This is presented as a new idea, but as followers will know, I’ve been pursuing it for years. A meeting with the Cambridge traffic authority in 2012 came to nothing; they went ahead with a £900,000 traffic signal “upgrade” at the very junction where I saw the light about traffic lights in 2000. But maybe it’ll kickstart an overdue peaceful revolution.
Alexei Sayle in this month’s Prospect Magazine: “If I ruled the world … I would remove 80% of the traffic lights … at a junction in France or Spain, there will be four lights, one at each corner … at the end of my street, a modest enough crossing, there are 12 completely different sets of traffic lights! Why? The only logical explanation is that the British traffic light lobby wields more influence than the National Rifle Association does in the US … Anyway, nearly all the traffic lights will go, along with the thousands of ugly and pointless metal road signs that litter our built environment.”
In the domestic sphere (cf the odious Rob in The Archers), coercive control is a crime, with up to 5 years in gaol. In December 2015, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, Karen Bradley, said, “Our coercive or controlling behaviour offence will protect victims from sustained patterns of abuse that can lead to control of their lives by the perpetrator.” A metaphor for traffic control? Punitive fines for straying into a bus lane (even to let a fire engine through), returning to your parked car a few minutes late, straying over the speed limit at any time of day or night regardless of context, being forced to stop at traffic lights when the road is deserted, one-way systems that make us go via XYZ to get from A to B – is this sustained coercive controlling behaviour, or what?
Stephen Holgate (Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at Southampton University) says polluted air contributes to lung, heart, and many other diseases, especially in young people. It is a factor in 40,000 deaths in the UK every year. As I’ve said many times, letting traffic filter at low revs would cut fuel use and emissions in half, overnight. Yet government remains oblivious, and traffic authorities persist in regulation that blocks flow and maximises emissions. In addition, vexatious regulation produces the stress hormone cortisol which shortens life.
Dr Nick Lane (The Life Scientific, 23.2.16) says spontaneous order springs from chemistry. Chemistry is an apt word to describe the cooperation that springs eternal when we are free to use our inner lights. We could say that regulation, based on the current unequal rules of the road, corrupts road-user relationships. It kills the flow, the life force, the chemistry.
Equality Streets seeks to maximise safety, efficiency and quality of life for all road-users. I’m pro-walker, pro-cyclist, pro-choice and not anti-motorist. Cyclists seem to represent their own special interest group to the exclusion of others. Cyclists are included in my scenario, but motorists are usually excluded from campaigns with sustainable in the title. Why not reconfigure roads and traffic law to accommodate everyone equally?
Today’s Mail on Sunday piece about an IEA Paper I co-authored with Richard Wellings twisted our work to fit some anti-Green agenda. The Paper and my accompanying polemic (Companion piece) can be found here at the Press tab.
29.12.15 A driver honked at me from behind as I walked diagonally across Tesco car park in Barnstaple. “Where are your manners?” I asked. “Why weren’t you looking where you were going?” he yelled. I struck him dumb with a tirade along the lines of “Ratso” Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy who screams at a New York driver, “I’m walking here!” But in my fury, I missed my chance to explain that I blamed him less than a system which turns people into ill-mannered thugs in the first place. This is another example of the inadequacy of context alone to change the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. We need new rules, a new culture and a new driving test. The fundamental rule should be for all road-users to merge more or less in turn. Then we wouldn’t need traffic lights, those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay, and road rage and “accidents” would melt away.
In the centre of Exeter, on foot, approaching a traffic-lit junction, I saw a gap between clumps of waiting peds, and a bigger gap in the one-way traffic. As I crossed, causing inconvenience to no-one, a driver saw fit to honk his displeasure at me, a wayward ped crossing on his green light. I blame the pillock less than I blame a delinquent traffic control system that subverts the sociable practice of taking it in turns.
This Mail piece quotes me at length about traffic lights-out in Beverley. Keith’s claim that ditching lights would allow main roads to take over is true of the current priority system, but not of roads designed for equality and a social context, nor of drivers who have been reconditioned to observe social values based on equality.