Eight in 10 traffic lights ‘should be ripped out’ over concerns they are detrimental to road safety, the economy and the environment.
That is the conclusion of a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which says that an ‘alternative approach’ – shared space – can improve road safety without the ‘colossal costs’ associated with traffic lights.
‘Seeing Red: Traffic Controls and the Economy’ concludes that a two-minute delay to every car journey equates to a loss of approximately £16bn every year.
The report advocates the use of shared space schemes which involve the removal of conventional traffic infrastructure such as traffic lights, road markings and bollards.
The authors argue that evidence demonstrates that when regulations are removed, including the ‘unfair rules’ that give some vehicles priority over others, drivers behave with more consideration to other road users, improving safety and allowing traffic to flow more smoothly.
There are plans to introduce shared spaces in some UK towns, including Bodmin where almost two thirds of people who attended an exhibition on the scheme supported the proposed plans.
The authors point to a number of case studies, including Ashford, where they claim there was a 41% fall in injury accidents in the first three years after a shared space scheme was introduced.
However, there is strong opposition to the shared space concept. A report prepared by Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE claimed they cause ‘confusion, chaos and catastrophe’.
The IEA report, published on 25 January, reveals that the number of traffic lights in England has increased by 25% since 2000. By comparison, vehicle traffic rose by 5%, and the length of the road network by just 1.3% in the same period.
Dr Richard Wellings, head of transport at the IEA, said: “For too long policymakers have failed to make a cost-benefit analysis of a range of regulations – including traffic lights, speed cameras and bus lanes – making life a misery for drivers nationwide.
“It’s quite clear that traffic management has spread far beyond the locations where it might be justified, to the detriment of the economy, environment and road safety.
“The evidence of shared space schemes shows the transformational benefits of less regulated approach, whilst the removal of a high proportion of traffic lights would deliver substantial economic and social benefits.”
Photo: Stu Smith (via Flickr)