This piece in the Evening Standard, about an act of violence by a London bus driver, shows how traffic lights can wind us up to breaking point. Imagine driving a bus to a schedule and being held up, more often than not needlessly, at one set of traffic lights after another. The driver acted badly, of course, but arguably she was provoked by a system of aggravating, vexatious regulation.
So the One Show item was inadequate and the studio comments biased (through lack of information).
The negative storm being kicked up by the blind lobby doesn’t mean shared space is wrong. It reveals the power of the delusion which convinces them that the system of control is safe. Obedience to the system is so ingrained that some people shut their minds to the existing casualty toll and the existence of a better way.
It stresses the need for a change in the rules of the road: from priority – which imposes unequal rights and puts vulnerable road-users at a dangerous disadvantage – to equality, which stimulates civility. Ben Hamilton-Baillie said as much in the piece, but his point was inadequately illustrated.
As stated elsewhere, the biggest indictment of the current system is it puts the onus on the child to beware the motorist. It could and should be the other way round. Instead of making the system intrinsically safe, policymakers require toddlers to learn age-inappropriate road safety drill. It protects them only partially from the rivers of death that surround them. Equality Streets seeks to re-set the power balance. Making roads safe for children will make them safe for everyone, including the blind.
The One Show had a piece about blind people avoiding shared space (2min in at this link). The report itself was OK, but the subsequent comments of the celebrities in the studio, supported by the presenters, suggests that the case for shared space was inadequately made. Would the celebs have been so negative if they had seen what it was like before? Detractors seem unable to think outside the box marked “priority”, which makes roads dangerous in the first place, and produces a “need” for traffic control which fails to make roads safe – under the current system, 25,000 humans are killed or seriously hurt every year! Poynton used to have frequent serious accidents involving pedestrians. Since the scheme opened, there have been none. It’s baffling how people can think it was better before. Poynton represents real progress, and those who live in the anti-social, over-regulated past should adapt.
UK deaths linked to particulate pollution, blamed on diesels, is put at 29,000 a year, including 3,400 in London. Moreover, campaign group Clean Air in London estimates that 7,500 people a year in the capital die early from NO2 and particulate pollution combined, and 55,000 across the UK. Full article here.
6′ video commissioned by the Isle of Man Department of Infrastructure featuring Ben Hamilton-Baillie can be seen here.
For years I’ve tried to tell cabinet ministers and the media that traffic system reform will not only make roads safe and less congested, it offers scope for beneficial spending cuts of £50bn a year. But apart from the North Devon Journal who recently published this piece, the response is apathy. Traffic regulation costs lives and costs the earth, causes untold injustice and harm, but it goes unquestioned. The traffic control gravy train has carte blanche to continue trammeling and endangering life, polluting the air, and enriching Siemens et al at public expense.
Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who coined the term “shared space”, now prefers the term “low-speed environments”, partly because it avoids the confusion that arises between “shared space” and “shared surfaces”. While shared surfaces imply no pavement or kerbs, shared space retains the distinction between pavement and carriageway not least because it helps blind people orientate themselves.
I coined the term Equality Streets to express my thesis that road-user relationships would be transformed if we lived by equality instead of lived and died by priority. It would spell the end of the “need” for traffic lights, those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay, which cost lives and cost the earth.
Who’s demanding the Council make U-turn
They want to scrap lights
It’s giving him frights
He’s raised a petition but (if he reads Equality Streets) he should learn.
OK, not my finest poetic hour. I drafted a comment but the local rag’s registration process is dire. I wanted to say: If the petitioner thinks traffic lights ensure safety, he is living in fantasy land. The latest safety audit from Westminster City Council shows that nearly half of personal injury accidents occurred at traffic lights. (How many of the remainder were due to priority? Compiled in the context of priority, the stats don’t tell us.) After Poynton removed its lights and designed the streetscape for a social rather than traffic engineering context, accidents simply stopped happening. The local economy is booming, noise and air pollution are down. Road-users are interacting and smiling rather than ignoring and snarling at each other.
The claims and counterclaims about austerity versus tax and spend are further painful reminders that politicians and media are missing a massive opportunity, as I tried to explain again in this piece for the NDJ.
The 10-minute parking leeway announced today has been largely welcomed. My view is that parking policy still stinks, as most traffic control does. Why was inflexible parking control sanctioned in the first place? How many injustices have been perpetrated over the years in the name of the law? How many visitors to towns and cities, unfairly clamped or ticketed, have been deterred from visiting again? How much commerce and community spirit has been damaged? If parking control must be imposed (in my view only after at least a free hour), we should be able to pay on leaving, instead of fearing retribution if we miscalculated, got waylaid or needed more time shopping. The injustice has been allowed to rule for far too long, and now the relaxation is far too short. The imperative to “keep traffic moving” is dubious at best. If officials want to keep traffic moving, let them scrap traffic lights.