If the aim of Devon Highways is to increase congestion in Barnstaple and elsewhere, then Cabinet Member for Highways Management, Stuart Hughes, is to be congratulated.
If, however, the aim is to reduce congestion and improve air quality, then he is failing in his duty of care, and has been doing so for years.
Pilton Causeway is an example of grotesque traffic mismanagement. Years ago I pointed out to both Council and Police that northbound traffic gets less green time than side road traffic, despite northbound traffic being much heavier, especially in the afternoon. The lights cause tailbacks not just to the roundabout at the High St, but further afield.
Recently I re-timed the lights. Northbound traffic gets 18 seconds of green time, then has to sit at red, polluting the air, for 62 seconds. Often, nothing is happening on the junction. If traffic weren’t held at red, it would be free to disperse. As congestion dissolved, courtesy would thrive.
This happens whenever traffic lights break down. Low-speed, sociable filtering breaks out. I’ve witnessed it countless times on a micro scale, and on a macro scale across London in 2007 and 2008.
In 2009, I came across a local press story about improvements in congestion when lights failed in Portishead at a double T-junction similar to the Pilton Causeway/St Georges Rd junction. I proposed a monitored lights-off trial.
Via Councillor David Pasley, North Somerset Council agreed. The minute the lights were switched off, drivers and pedestrians started taking it more or less in turns, merging seamlessly at low speeds. Traffic queues disappeared. Monitoring showed that journey time fell by over half, despite a return from back-street rat-runs and greater numbers using the now free-flowing main route. There were accompanying improvements in road-user relationships, courtesy and safety, air quality, noise pollution and general well-being.
Despite the proof from Portishead, Hughes refused even to discuss a lights-off trial, with pedestrian priority, at Pilton.
A former Monster Raving Loony Party candidate and resident of Sidmouth (62 miles from Barnstaple), Hughes lists other interests in his public profile, including a disco and laser light show. “He is a member of the South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, President of Sidmouth Town Football Club, Chairman of PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London), and Chairman of LGA Public Transport Consortium.”
So perhaps he is too busy with commitments on the other side of Devon to attend to the needless delay and abysmal air quality in Barnstaple and Braunton, which is largely due to the negligence of traffic managers who lord it over us to our cost and detriment.