Equality not priority

If, instead of rule by priority (a traffic engineering model), we lived by values of equality (a social model), then the parts of the current system that clash – above all safety and efficiency – would mesh. Like shuffling cards, we’d merge in turn. So, instead of an engineering system rigid with coercion and control, dictating behaviour and demanding obedience, we would have a relaxed social model based on camaraderie and empathy which matches our human nature. Priority puts us at odds with each other; equality puts us in the same boat, pulling together. Priority stems from railway engineering. Obviously rail needs segregating from road – trains need greater distances to pick up speed and stop. But given equal rights and responsibilities, vehicle and foot traffic can co-exist in harmony. When I pitched lights-off trials to Boris and the GLA two years ago, they produced this excuse for inaction: “The idea is too radical. It would be hard to win over public opinion.” Not if it’s explained and communicated properly! Now, as they consider removing 145 sets of lights, they persist in overlooking the underlying cause, and failing to communicate the wider context, hence opposition from vulnerable road-user groups. Done right, it might be possible not only to bring doubters on board, but to scrap many of the other 5,800 signals in London, leaving only 145-odd in (part-time) operation. Regulators protecting their empires always play the safety card. But because equality is absent, their accident statistics are relevant only in the context of their defective priority system.

About Martin Cassini

Campaign founder and video producer, pursuing traffic system reform to make roads safe, civilised and efficient
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