One of my photos

Turn left

June 12th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Politics · 5 Comments · Life, Politics

That last post about Cheals roundabout reminded me about the recent mad scheme from John Redwood about ‘improving’ traffic – the one about allowing left turns at red traffic lights.

It might work back on his planet, but I can’t see it working here. Ok so they do it in America, but America has very simple road layouts compared to the UK. No roundabouts anywhere, and most junctions are plain crossroads, with far fewer pedestrians and cyclists than we have. Turning left (or right in their case) at a red light is a lot more feasible over there, but even so only some states allow it: most do not.

If those other states think its not a good idea, with their simple roads, why should anyone think it would be a good idea with all our contraflows, one-way systems, 6-way junctions and cycle lanes to the left of the car lanes in some cases?

You can just see what would happen. The Highway Code would say something like “you can turn left at a red traffic light unless otherwise indicated and provided that the road is clear” and nobody would remember it past the word “light”. Knowing that you can turn left, you would be tempted to not even slow down when you see the lights are changing.

At the moment, if you want to turn left, you have to give right of way to anyone crossing the road, but that gets ignored. The only thing which makes some pedestrians feel safe is the green man telling them it is safe to cross. At the moment the green man means that traffic lights are stopping cars from coming so you can cross. In the future it would mean nothing.

The gist of the proposals is this: move bikes onto the pavement, move motorbikes, milk floats and taxis into the bus lanes and make traffic signals more of a guideline than an instruction. Its hardly going to encourage me to walk more, or take the bus if its going to be stuck behind any vehicle deemed to be getting in the way.

Going back to my previous point about risk compensation, all these proposals would achieve would be to increase danger by persuading drivers that it is safe to go too fast.

There is an argument that all the safety features in cars, like air-bags, crumple zones and the like make drivers feel invulnerable, leading them to take more risks as there is less perceived danger. I don’t think anyone is likely to carry out a full-scale test on this, but I suspect that if you fitted 100 cars with drivers-side airbags and another 100 cars with a bloody great spike in the middle of the steering wheel, the latter group would be driven much more carefully… I know I would go even slower than I already do most of the time. Anyway, thats the reductio ad absurdum version of the argument: I am not actually proposing huge spikes on car steering wheels, except for BMWs. Obviously. And maybe on Fastway buses. Might make their drivers pay a bit more attention.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • E Bungle

    for me the biggest problem with this policy especially as far as Crawley is concerned is that people don’t like to indicate, so that car coming towards you may well be looking to turn right but can’t be bothered to indicate.

    it is a good policy, only! if we can trust every one to be a good driver.

  • Danivon

    It’s not just Crawley where people don’t indicate – it’s a national disease.

    Having driven in the US, where you can turn right on a red, it’s very confusing and it intimidates pedestrians. Like we (we are all pedestrians) aren’t marginalised enough by cars and other vehicles already.

  • Skuds

    If we could trust everyone to be a good driver (careful, considerate, polite, etc.) we would not need any rules, signals, speed limits etc. at all.

    I have walked and driven in the US. Driving felt a whole lot safer!

    Any info on what happened to the Cheals vegetation?

  • Richard W. Symonds

    Ever tried riding a bike in the US ?

  • Danivon

    I’ve no idea on Cheals. I only noticed it the other day myself.