Getting rid of traffic lights makes for safer intersections

Top-down-anything does not work (videos):

Part 1: Roads unfit for people:


Part 2: Roads FiT for People:


When the power goes out and traffic lights no longer work, there are fewer backed up cars at intersections around where I live. It also seems like people are more likely to let someone in from an uncontrolled side street rather then cut them off.

People are generally more courteous and careful when they worry about the loss of the red light. But I have to think it works best at a 2 way intersection. A T intersection might not be as well managed.

However, all of my intuitive feelings about this really went out the window when I saw how people dealt with a quite complex intersection of 5 streets and no light. It was not terminal gridlock or almost wrecks in the middle. It was almost like a ballet.

Now the main drag down our city center often gets completely backed up the whole length. The city even built north and south bypasses to relieve some of the stress. I wonder if simply removing all the traffic signals would be helpful?

Individual approaches achieved an emergent sense of safety. And the woman who initially thought it would be a terrible solution gleefully changed her mind when what was normally a 20 minute trip home became 5 minutes.

Traffic lights are one of those things we just know are required for safe driving. – that without them there would be chaos. But, at least in certain areas, they may actually reduce traffic and road rage.

Being able to accept this counter-intuitive idea requires quite a large shift in perspective, a lot of courage and a real willingness to believe that the ‘common sense’ view could be wrong.

I would not have thought this would work but the success seen in the British city and the obvious enthusiasm of the residents is pretty amazing. And people were making  eye contact and waving to each other – showing real courtesy.

The stats show that before the light shut-off, 1700 cars went through the main intersection every hour with tremendous delays. Now, over 2000 cars go through an hour with no traffic lights. In 8 months, only 2 fender-benders and no injuries or pedestrian accidents.

Many people would not be willing to accept the bursting of this particular Cargo Cult World but these films have convinced me that it might be worth a shot in some areas.

3 thoughts on “Getting rid of traffic lights makes for safer intersections

  1. Interesting. Living in the UK it is frustrating sitting at traffic lights but you take it for granted.

    Having spent a lot of time in India where the roads are less ‘organised’ and fewer traffic lights there’s also lots more accidents, but I guess that’s more down to driver training.

    1. Depends on what you call *accidents*. Do you mean ones with serious injuries where they take a trip to the hospital or do you mean a bunch of fender benders at low speeds (less then 15mph) as people try to go around one another?

      Even though NO accident is good there IS a MAJOR difference between the two especially for those effected.

  2. It sad that this world is heavily interested in more laws and regulations.

    Once you put yourself in the mindset of “I want the scumbag driver to suffer” your no better off then that scumbag as you’ll never find peace no matter what the police do to favor you.

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