Priority is the fatal flaw at the heart of the system. It makes roads dangerous by subverting our natural desire to take it in turns. It makes us obey a system of unequal rights-of-way. This is anti-social and anathema to good road-user relationships.
Drivers trying to enter or cross a main road face interminable waits and intolerable danger as streams of fast-moving traffic come at them from oppoaite directions. If the law is an ass, nowhere is it more asinine, and lethal, than in the traffic arena.
People think drivers are a source of danger. In fact it’s the system which tilts the power balance in their favour that is dangerous. It makes us compete for gaps and green time. Instead of creating a sociable playing-field, it engineers an unequal “killing-filed”. A social protocol of equality, or even pedestrian priority, would eliminate the danger.
In other walks of life, we take it in turns. Jumping a cashpoint queue is unthinkable, but on the road, we accept such delinquent behaviour without question. Priority licenses main road drivers to ignore side road traffic and people on foot, regardless who was there first or how long they might have been waiting.
Priority produces a “need” for traffic lights – to break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross. Thus is most traffic control is an expensive exercise in self-defeat, a vain bid to solve the lethal conflicts produced by priority.
The solution? Remove priority, the underlying cause of our problems on the road. This will remove the “need” for lights, and the need for speed, enabling everyone to approach carefully and filter more or less in turn.
When traffic lights break down, peace and goodwill break out. Suddenly road-users are not in competition, but in the same boat.
Not only is equality-based self-control safer, it’s over twice as efficient. Our traffic lights-off trial in Portishead went permanent after journey times fell by over half with no loss of safety. The transformation took place even without the benefit of re-education to help people unlearn the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. What could be achieved in terms of improved safety, efficiency and quality of life through culture change, roadway redesign and legal reform is unlimited.
Priority generates hostility, segregation, disunity. Equality stimulates empathy, affinity, unity.
Q (on my YouTube channel): Who has the right of way?
A: No-one, which is the whole point. On foot or on wheels, you take it more or less in turns, as in all other walks of life. Instead of a regulated, artificially-engineered hierarchy – which imposes unequal rights-of-way, makes roads intrinsically dangerous, and produces a “need” for traffic lights – we can follow our inner lights, make common cause, and act sociably, as we were born to do.