Will Removing Traffic Lights Help Congestion?

The Town Council of Ealing, U.K. is experimenting with covering up its traffic lights at certain intersections, which they believe will increase safety and awareness.

Ealing Council believes that, far from improving the flow of traffic, lights cause delays and may even increase road danger. Drivers race towards green lights to make it across before they turn red. Confidence that they have right of way lulls them into a false sense of security, meaning that they fail to anticipate hazards coming from the side. The council hopes that drivers will learn to co-operate, crossing junctions on a first-come first-served basis rather than obeying robotic signals that have no sense of where people are waiting.

Westminster City Council is also considering a trial but has yet to identify likely junctions.

Ealing found evidence to support its theory when the lights failed one day at a busy junction and traffic flowed better than before. Councillors have approved a report which recommended that they 'experimentally remove signals since experience of signal failure showed that junction worked well'."

Full Story: Traffic lights covered up by Ealing Council to test congestion 'cure'



Old news

Philadelphia did this in the 70s. They removed traffic signals that did not meet signal warrants in the MUTCD, and sure enough, overall delay and the number of crashes went down.

Traffic signals reduce delay for the side road traffic, and decrease the chances of right-angle crashes. They increase delay for the main road, and often increase the number of rear-end crashes. The signal warrants in the MUTCD are meant to help insure that this tradeoff is a good one.

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