distinctly perverse law for prosecuting somebody for getting off their bike and pushing it round the corner in order to avoid being alongside a lorry or bus. Of course there are many cyclists that pay no head of red signals anyway or, for that matter, about the rules regarding not cycling on the pavement.

Incidentally, for those who want to try it, there is case law for motorists being found guilty of going through a red light by nipping through a garage forecourt at a junction by a traffic light. This is not advisable, not least because garages have CCTV...

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Pushing a bike on a footway or footpath is legal

That prosecutor was misinformed. The Court of Appeal ruled in 1980 that anyone pushing a bicycle is a "foot-passenger" (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441) and is not "riding" it (Selby).

http://www.bikeforall.net/content/cycling_and_the_law.php

In his judgment in the Court of Appeal in Crank v Brooks, Waller LJ said: "In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a 'foot passenger'. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a 'foot passenger'. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand."

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That's not true.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 1980 that anyone pushing a bicycle is a "foot-passenger" (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441) and is not "riding" it (Selby).

http://www.bikeforall.net/content/cycling_and_the_law.php

In his judgment in the Court of Appeal in Crank v Brooks, Waller LJ said: "In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a 'foot passenger'. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a 'foot passenger'. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand."

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FAIL

Unsurprisingly not

Not true - while pushing your bike you're considered a 'foot passenger', legally no different from someone without a bike. If you were to put one foot on a pedal and push along the pavement with the other, that would be illegal, as is using a scooter on the pavement.

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FAIL

RE:Surprisingly illegal

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070108

Pedestrians don't have priority in the UK... Dispite what some think they have just as much responsibility as any other road user.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't represent yourselves in court

I'm the original "Surprisingly illegal" AC.

First, the Crank v Brooks case is irrelevant. I'm not talking about a pedestrian pushing a cycle, but a cyclist who chooses to masquerade as a pedestrian to evade a traffic signal. If you can't see the difference, consider the importance of intent. N.B. If cyclists weren't ordinarily treated the same as other traffic this case would never have arisen.

Second, a quote from the 23:15 AC's linked highway code page: "If you have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, you have priority and they should give way".

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If you want to play that game...

"If traffic is coming, let it pass. Look all around again and listen. Do not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and you are certain that there is plenty of time."

You said "if motorists turning at junctions obeyed the law by giving priority to pedestrians then we wouldn't need pedestrian phases". They don't. They should not walk out in to the road when they will not make it across without causing a car to stop, or cross where visability is limited, however the law says that if you do cross and a car that was not visable comes you have right of way, not that pedestrians have priority over cars. You are willfully missinterprating the highway code.

An equivelent would be where cars are parked restricting a road to one lane. The car who's lane is free has right of way, but if a car pulls out round the parked cars befor another car appears then they have priority.

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Re: Surprisingly illegal

That is technically true, since, according to the Road Traffic Act 1988, traffic lights or road signs apply to "a person driving or propelling a vehicle". A cyclist pushing a bike is propelling a vehicle.

If, however, you pick your bike up and walk it across the junction, you're fine. There is case law to support this, but I can't find it at the moment.

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Er - no

The judgement you have posted clearly refers to someone who is "Walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle"

That does not broaden automatically to "anyone pushing a bicycle is a foot passenger". It's even qualified with "having started on the pavement on one side on her feet". How would that ever apply to someone who is starting on the road?

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Stop

Highway Code = law?

"http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070108

Pedestrians don't have priority in the UK... Dispite what some think they have just as much responsibility as any other road user."

Your statement is a bit wrong. Pedestrians do have priority, in two different meanings of the word priority (and it's not clear exactly which way you are meaning it).

They have priority in terms of "right of way" - as soon as a pedestrian steps on the road they have right of way and other road users are legally obliged to avoid them. I'm sure there are legal conditions to this i.e. not knowingly acting in a way that predictably might cause an accident by stepping out unexpectedly, but in general pedestrians are the protected group. The Highway Code might have a bunch of rules for pedestrian, but most of them are actually just guidelines.

Also, the article uses the term priority within the context of traffic lights, which is different from how you are using the word priority (I think). What the article is saying in fact is that pedestrians DO have priority and it's causing jams.

You've linked to the Highway Code but that's mostly not law, just sense. The only laws for pedestrians on your link are marked with "do not/must not" in bold (and a legal reference), the rest are just to keep safe and to guide courts in establishing liability for accidents and insurance purposes. It says so in the introduction to the Code itself

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Anonymous Coward

alternatives

Wasn't there a suspicion that Red Ken had deliberately faked the lights to cause congestion as a way to justify the congestion change?

Another option, at very busy junctions, might be "grade separation", i.e. build pedestrian and/or cycle bridges and underpasses. That way there would be no hold ups at lights.

Of course, that presupposes cyclists would use them. Round here they ignore cycle lanes and red lights equally, preferring to toddle along in the middle of the road annoying everyone. Why is there never an HGV when you need one?

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Stop

Cyclists ignoring cycle lanes

In my (limited) experience, that's because it's very likely that the cycle lane either:

- doesn't go anywhere useful

- goes where you want, but forces you to use 3-sides of a 4-way intersection, rather than just turning right with the traffic

- is so full of potholes/draincovers/rubbish that you're safer on the road

- or - most commonly - is completely ignored by the other road users, who are either parked on it or walking in it

I've cycled to work for various jobs, and almost always got used to ignoring the cycle lane for part of the journey for at least one of the above reasons.

I've also never seen a cyclist 'toddling along in the middle of the road'. What I do see frequently though is drivers who are completely unaware of the width of their cars sticking behind a cyclist who they could easily pass without even troubling their steering wheel.

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Anonymous Coward

title?

>What I do see frequently though is drivers who are completely unaware of the width of their cars

>sticking behind a cyclist who they could easily pass without even troubling their steering wheel.

So true! The number of car drivers who seemed convinced they're actually driving buses or HGVs, needing the full width of the *oncoming* lane to overtake a cyclist, is staggering :)

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Unhappy

Cyclists

Whilst I am both a cyclist and a motorist, I am usually pro-bike in most discussions about road priority and so on. However I have on several occasions observed or been held up by cyclists choosing to deliberately ride two abreast in the middle of the carriageway in order to hold up other traffic and cause the maximum amount of inconvenience.

When you see a queue of 20+ cars behind cyclists who are out of the saddle, toiling up a steep hill at less than 10mph there is no reasoning to excuse them. They aggravate the motorist/cyclist issues unneccesarily and have no place on the road.

So, not all cyclists are angels. There are often factors that come into play as discussed above, cycle lanes and allowances are not always what they are cracked up to be. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the actions and attitude of a few are spoiling the experience of road use for others.

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Re: Width of a cycle

The reason they do that is because the highway code states:

"give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)"

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070314

On a similar note for cyclists at junctions:

"Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb."

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069837

We don't need new traffic rules to stop cyclists getting squished at junctions, we need to make cyclists follow the highway code... or just do nothing and let natural selection work it's magic.

Personally, I'd like to point out to motorcyclists heading towards Lincoln that the sweet spot between staying in my slipstream and keeping to the right to be in an overtaking position also happens to be my blind spot. After 10 miles of that shit it's 50/50 whether I knock off your bike just to prove a point. Overtake or back the fuck off.

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Flame

Yeah especially if the cyclist doges a pothole

As someone already noticed somewhere else on this thread most potholes are bang in the middle of where cyclists cycle. A cyclist which is being overtaken too closely cannot dodge 'em and will go in and fall under you car.

So despite the fact that I usually drive one of the narrowest superminis on the UK market (an old Sirion), despite the fact that I am aware of the width of my car down to sub-10cm (the clearance from my mirrors to the brick in the driveway is sub-10 on either side at the narrowest and I have parked it in it for 7 years now) , I will still wait for a clear road and give a cyclist at least 1m clearance while overtaking it. Better be safe than sorry.

In any case, Lewis is attributing all of this to the wrong reason. Any traffic scheme anywhere in the UK under Blair and Brown had to provide a guarantee that the revenue to the crown from VED will not decrease or if it will decrease it will be offset by other revenue and appropriate subsidy decrease to the local authority. Some of these have come to light like the pan-UK Green Wave prohibition (on the beeb) and the DfT conditions on the Cambridge congestion charging proposals (multiple times in the local Cambridge rag). Others will come out sooner or later.

The Congestion charge decreased congestion so VED take dropped. That had to come from somewhere and the Mayor office obliged. The "pedestrian safety" provided a good excuse. No point to look for other evil reasons for this when this one is known, has already come up on investigating other attempts to tackle congestion and is enough.

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faked the lights?

"Wasn't there a suspicion that Red Ken had deliberately faked the lights to cause congestion as a way to justify the congestion change?"

they did the pre-congestion charge traffic surveys in a week during term time and the post congestion charge traffic surveys during the school holidays when the school runs weren't happening

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Anonymous Coward

@AC.

I can't see why drivers might think they need to do that ...

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070314

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Anonymous Coward

Stopped traffic is congested traffic

I complained to the Department of Transport a couple of years ago, pointing out that most traffic lights are set to change too quickly. This means that the traffic is stopped for longer, which equates to congested traffic,

The number of lights that give traffic no more that 15 seconds before changing is significant, and has an adverse effect on the traffic. Quite simply, if the lights change twice a minute, then there are twice as many stationary cars, as if they changed once a minute.

Priority should be given on getting traffic out of congestion zones.

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Flame

You can complain for all it is worth

The policy was to _INCREASE_ the revenue: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7998182.stm

The Dft in the previous government refused to sponsor schemes for relieving congestion that were reducing revenue from tax on burned fuel unless the reduction was offset via a similar reduction to council, etc budget subsidies from having new (congestion charges) revenue.

You can continue complaining for all it is worth, but this policy has only been softened. It has never been officially repealed and the current government has not openly stated that it will stop doing that.

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FAIL

Errrr, motorists pay, cyclists/pedestrians don't??

"This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. [ ... ] cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free."

As far as I understood, it's our council-tax which pays for the road infrastructure; not the VED

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@council tax

If I were able to 'use the facilities for free' then I would expect a sizable discount on my council tax.

The local council, however, is unlikely to agree.

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Troll

pedestrians use the facilities for free! ODFO

Driving is a privileged NOT a right. People have a RIGHT to walk where they please car drivers are licensed to make use of these facilities, Pedestrians do not have to pass any test's to make use of the roads, Pedestrians have priority at ALL junctions (except motorway junctions and that still doesn't mean you can run them over) if a pedestrian chooses to cross the road then it is YOUR responsibility to stop your vehicle and allow them to do so, when you took your driving test you were proving that you are capable and responsible to drive safely under these conditions. If you have any objections to driving under these conditions give up your driving license NOW do not imagine pedestrians including small children will obey rules so that you can drive faster. You are a GUEST licensed to make use of the pedestrians domain.

(P.S. I agree that poorly timed traffic lights are a problem, just not as much of a problem as loutish driving attitudes encouraged by the like of Jeremy Clarkson)

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Central Government Grant

Road maintenance for non-trunk roads is financed by a central government grant to local authorities amount to £831m from what I remember. I think another £100m is being handed over to fix this seasons potholes.

So generally it's not the council tax that pays for road maintenance. Of course motorists pay far more in tax than is spent on the roads. However, it's not terribly important - the rights that people have to use the highways are enshrined if law, and it doesn't much matter who pays for them.

Of course we also tend not to have hypothecated taxes in the UK, with the exception of the TV license fee. Once NI amounted to a hypothecated tax, but no more. (Although a few have crept in recently, these are relatively minor). So the taxation of motorists is treated as general taxation.

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Boffin

@AC 14:47

The exact mechanism that gets money from the motorist to the road-menders isn't important, the point is that cyclists do not contribute directly, do not have insurance, and have no business undertaking vehicles to reach an "Advanced Stop Line", and more than motorcycles have a right to use the white line as an extra lane simply because the remaining traffic is only doing 50 MPH...

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Anonymous Coward

truth hurts

It's funny that 5 people don't like your truth, and cannot understand the legality.

Signing for your driving licence you also sign up for an extra subset oflaws which can only be applied if you agree to it - guess how you agree?

Which is also the reason why cyclists cannot be done for breaking the speed limit, only done so by other offences - dangerous cycling etc even then it needs to be proved to be dangerous.

What also gets to me - is people are giving money to the government (VED) and have NO IDEA what it is for...

PS. I don't think Jeremy Clarkson has such a loutish driving attitude, what he says is entertainment and to rile people who are too sensitive. Do you think he actually drives like this on the road? Probably not - my guess because of his position etc he would be more careful about being caught out etc etc. As for "the followers beleive him", most of them would be twats regardless.

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Anonymous Coward

less tax

Wrong.

Motorists pay far less tax than is spent on the roads, you do have to remember there is much more than laying a bit of tarmac, DfT and many other sources have calculated all this and its running at a few billion deficit.

It's a socialist system, we all pay - imagine all them people that don't drive, or people that live no where near motorways which cost much more in upkeep. But it's the same with healthy people and the NHS etc but I don't think I would see it any other way.

Ideally we need to scrap VED, electronic setups means MOT/Insurance can be checked automatic without any visual identifiers. If they really want one, they could just make insurers supply a docket instead (which is what I think happens in Ireland?). Scrap VED... scrap the enforcement and administration of it - its not as if Police will give you points for no VED, no MOT and no Insurance combined (its usually just one of the few offences, just like 2 bald tyres is 3x3pts yet most people will just get 3). Put an extra 1p on duty. Then we actually pay for what we use... and if we want to save, we use more efficent cars.

It's very hard to get motorists to see why its a silly idea that car taxes should be ring fenced... Imagine tobacco duty paying for smokers lounges, or alcohol duty paying for open houses...

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Stop

Motorists pay for the roads?

"This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads."

Oh no they don't. Please don't fall into that trap.

http://ipayroadtax.com/videos/when-motorists-believe-theyve-paid-for-use-of-the-road-theyre-dangerous/

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Technicality?

"Oh no they don't. Please don't fall into that trap."

Drivers pay tax in order to drive, which goes into general taxation. A small proportion of that money goes to pay roads, out of general taxation. While the money isn't technically the same, it's a little disingenuous to claim that because it all goes in the pot, it all becomes the same money. It's like moaning about smokers costing the NHS billions and then conveniently forgetting the fact that smokers pay for 15% of the NHS.

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Road tax (fail)

So since I pay VED, but generally cycle, does that mean I get special treatment? Or since my higher income tax means I pay for proportionally more road use, does that make me special?

Actually, the VED is intended to be related to the pollution that drivers make everybody live in (and cycle in).

So the http://ipayroadtax.com/ argument is perfectly correct.

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Grenade

Road Tax?!

The title of the report points out the problem, there are a hell of a lot of motorists on our roads who would rather endanger peoples lives than wait a few seconds.

There is no such thing as Road Tax, there is Vehicle Excise Duty which does not pay for roads, they are paid for by general taxation. This of course means that cyclists and pedestrians pay just as much for the roads as the motorists who " destroy, and block up" them.

Also one of the big reasons for increased congestion has been Thames Water, who after years of putting off digging up our streets were forced to complete their works over a relatively short period.

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Anonymous Coward

fuel duty

as I recall it together with VED raises far more than is spent on the roads

however since I both use a car and walk on the pavements as do, I suspect, most motorists - I never understand why they complain about pedestrian/cyclists not paying :s

It is strange those motorist who must save a few seconds - they seem to want to break the 30/40/50 limit - but when on 70 limit usually at or below

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Troll

So where's the £46bn going?

As someone who pays VED and also looks out for cyclists (I can't afford the repairs), which service would you like to thank me for subsidising?

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Anonymous Coward

What I suspect contributors mean is....

The tax take from the combination of VED and fuel duty more than outweighs the amount of money spent on roads in maintenance or construction and, in consequence, powered vehicle users/owners contribute to carriageway infrastructure to a substantially greater extent that pedestrians and cyclists, for example.

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Title

Also don't forget there are some pretty major construction projects on at the moment in London. Crossrail, the olympics and the Shard, to mention just 3. The number of private cars in central London on my commute from N16 to W1D seems insignificant compared to buses, taxis and commercial vans/lorries.

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Benefits to wheeled traffic and pedestrians

"Approximately half of all UK traffic lights are at junctions, and thus potentially offer some benefits to wheeled traffic as well as pedestrians (though this may only be true at certain times of day, or in many instances not at any time for either motorists or pedestrians). The other 50 per cent of lights are purely for pedestrians' benefit, being situated at crossings."

I would say that pelican crossings are of vast benefit to vehicular traffic in busy urban areas, more so than to pedestrians

Why? Because the only real alternative is a zebra crossing, where pedestrians have priority 100% of the time. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been confounded by a constant stream of pedestrians leading to traffic being blocked for several minutes at a time.

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Anonymous Coward

What about those lights that only turn red when (they think) there's nothing coming?

We have a lot of those round here. They give the impression of being completely useless as I always end up crossing the road before the lights have done anything. Sometimes I hear them beeping in the distance behind me, after I've already crossed. Sometimes they actually stop cars half a minute after I've used a gap in the traffic to cross.

They should get rid of the radar detector and go back to the simple timer algorithm. I'd be willing to wait for the lights to change if there were some fixed upper bound on how long I'll have to wait.

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Stop

Yes

I have experienced them too. They are all pointless as they don't actually stop traffic but do as you described, only change the lights when there is no traffic, thus rendering them completely useless.

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Joke

Funny

Over here (Belgium) they like to introduce roundabouts, removing traffic lights. And the country of origin of roundabouts (?) is moving away from them.

All together: http://www.lyricsdepot.com/monty-python/i-like-traffic-lights.html :)

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Unhappy

Even worse...

... we now have roundabouts with traffic lights on them!

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Singapore

The countdown indicators at major pedestrian crossings in Singapore work well.

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