The Bristol Evening Post asked for my views about switching off traffic lights at night to save energy. Article here.
The full text of my reply was: In a sense, any advance on the current system of mandatory traffic lights is better than nothing. But does switch-off make more sense in daytime, when other road-users are more visible? Enlightened thinking supported by mounting evidence shows that we’re perfectly capable of negotiating safe movement when left to our own devices. The default setting should be no lights. Only if things prove problematic, e.g. at multi-lane intersections at peak times, should we resort to signal control.
The rules of the road confer unequal rights and responsibilities. They put the onus on pedestrians to beware motorists when it could and should be the other way round. The point is to discourage main road traffic from assuming priority. We should be free to act sociably and give way to others who were there first, as we do in all other walks of life.
Deregulation is not enough on its own. It needs to be combined with culture change to help people unlearn the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. To a degree, the change can be achieved through roadway redesign that expresses a social context. The point is to stimulate kindness and empathy: “After you,” instead of “Get out of my way!” Simply switching lights off at night to achieve economic gains seems paltry when comprehensive reform could bring transformational gains across the board.