Traffic lights have to make sense

There is a set of traffic lights in Utrecht that must be amongst the most widely ignored in the city. They are located on Vredenburg, a new road layout right in the centre.

You can stand at this junction, and the people who stop at a red light will be in a definite minority.

Yet on the opposite side of the road – literally, only a few feet away – I managed to take this picture of about 60 people waiting patiently at a red light. The difference in behaviour could not be more stark.

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What accounts for this difference? It can’t be the people – they are all residents in the same city, making the same journeys on this same road. People stopping at the red light when heading west along Vredenburg – as in the photograph above – will often cycle through the red light in the opposite direction when they make the return journey.

The most likely explanation is that the red signal people are ignoring doesn’t make a great deal of sense. The side street that is being crossed is a dead end; a place where taxis wait in the evening, and that is barely used during the day. People cycling along here know that the chance of a motor vehicle entering or exiting this area on the right is very small indeed.

Traffic signals are designed to manage interactions that wouldn’t work as well if they weren’t there; pedestrians crossing a busy road, for instance, or allowing two opposing streams of motor traffic to cross each other’s path when traffic volumes are too high for this to work informally at a normal ‘priority’ junction.

But the interactions at the junction in the video are rarely happening; no motor vehicles are coming in and out of the side road, and it just feels pointless to wait at this red signal.

The queue on the other side, however, does make sense. It does feel right to wait there, because you have to cross a relatively busy junction, with lots of buses coming in and out of it. I’m sure a small minority of people might take a chance and skip across when the signals are red, but the great majority won’t. And many will be crossing diagonally across the junction once the lights go green, which of course isn’t something that you would attempt to do when the signals are red. You are having to deal with multiple potential risks – the two lanes going in and out of the side road, and the two lanes on the main road, and pedestrians crossing the road. It’s much better to wait for the green.

People cycling across this junction with a green signal - diagonally, and straight ahead. No interactions with motor traffic, so this feels very safe.

People cycling across this junction with a green signal – diagonally, and straight ahead. No interactions with motor traffic, so this feels very safe.

So what I am driving at here is that compliance with traffic signals largely flows from whether they make sense or not. Signals that can be seen to be easily ignored without risk will be ignored by a larger proportion of people than those waiting at signals where the lights are obviously serving some useful purpose – where the traffic lights are actually on your side.

This is something that was touched upon in BicycleDutch’s latest post on technology that might potentially help people cycling to arrive at green signal more often. Mark quotes the city’s alderman for traffic and the environment –

“Utrecht is growing and we try to let the growth happen within the boundaries of the current city. That means it gets busier. It is a challenge for the traffic light guys… to guide all road users safely through the intersection in a time that also makes them a bit happy, at least happy enough to keep obeying these lights.”

Here an explicit link is made between compliance and the way traffic signals work. ‘Happiness’ means not keeping people waiting; if people find that a particular junction has a ridiculously long wait for the next green, then they will get restless, and be more likely to chance a red, especially if there are minimal risks involved in doing so.

We can see this connection between happiness and compliance at another junction in Utrecht, a much bigger one. As I arrive at the junction, people are already waiting to cross. After the lights have been red for at least 90 seconds, a man on a scooter jumps the signals. Everyone else waits.

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After the lights have been red for over two minutes, the man on the scooter (who had been obeying the red light, all this time) also jumps the lights, while a woman cycling does so from the opposite direction.

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After the lights have been red over three minutes, a woman cycling also gives up, and jumps the red light.

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The full video is below; I’ve kept it in real time so you can see how frustrating it is to be waiting for so long. I could almost feel the annoyance and incomprehension rising around me; people looking at each other, people pushing the button repeatedly, and others just giving up and using common sense to cross in the gaps of traffic.

People who were law-abiding (nobody just blasted through the red signals without waiting) were converted into law breakers, simply because they felt the traffic signals no longer made sense, and in the absence of those traffic signals making sense, the balance shifted in favour of their own judgement. Precisely the same is true of the (much smaller) junction in the video at the start of the post; the traffic signals don’t make sense, so people exercise their own judgement.

And we can apply these lessons to Britain. The main reason traffic signals are perceived to be obeyed by drivers of motor vehicles is because they make sense. They work in your favour, stopping flows of large vehicles that you would otherwise have to negotiate your way through.

And of course (as I’ve observed before) it’s actually quite hard to jump lights in a motor vehicle. More often than not, you will stuck in a queue, surrounded by other motor vehicles – you couldn’t jump the lights even if you wanted to. And of course trying to sneak through the junction when lights have been red for some time (I’m not talking about ‘amber gambling’, or even ‘red gambling’, which I would argue is endemic) carries big risks, if you are in a large, bulky vehicle.

People cycling engage in a form of jumping that you rarely see drivers engaging in; creeping into the junction, looking around, seeing if it is clear, and progressing carefully across in stages.

It’s quite obvious why drivers don’t engage in this kind of behaviour, and again, it’s not because of number plates (because, again, that fails to explain why they’re jumping lights in vast numbers already). It’s because it’s risky to get yourself into the middle of a junction in a big bulky object, leaving yourself nowhere to retreat to, if things go wrong. You’re going to end up causing an obstruction.

It really doesn’t make sense to jump lights in this way when you are in a car, unless there’s a genuine emergency. You will get stuck, or come to grief. But on a bicycle it will often make a great deal of sense to jump a light, even if it is illegal, because your mode of transport is small, and flexible, you are more connected with your surroundings, and you can bail out a of problematic situation quite easily.

So the kind of red light jumping by people cycling in Britain actually takes the form of ‘red light jumping’ that is accommodated, both through design and law, in the Netherlands. Going ahead across a T-junction, where you won’t come into conflict with motor traffic, for instance. Or Just turning left, around the corner.

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Motor vehicles can’t turn right, but it doesn’t make sense to stop people cycling from turning right. So they can, at all times, thanks to the design of the junction.

These are the kinds of manoeuvres that it doesn’t make sense to stop people cycling from performing, and so the Dutch design for it. We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the kinds of things people cycling do in Britain, regardless of law, just like we shouldn’t be surprised when people jump lights in Utrecht.

The difference is that the Dutch appear to recognise human behaviour, and adapt junctions in accordance with it, to minimise law breaking. The response to my second video would be to realise that there is something clearly wrong with the signals. The waits are so long that law-breaking is occurring.

In other words, law-breaking represents a failure of design, not of human behaviour. Sadly, I don’t think this is true in Britain, where law-breaking by people cycling is bizarrely seen as some innate condition of being a ‘cyclist’, rather than as a symptom of road system that very often doesn’t make sense to those who happen to be behind handlebars, instead of behind a steering wheel.

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46 Responses to Traffic lights have to make sense

  1. Traffic lights assert motor vehicle dominance and (in the UK) are designed to sustain it.

    This is stark by observing a pedestrian crossing. A basic crossing over a road typically requires the pedestrian to wait for a period even if motor vehicles have had a green light for a long time previously.
    Similarly, pedestrians are often provided with a multi stage crossing with pedestrian lights timed to cross single traffic lanes at a time, thus providing no inconvenience to the driver (but a pain for pedestrians, especially in the wet).

    This thinking is then applied to cyclists even when unnecessary. Thus motor dominance continues with vehicles being given priority over all other forms of transport.

    • Simon H says:

      It’d be interesting to see what would happen if you reversed the agency required in a crossing, i.e. it’s default red for drivers, green for pedestrians. Drivers have to push a button (or, if we’re being generous, there’s an inductive loop that detects their vehicles) and then wait before being given a green signal. Has anywhere tried this?

      • Andy R says:

        Kingston Upon Hull (at least in one location, which was a heavily used ped route), about 10 years or so ago, IIRC.

        ETA
        Apparently it was way back in 1997, quote “Pelican crossing that defaults to pedestrian phase when no traffic demand. In 1997 Hull introduced two pedestrian priority signals in the city centre. These signals operate by reversing the conventional priorities and giving pedestrians the default green whilst vehicles wait at the stop line before being detected. It is an unusual location with low traffic flow (90% buses) and very high pedestrian volumes. There could be situations where such provision could be provided at a shared cycle and pedestrian crossing”.

      • RobertL says:

        Here in Brisbane we have a couple of good bikeways that cross roads using lights that give cyclists priority.

        The lights for the on-road traffic are green by default. The bikeway crossings resemble pedestrian crossings except that they have red and green lights that look like bikes, not pedestrians. As a cyclist, you approach the crossing, press the button, and the lights change to allow you to cross virtual instantaneously.

        They work pretty well but I wonder what will happen if bicycle traffic increases, and cars are held up for too long.

  2. This seems so far ahead of the curve, great article. I had in fact just been ‘reporting’ a complaint about a 4-lane crossing I use daily that is either: A) choked with cars barely moving but occasionally with high-speed undertaking, making crossing against the lights horribly dangerous or B) relatively empty of motor traffic except that which does still exist comes at high speed and in regular succession so crossing against the lights is still very difficult.

    Cars get about 85% of the pie here, with the timings being as long as possible for cars and possibly close to the legal minimum for pedestrians/cyclists. It’s a toucan crossing on a ‘superhighway’, and as predicted in your article everyone basically gambles with their lives and safety by dashing through whatever gaps they can find.

    I wonder if motorists will be up in arms when cyclists inevitably blow past the mini red lights on the new segregated routes, notably the ones that are only for cyclist v. cyclist flows. I also wonder what the reaction by TfL will be to ‘rectify’ the situation.

  3. Polbeer91 says:

    Nice article. I know another nice example from my hometown Eindhoven, were the municipality actually changed a junction design because of this very reason. https://www.google.nl/maps/@51.4381868,5.4754087,3a,75y,117.9h,80.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sYYLCmDIXHq7E9YuH6f2anQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 Shows this junction. As you can see there is a light for pedestrians to cross the road, but this starts only after they have already crossed the cycle lane. It used to be the case that the crossing of the cycle lane also had a light, so cyclists had to wait for crossing pedestrians. This is very uncommon and almost no-one did. Cyclist just drove on, minding the pedestrians, and many pedestrians actually waited for cyclist. When they recurfaced the junction (the cobblostone-like crossing was laid to draw more people to shop and eat at the right hand side of the road), they removed the light for the cyclist. In the local newspaper the reason given was that ‘people don’t wait for them anyway’

    • We have not-yet-operational cycle stop lights in the new bike lane on Embankment. If (when?) cyclists don’t obey these, I have no doubt that the police will start rigid enforcement here, rather than having the authorities remove the infrastructure that’s more appropriate for motor vehicles.

      • adoapplemac says:

        I’ve read complaints on twitter from someone saying that cyclists don’t stop at the signal controlled crossings on CS5 at Vauxhall, and that a pedestrian was nearly hit. Cyclists will normally wait at a red light in cyclist-motorist interactions, but you can forget trying to get cyclists to stop at red for cyclist-pedestrian or cyclist-cyclist interactions.

        Quite a lot of the crossings along Embankment are staggered so that there is a separate signal controlled crossing for the road and the cycle track. I bet most pedestrians won’t even bother pushing the button to cross the cycle track! Although these new routes are fairly well designed, pedestrian crossings is one area where TfL are showing their complete lack of experience in designing cycle infrastructure.

  4. I remember a year or so ago I came across a traffic light simulator game. It allowed you to set the conditions that lights changed, how long signals were held etc. No bikes in this simulation, just cars and pedestrians.

    If you tried to set it so that the lights changed in favour of pedestrians whenever a pedestrian was there, the game rejected your instructions. No logical inconsistency in your rules, no attempt to follow what would happen if you did it. Just no – you can’t do that. It didn’t even occur to the designer of the simulation that this was a possible setting. There was no objection when you set it to extremes in favour of cars.

    Of course in real-life situations, there is a limit to how long people will wait. This leads to delightful outcomes, such as pedestrian waits for too long, crosses in gap in traffic, and lights change after they cross, leaving driver waiting at an empty crossing. Efficient.

    • paulc says:

      “Of course in real-life situations, there is a limit to how long people will wait. This leads to delightful outcomes, such as pedestrian waits for too long, crosses in gap in traffic, and lights change after they cross, leaving driver waiting at an empty crossing. Efficient.”

      this is why they’ve started putting pedestrian sensors on these light controlled crossings, not to get them changing more quickly in favour of the pedestrian, but purely to cancel the button request when a pedestrian has given up and also to keep the traffic light on red longer while a pedestrian is still crossing…

      what p’s me off is the distinct lack of immediate response when I press the button… no attempt made at all to start changing for me, but it seems as if I have to wait ages before the right time in the cycle arrives to change the lights for me with the minimum disruption for motor traffic. Completely ignoring the fact that I am also ‘traffic’

    • pm says:

      “Of course in real-life situations, there is a limit to how long people will wait. This leads to delightful outcomes, such as pedestrian waits for too long, crosses in gap in traffic, and lights change after they cross, leaving driver waiting at an empty crossing. Efficient.”

      Good job I read on a bit before posting exactly the same comment!
      I have this experience as a pedestrian regularly – it seems absurd, compared to a zebra crossing the light-controlled one manages to delay both pedestrians and drivers entirely unnecessarily. I’m stuck waiting there even though there’s no traffic, then after I give up and cross anyway the thing changes behind me once the traffic as resumed and when I’m already a long way down the next street.

  5. Andy R says:

    I am not a signals engineer, but I think this is an unintended consequence of the control methods used.

    For vehicle actuated signals there are loops set about 1 second, 2 seconds and 3? seconds travel time from the stop line. If a vehicle passes these within a certain time the system holds their signals at green (or prevents other traffic steams from going), as it would be dangerous (they’d possibly amber gamble or go through their red signal rather than make an emergency stop). Of course, that leads to drivers ‘chasing green’ and speeding up.

    A feature intended to improve safety therefore tempts people to speed and drive more dangerously. I’m sure Robert Davis has much more to say on that subject!

    The reason there’s no immediate change when you press the button is (or should be) that a vehicle has been detected within that danger zone and therefore it won’t let you cross. Of course there are plenty of locations where the controller is also badly set up so there’s an intrinsic delay for pedestrians. Having said that, if I carry out an NMU audit which includes signalised crossings signals I tend to include that peds should wait an absolute maximum of 15 seconds for green (which can still seem interminable). Unfortunately, whether this is taken into the design only the designer knows.

    • Notak says:

      “The reason there’s no immediate change when you press the button is (or should be) that a vehicle has been detected within that danger zone and therefore it won’t let you cross. ”

      Could this not be avoided by having a decent length of amber phase and enforcing the red with cameras? If this were done as a matter of course at all signals, and giving opposing flows the red plus amber the instant the first signal goes red, it should become self-enforcing. (Ah, but ‘if’… )

      • adoapplemac says:

        In the UK, you can’t change the length of the amber phase. It’s 3 seconds, no matter if the lights are on a traffic-calmed 20mph road or on a 70mph dual-carraigeway.

        Therefore, approaching traffic lights at 70mph, even when the speed limit is 70, is incredibly stupid and dangerous. A lot of motorists don’t realise this however and assume the lights are timed to allow enough time to stop safely from 70mph when the lights change to amber. Clearly that’s not the case!

    • “If a vehicle passes these within a certain time the system holds their signals at green (or prevents other traffic steams from going), as it would be dangerous (they’d possibly amber gamble or go through their red signal rather than make an emergency stop).”

      But won’t the signals change eventually on a timer anyway? If there’s a constant stream of traffic, eventually one car is going to have to be the one to stop for the lights.

      • Jitensha Oni says:

        +1
        Why not immediate stop? Active travellers crossing the traffic stream aren’t going to blindly walk into it. We demand an answer.

        • adoapplemac says:

          The reason ped/cyclist crossings don’t normally change immediately is because it’s disruptive to traffic flow! I think It’s only dangerous when a light changes at the wrong moment if the driver is going relatively fast, say above 40mph.

      • Andy R says:

        If you Google LTN 2/95 ‘The Design of Pedestrian Crossings’ (which includes Toucans) it gives guidance on stand-alone crossings and the delays you might expect after pressing the push button. It also gives the guidance on when to stagger crossings.

        And yes, it is 20 years old and still current.

        Also Traffic Advisory Leaflet 5/05 ‘Ped Facilities at Signal-Controlled Junctions’.

        • Notak says:

          LTN 2/95 says that (for a Puffin) the green light will change to amber “subject to a pedestrian demand, either at the end of the minimum time;
          when a gap is detected in traffic (gap cha ge); or on the expiry of the preset maximum time
          (forced change).” So it can change to amber regardless of how close a vehicle is. Therefore, the only reason for it not to change immediately the button is pressed is ‘traffic flow’ as far as I can see. In other words, car prioritisation.

          • Andy R says:

            But if the signals are staying green until they reach their pre-set maximum that’ll probably mean a long queue of vehicles – with the likelihood they’ll be travelling relatively slowly, not free-flow at 30 or 40mph.

            • Notak says:

              In my observation the gap in traffic required for the lights to change is frequently less than the gap required to walk across the road. It’s usually the case that there’s a fairly constant stream of cars travelling at the same speed, then a gap caused by some disruption upstream (often a junction with signals!). If that gap isn’t reached before the timeout, as is commonly the case, the vehicles that face the amber will be travelling at the same speed as if the light had changed instantly. And so, of course, will the one that has to brake because people got fed up waiting and crossed in what they judged to be the best available gap.

  6. Came across use of traffic lights in Spain as traffic calming.

    “The adapted traffic signals are normally on standby red. When a vehicle approaches, the controller switches the signal to green unless it has detected speeding; in which case, it maintains the red period to slow the vehicle down.”

    More info here: http://www.itsinternational.com/categories/enforcement/features/traffic-signals-turn-red-to-stop-speeding-drivers/

    • Notak says:

      I’ve heard a similar system is common in French villages. The lights will turn to red when they sense an approaching vehicle, regardless of speed – I’ve heard cyclists complaining how it’s a pain for them that this system does detect bikes – in order to reduce speeds (and maybe volumes) in the village.

      • Andy R says:

        I’m led to believe ‘quiescent red’ i.e. all lights resting on red until an approaching vehicle is detected is just good practice (preventing that ‘chasing green’ phenomenon). Trouble is there’s so much traffic in our towns and cities you won’t usually see it unless it’s implemented at an isolated rural junction (and then probably only at night).

        • paulc says:

          they’ve started putting some of these in in Gloucestershire. Even in the city…

        • Now I think of it, we do effectively have that on at least two cycle junctions in Cambridge, but I don’t think of them like that because I’m used to the idea that cycle lights are red until called / detected, and lights for cars are green.

          The cycle detectors are positioned sufficiently far back that if you are going at a steady 10-12mph, they will change by the time you reach them.

          But you’ll only notice this behaviour in the evenings, because during the day it defaults to motor traffic priority. These are full-size traffic lights but only for cycles, not toucan crossings, so illegal to cross against lights even if it’s clear. Or if the motor traffic is backed up stationary from other junctions, which is much of the time.

        • Matthew Phillips says:

          There is a junction near the centre of Dundee that has this arrangement: http://osm.org/go/e6K4RVowB-?m=

          At night when traffic is light, all arms of the junction show red lights. This actually means it is generally quicker for drivers to get through the junction: if the lights defaulted to green for the main route, anyone approaching on the side route would have a longer wait because of the additional time needed to set the lights back to red for the main route. That extra time will, in turn, make it more likely that a driver on the main route will be delayed.

  7. The three minute wait video was very interesting, especially as it is on a very wide road like we are due to get in north of Horsham. The excessive delay clearly induces people to jump the lights, putting them in danger. This is particularly so if a motorist happens to come speeding round the corner or if someone (eg a youngster) with relatively poor speed judgement crosses on red.
    I noticed that the cars were travelling relatively slowly in this video – on the north Horsham A264 bypass vehicles will be going much faster. There will also be multiple crossing stages (up to 4 or 5) for pedestrians and cyclists to get all the way across the junctions which means that the temptation to jump the lights will be even greater. I think this video clearly illustrates the danger in the currently proposed designs.

  8. Notak says:

    Slightly OT question but I’m curious as to why, in the video of the long wait at Utrecht, both the mopedists we see were to the left of the Keep Right arrow. Is there a particular reason for this?

    • I think it was because the area to the right was full of cyclist like me, and positioning themselves to the left meant they would be able to overtake easily, and speed away into the distance.

      That’s my theory, anyway!

      • jeldering says:

        Indeed. Also, since this is a very long crossing, there is plenty of time to overtake slower cyclists and return to the right side before encountering any oncoming traffic.

        On the other hand, very short and busy crossings don’t stop Dutch cyclists to do the same thing: at this crossing https://goo.gl/maps/9CUNQWYmmWp in Utrecht (under longterm (road)works), you’ll see cyclists occupy nearly the full width on each side during rush hour. Then when the light turns green, some wiggling and squeezing is required. See also this blog post https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/rush-hour-in-the-dark/ with video shot just meters north of the crossing.

      • Notak says:

        Cheers! I thought it was probably something like that but wondered if it might perhaps be some official thing: pedal bikes to this side, mopeds that side. Though as it is a two-way track, that didn’t really seem very likely…

  9. Notak says:

    Two points about the need for traffic lights at all: Obviously they are useful as both a safety factor and to balance out priority at junctions, thas is to prevent one flow dominating the junction to the exclusion of others, and conversely to ensure that minor flows do not cause disproportionate delays to major ones. In safety terms, cycle-only movemets, without motor vehicles, will very rarely if ever need signals but the balancing function can still be applicable where flows are very heavy. This, I think, is borne out by the one type of motor vehicle that does red-light jump in the same way as cyclists (watching and waiting) but that is less likely than most to blast through a red: motorcycles. Like pedal cycles, they have good visibility and agility but stand to lose a lot more than a dented panel if things go wrong.

  10. rdrf says:

    Andy R says “I’m sure Robert Davis has much more to say on that subject!”, so here I am.

    What he says seems to make sense.

    All I really have to say is:

    1. Stopping and starting on a bicycle is more of an inconvenience than stopping and starting in a motor. John Parkin has done some work on extra energy consumed by cyclists, if I recall correctly.

    2. The main point about cyclists deliberately going through red signals is that motorists love going on about an act of law breaking which poses far less danger to others than the typical law breaking (such as speeding) of drivers. It can be a nuisance or danger to others (pedestrians and cyclists), but to repeat the point, it is far less of a danger than careless driving and speeding which has become normalised and acceptable to the average driver.

    I believe that is what needs to be stressed. Also, there will always be something which some or all cyclists do which will be complained of by (some) drivers and others in a car-centred society. They will find something to whinge about whatever the rational discussion (such as the one above) that relates to it.

  11. Ron Dankelman says:

    You’re exactly right about the way people behave with traffic lights. They make an estimation of the risk involved and the fairness of the situation.
    See a post of bicycledutch about a situation where the lights were to short for cyclists: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/why-are-we-waiting-protest-for-longer-green-times/
    I am familiar with the situation on the first photo in your blog. The reason why so many people wait there patiently is the fact that crossing is quite dangerous. And you cannot overtake the queue there because there is a constant stream of fast buses just beside you. That is also the case when you want to cross when the light is red. Everybody knows this is a dangerous situation and they behave accordingly.
    In Amsterdam there are also known crossings where almost everybody waits. At spots like that there are countdown lights on the lamppost. When you know how long it will take then it feels more reasonable to wait. Traffic policymakers know these rules and use them to make the city a safer place. There is a lot of psychology Involved. I get the impression that cyclist in Britain are seen as a nuisance. That there is a battle going on with cars. When 40% of the traffic consists of bicycles you cannot think in those terms anymore. You have to find ways to manage these masses through rushhoure as safe and effective as possible. Smart design with trafficlight is one of the tools you can use.

  12. Ben Harris says:

    It’s not just cyclists who will ignore nonsensical traffic lights; motorists often do it too. On my way home is a set of temporary traffic lights, and a couple of nights ago they remained at red for about twenty minutes. About ten car drivers and a couple of cyclists passed the red light. Several other cyclists dismounted and walked through the junction on the footway, and a couple of car drivers turned around and went another way. I waited, partly to avoid letting the side down, but mostly because it was interesting seeing how other people reacted to the situation.

    • Barney says:

      If they are sufficiently nonsensical then I think they can be considered ‘not working’ and legally driven/cycled past. But I don’t know if the law is clear on that.

  13. SteveP says:

    In some jurisdictions, where traffic signals are triggered by coils in the road (and sometimes don’t work) legislation is written to allow cautiously crossing against the lights.

    Its quite obvious how car-centric road design is. For many years in Notting Hill (London) there was a busy junction used by hundreds of pedestrians daily that had no (foot) crossing signals. In fact, there was no safe time to cross as the lights were always green for traffic one way or the other. Pedestrians had to “jump” the gaps in oncoming traffic (or make three separate crossings to end up were they wanted to be – such is the logic of TfL).

    Oddly, when pedestrians contravene poorly designed traffic signals, no one condemns them as an entire class. I’m not sure why they are even allowed to cross, actually. They don’t pay road tax, after all….

  14. Barney says:

    Traffic lights sometimes start to confuse me if I think about them too much. When I started cycling after not cycling or driving for years I had to unlearn the habit of stopping at a red light at the exit of a junction. Red and amber both mean ‘Stop’ according to the UK Highway code, which raises the question of why they need to be distinguished. There is no advance warning of the change from green to amber so to be sure of not crossing on amber it may be necessary to approach the green light very slowly and or / brake very sharply.

  15. Traffic lights of course have to be in as few numbers as possible. Making a right on red (left on red in the UK), going through the top of a T junction, having cycle bypasses of signalized pedestrian and toucan crossings, grade separation at very large roadway junctions, roundabouts that need no traffic lights, etc. Intersections that should really be give way/stop sign controlled rather than traffic light controlled. And during off peak times when the lights can go into flash mode and the order of traffic is determined with signage.

  16. Eric D says:

    You can legally jump red if the induction loop in the road doesn’t pick you up. Rule 176: “If the traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care.”
    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/using-the-road-159-to-203
    After 3 minutes, I would assume ‘broken’ – I read somewhere they cycle every 10 minutes, even in the absence of traffic.
    http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/traffic-light-induction-loops-that-dont-detect-bikes-ride-through-red
    Not sure of any legislation or case law on bust traffic lights- you would probably have to argue the lights were not ‘lawfully placed’ as not performing to specifications, or something?
    http://takethelanes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/oppression-inherent-in-system.html

    I’ve tried reporting these lights in Northampton which weren’t triggering for bikes
    https://goo.gl/maps/KYyNK11BqCH2
    Response: “Lights are performing to specification”
    Me: “They don’t work, so the specification is wrong – if that’s a ‘they’re not causing a problem’ response, then I could very easily make them cause a problem !”
    They were then fixed.
    I’ve since seen them not trigger for cars that stop a few feet early! Only one sensor !

    I suspect many lights don’t trigger for bikes (Horsemarket?) – I’m tempted to go around testing and reporting them ‘en masse’ !

    Some more comments on bad timings here:

    same place?

    • meltdblog says:

      If you want to trigger the inductive type sensors (the ones where you can see the filled cut making loops) simply lean your bike over as close to parallel with the ground as you can while standing in the middle of a loop. They dont require ferrous metal to function and large round wheels interact perfectly with them, its very unusual that a traffic light wont respond to this though how close and parallel with the road you need the bike to be can vary.

      Also some drivers just dont understand the inductive detectors for demand driven traffic lights: https://meltdblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/detector-perception/

    • Matthew Phillips says:

      That video just shows how much is wrong with cycle infrastructure in this country. And I bet the designers thought they had done quite a good job. Even when the infrastructure is OK, there is no enforcement to prevent people parking cars all over it.

  17. David Fisher says:

    Unless I’m missing something, the new Cycle Superhighway over Vauxhall Bridge has an awful set of traffic lights coming southbound when you reach the gyratory (at Albert Embankment). You’re held at red whilst motor traffic gets green, even though only a small number of vehicles turn left (i.e. across your path) into Albert Embankment. Meanwhile the second half of the crossing is on green, but you can’t reach it. By the time cyclists get green, the second half is on red (to allow traffic to join the gyratory *from* Albert Embankment), so you have to wait twice — no better than the old pre-CS toucan arrangement! I predict whopping levels of RLJing here, especially as you can clearly see the green light for the second half of the crossing.
    (And then, of course, there’s a *third* wait to cross to the south side of Harleyford Road on the far side of the railway…)

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