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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Green in other ways, too

It has never failed to amaze me that the holding of traffic, particularly in town scenarios, has a particularly detrimental effect.

Most combustion engined vehicles are at their most polluting, and fuel consuming whilst the engine is running but the vehicle is at rest.

Having lived abroad in Germany, Netherlands and France, I can confirm that the 'flashing amber' crossings present very few issues: just a case of using the rules of the road in that locale. Germany, in particular, would 'reward' careful driving by giving a driver a green light, largely through each junction, if they drive at or slightly below the speed limit - Very efficient and effective.

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No they don't

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

Complete bollocks. The road networks are paid for by everyone, whether they drive or not, as they are paid out of general taxation, of which VED/FDE are a small component.

Hell, even as far back as Winston Churchill in the early 30s this was the case - I know the RAC foundation is a throwback to a more primitive time, but even they must be able to catch up sooner or later.

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No requirement to stop

There is no *requirement* to stop when someone is stood by the side of the road at a zebra crossing, you should be *prepared* to stop and *must* stop for anyone already on the crossing.

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Stop

A leap of faith

Does that mean that at zebra crossings I have to jump out in front of your car and just hope you stop?

I tried that once when I was 3 but my mum and the driver (probably not you) weren't terribly happy with me apparently following the rules of the road. After all I was on the crossing before the car got there.

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FAIL

Really?

Hope you don't hold hold a license with that knowledge

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Yes, really

Rule 195 here:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070339

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Zebra crossings

Technically correct, although most drivers will stop before a pedestrian steps out and most pedestrians will wait till the driver stopped:

Highway Code Section 195

Zebra crossings. As you approach a zebra crossing

- look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross

- you MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing

Note the "when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing"

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Stop

And rule 170?

Highway code Rule 170 says turning cars are meant to give way to pedestrians who are already out there: "watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way"

Anyone being strict about zebra crossing rules must also be expected to stop for pedestrians already crossing. Try that in London and the taxi behind will go into the back of you. then get irate/

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Literal readings...

I wouldn't try the "he/she hadn't stepped on the zebra crossing" line with a policeman or magistrate. Anyway, as a pedestrian there's an easy way to settle it. Just put your toe onto the crossing far enough to be seen, not far enough to be run over.

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Coat

re: A leap of faith

S25 of Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997/2400

Basically yes, pedestrians do have to take a deep breath and step out. The Highway Code requirements are a 'should' rather than a 'must'.

That said, you'd hope that you don't need to legislate basic common sense...

Mine's the one with the PCN and 3 points in the pocket

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Highway Code

Not sure about this instance, but isn't it the case that the highway code is a set of guidelines of which some, but not all, are based upon underlying laws or acts?

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SO what

I live in London, i walk and don't drive and I catch Bus's - what is the problem!

Seriously a report from a motoring group is hardly unbiased now is it.

Lets ignore all the rubber neckers who cause delays. Let us also ignore idiots who insist a hatched junction can double as a free carpark and lets also ignore the idiots who crash and casue a accident and as such delays.

More delays due to idiots on the road than anything else - always has been always will be.

Let us also ignore cyclists and motorbike's who according to this report don't exist, I'm sure they like the lights as they are in general - just the other road users that casue them problems.

Seriously you can all suck it up and walk for all I care.

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Oh Boo Hoo!

God forbid that pedestrians should be given priority over cars.

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Paris Hilton

God forbid that we realise that cars contain people;

and most of the time (outside London at least) a particular crossing will be set to give the one person who might cross per hour a good half minute to traverse the several yards of road, while keeping a couple of hundred people in cars/lorries/buses waiting at a red light.

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Half a minute per hour?

I didn't realise drivers had it so bad. How do you cope?

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Anonymous Coward

pedestrians

get priority for a reason... well 2 really.

As a driver you are, in theory, trained in the rules of the road. You have been tested on this and licensed. A pedestrian can be anyone, with no knowledge whatsoever.

Secondly, in a collision, the pedestrian is generally going to be worse off!

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Kind of worrying

That all these proposals for flashing lights, drivers proceeding on their own judgement or allowing turning on red don't do anything for pedestrian safety.

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@Mike Richards

The evidence from other countries suggests otherwise, even in countries like Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, and Belgium, all of which have quite poor (very poor in the case of Belgium!) standards of driving compared to Britain.

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red-man

"and pedestrians to red-man signals" of course red-man signals have a different status that the other indications listed; it is legal for a pedestrian (and a cyclist at a toucan) to cross against a red man/bike.

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Headmaster

Who pays?

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

Vehicle Excise Duty goes into the big bucket of tax revenue that pays for our hospitals, wars, roads, MPs expenses and everything else. There is no hypothecation, we all pay for the roads through general taxation.

So there.

See http://ipayroadtax.com/

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Alert

Don't worry...

With the wave of revolutions spreading through Libya (2Mbpd), Egypt (0.5Mbpd), Algeria (2.5Mbpd) and Oman (0.8Mbpd) and maybe soon Saudi Arabia (8 Mbpd) amongst several others (Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain have all seen fatal riots) then

$112 /barrel oil (In Stirling terms nearly equal to the price peak of 2008) will seem like a fond memory.

Congestion will also be a distant memory. I have commuted by bicycle for the last 10 years. It is quicker than driving in my home town. I am trading in my car for one that does 82mpg.

I recommend you do the same.

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Grenade

Brillaint....

...a 1 1/2 hour bike ride (each way), in the rain, snow and cold up some very steep hill (both directions) and trade my old car in for a brand new shiny one.

No problem.

All I need you to do is ask if you can wipe 10hrs of my working week, install showers at work for when I'm either covered in sweat or soaked through and a cash gift of £15k for the new car. Oh and can you get servers on the back of bikes these days?

Now go back to the land of the Faries where everyone lives in an ideal world.

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Anonymous Coward

Heard that one before...

I work with someone who did the original planning for the M25. Their conclusion was that it was too small for the amount of traffic it was going to carry. Happily, people such as yourself pointed out that with the price of oil, cars and other such things, nobody would be driving within a few years of its opening so it didn't matter.

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Go

We have some data here from the US

On pedestrian deaths -- 3000 due to cars and light trucks. Bicyclists managed to kill 1 in that same year. Even accounting for our pathetic ride share, that's probably still a 30:1 safety advantage for cyclists, which suggests that perhaps they should be allowed to turn right on red, to avoid being shredded against a barrier by a lorry. It's extremely unlikely that they would kill anyone. (The video "bike messengers are on crack" demonstrates worst-case cyclist behavior, with no apparent collisions. Imagine the carnage if a car drove like that -- bikes are much safer for pedestrians.)

I find, also, that when traffic is very heavy, if there is a safe route, that a bicycle makes much better time. I can depend on making 12mph through most conditions (icy roads limit me to 10).

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Right on red?

Are you really trying to kill the cyclists? Or did you mean left on red!

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FAIL

Left on red, yes (at least in the UK)

Right on red here in the US.

And there I was, careful to use "lorry" instead of "truck".

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Confusion

It makes sense for an American. Most of the world drives on the other side of the road to us. Maybe the DoT hasn't realised.

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Motorists do not pay for the streets and roads

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

It's regrettable that this fallacy is still constantly promulgated in the press (paper and online).

The Road Fund Licence" was abolished decades ago and replaced by "Vehicle Exise Duty". It is an (arguably unfair) tax on owning a car but has nothing to do with building and repairing roads. VED goes directly into the general taxation pot and is in no way ringfenced.

Road building is funded (often these days by PPP ripoff agreements) mostly from central government funds. Road repairs are generally the responsibility of the local council, paid for out of council tax.

In short, the fact that a car driver has been taxed for owning a car gives him or her precisely 0% more right to use the roads than anyone in or on any other form of transport.

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No such thing as an actual Road Tax since the 1930's

Everyone pays road tax (as in a tax that is ring-fenced for highway maintenance) as part of their council tax.

I presume that the "road tax" referred to in the article is actually Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

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EC

Other views

Lewis, you've done a great job of reporting on the RAC's report. How about some alternate views, perhaps from Sustrans, the IAM or RoSPA?

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Flame

It's not so much the number of traffic lights ...

it's the brain dead way they're (not) linked up.

There is NOTHING more frustrating than having a traffic light go green, only to be stopped 20 yards on by a red pedstrian traffic light (with the road beyond clear). And then having the pedestrian light go green, while your traffic light - wait for it - goes red.

Surely, they could all be linked into a hyper-grid, and we'd maximise road throughput.

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True

Red light after a green light are specifically designed for traffic "calming" - read traffic creating.

- especially noticeable on a straight stretch of the A41 - light goes green, by the time people fiddle around with handbrakes and gears, and accelerate enough to reach the second traffic light, it is red.

if the timing would be adjusted to sync the lights - the cars would flow in a stream, much faster than 15-20 MPH as they do currently (in a 40 MPH zone)

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SCOOT

This is the whole idea behind SCOOT systems (having computer controlled linked systems) - but it's all a load of rubbish as more often than not, it's not implemented correctly in the first place, or plainly doesn't work (or is *designed* not to work).

Google "Abingdon Integrated Transport Scheme" for an example of how to turn a flowing one way system in a 400 year old market town into an unpredictable and often gridlocked mess, killing all life in the town centre as a side-effect.

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In Ipswich

they do this deliberately, they monitor the traffic in the town centre and if they *think* it may at risk of getting congested the lights on the main roads leading in are instructed to slow everyone down.

It's frigging annoying, especially if you reach the centre to find little to no traffic (which of course is proof that it works and not that someone forgot to flip the switch back).

To be fair, I think it may be automated rather than requiring a fleshling but that's what they're doing down this way

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Grenade

Life on Mars

To be fair, all life in Abingdon town centre was dead long before the traffic system was changed.

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Go

I for one welcome flashing amber lights

I'm a pedestrian, I used to drive but for the last few months, due to moving from countryside to city, I no longer do so. A lot of taxis in particular basically ignore red lights by creeping so far over the stop line as to make it pointless. if they could be encouraged to replicated this behaviour with blinking amber lights, stop would MEAN stop and the rest of the time they could keep moving and save their petrol. I also agree that any area where you can see all pedestrian crossings clearly would benefit from replacing crossing phases with pedestrian-priority phases. (clearly such could not be the case with blind corners)

Most of the time I just cross the road using the good old green cross code, and I've only been hit twice!

I shall watch the developments with interest.

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Hidden costs

£46bn for road and fuel tax, but what is that £15bn for. Does it include NHS expenses following a road accident? How about the cost of police and firemen dealing with an accident? Watch out for policy based evidence like "alcohol related traffic accident injuring a pedestrian" can in include a drunk pedestrian lurching under a car.

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X-crossing - works for me

I think the majority of crossings work this way in Edinburgh, where I live, and it's brilliant.

Of course I'm speaking as a pedestrian, as we also have great public transport and it's not a huge city anyway.

When I was recently in Melbourne, Australia, the crossings were infuriating. Long cycles, no x-crossings despite the grid streets, and jay-walking is illegal. Spending 5 minutes to get to the opposite corner on a quiet street was utterly utterly stupid, and made me realise that I really took x-crossings for granted.

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FAIL

Yeah yeah, same old "no such thing as road tax" arguments - BOLLOCKS

Yes, roads are paid for by general taxation - because no tax in this country (bar a couple of exceptions such as the congestion charge) is hypothecated.

HOWEVER

Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on.

The amount that motorists pay into the "big tax pot" alone through VED and fuel tax more than pays for total expenditure on roads.

So in effect, motorists do pay for the roads. You can't use semantics about non-hypothecated taxation to claim they don't.

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Let see if that works

I'd be happy to have roads spending limited to the money raised by VED, the money saved from general taxation can be spent on trains and segregated cycle lanes.

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WTF?

Nonsense

So if I drive a Hummer I've got more right to be on the road than someone driving a Fiat 500, just because my VED band and fuel consumption are sky-high? Hey, I earn about twice the national average, too, and pay lots more income tax as a result, so how about all these poor people getting off the road too?

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Anonymous Coward

Re "Bollocks"

"Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on."

So, basically you are saying the more tax you pay, the more right you have to use the roads. So if these cyclists in London happen to be the City Banking type that earn mega money and huge bonus's, then they probably pay a lot more tax than the delivery driver in his van even taking into account VED etc, so they have even more right to use the roads 'for free' than the drivers.

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Stop

Fourth power

Road maintenance comes out of local council budgets so we do all pay for the roads, and while vehicle owners also pay VED, etc, it's not entirely true that road users pay for the majority of the cost of the roads (a big top rate earner pays more in income tax than most will spend on fuel/insurance/etc - should they get priority over one other individual?). Remember also that most cyclists also own cars, pay VED, insurance, fuel, but choose not to drive everywhere (I include myself in this category) - it's not fair to use the "I pay my road tax" argument in this situation either.

I believe the best estimate (though there is a lot of uncertainty) on the amount of damage done to a road is something like it being proportional to the fourth power of the axle load of the vehicle. So, if you want everyone to pay proportionally for their damage to the roads, peds and cyclists alike would owe about a penny over their lifetime for every pound of VED that covers the wear caused by a car. Short of global road tolls, this is probably one of the fairer ways of paying for road maintenance.

Of course, the road haulage industry wouldn't like this much as they would pay something like 1000-10000 times the "damage tax" compared to a car....

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until you factor in that cyclists earn more...

Although statistics show that on average cyclists earn more than non-cycling car drivers, so therefore pay more in income-tax, on average pay more in council-tax and on average own more cars (most cyclists also drive cars). So it is not at all clear from your simplistic argument that motorists pay more for the roads, and even if they did, why should this give them a greater moral right to use the roads? Should children / the elderly / the unemployed also be criticised by motorists if they try to use the roads in the same way that cyclists are (by a small but vocal minority of motorsists)?

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FAIL

So

By that logic, a lorry has more right to be on the road than a car, as the VED on that is more.

A more polluting car has more rights on the road than a small economical one (some very efficient cars pay £0 VED).

Someone earning £100,000 has more rights on the road than someone earning £25,000, as they pay more income tax.

A smoker has more rights on the road than a non-smoker.

What utter drivel.

Also note that the majority of cyclists also own a car.

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Grenade

City *anking Types

If the cyclist in question is a criminally over-rewarded City *anker, then they are indeed a legitimate target for all socially responsible motor vehicle owners.

Even for country boys like me who wouldn't dream of trying to drive in "That London". On the very rare occasions I visit, I walk. I place no trust in pedestrian crossings and assume (usually rightly) that every road user, cyclists included, will attempt to kill me a some point.

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Megaphone

Give it a rest

VED: Tax on CAR ownership

Fuel duty: Tax on fuel for CAR

Insurance: Protection against damamge to CAR

If you didn't own a car you'd have full use of the roads and wouldn't pay any of these so it is your agruement which is in fact bollocks.

You're average motorist these days is full of over-inflated self-entitelment as result of the shafting he/she takes from HMG and impatient as hell despite having the fastest, easiest and most comfortable form of trasnport on the roads

Who cares if you've got to wait another 30 seconds at the lights...in a warm, dry, private car, with your tunes on...boo fscking hoo, go get some perspective ffs

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Taxing

"Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on."

This would only be true if the cyclist didn't own a car. I guess there are a lot of cyclists that don't own cars, but then there are lots that do (and choose not to use them).

I own a car and cycle to work. So maybe I whould have a sign saying "Own's a car too, be nice to me, I'm making your journey quicker by reducing congestion".

Part of the idea behind fuel duty is to change behaviour - i.e. use public transport / cycle / walk / etc

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