An Argument for Eliminating Traffic Lights

For far different reasons, uncontrolled intersections are proliferating in Northern Europe and Southeast Asia. But how can they be safe? Matthew Yglesias uses a video of such an intersection in Siem Reap, Cambodia to prove their functionality.
Horia Varlan / flickr

"Something I find fascinating is the possibly misguided nature of the assumption that heavy street traffic necessitates the use of traffic lights and stop signs," writes Yglesias. "The theory is that controlled intersections are faster and safer." But cogent arguments and real-world experience offer a different perspective. 

So how does an uncontrolled intersection work? "The key thing is that basically everyone drives slowly and steadily rather than in a stop-and-go manner," explains Yglesias.

"Stop-and-go turns out to be less a way of increasing safety than a way of maximizing the value of vehicles with high top speeds (i.e., automobiles) rather than slower vehicles (bicycles, scooters, motorcycles). So filling your city with signalized intersections turns out to be a kind of backdoor subsidy to automobile ownership."

Full Story: Uncontrolled Intersection in Siem Reap

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