back to article Traffic-light plague sweeps UK: Safety culture strangles Blighty

A massive increase in the number of traffic lights – and an un-discussed 2005 increase in the priority given to pedestrians – is gradually causing the roads to grind to a halt, according to a new report. In London for instance, despite a large number of motorists having been permanently deterred from driving by congestion …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be interested to see flow figures from Oxford Circus

    as it always seems to me that the much-lauded X-crossing doesn't make much difference to pedestrian journeys, while slowing down the road traffic. The period between X-crossing shutdowns is so long that it's quicker to just cross two sides of the junction exactly as before, and when those X-crossing shutdowns do happen, no traffic can move at all.

    1. Kay Burley ate my hamster

      But it's mostly Cabs and Buses

      It's mostly Cabs and Buses, would motorists make more than one or two passes through in a day? I'm sure if they took a deep breath (OK maybe not with the Cab pollution) they could stand it and not go Clarkson on everyone.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Oxford Circus

      The main benefit of the X-crossing as a pedestrian is that the pavement nearby is no longer so over crowded. IMO it is a big improvement over what was there before.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When will the electorate and politicians realise....

      Every new traffic light comes with an obvious continuing cost! It is not the purchase cost alone but these damn things have to be powered, serviced and replaced in time. I can't recall ever having seen a traffic light or other similar piece of street furniture being removed and not replaced with something more costly or complicated... Why!!! IT requires taxes and people. While ever we continue with this lunacy public service expenditure will never be properly controlled

      I've no doubt that some folks do need extended time to cross and that some systems are essential for safety or effectiveness but how many systems are put in because 'Lives *might* be lost if we don't and then who would be liable....'

      Perhaps I'm just getting cynical with age...

  2. handle

    Motorists pay for the roads?

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads."

    Oh no they don't. Please don't fall into that trap.

    1. DavCrav


      "Oh no they don't. Please don't fall into that trap."

      Drivers pay tax in order to drive, which goes into general taxation. A small proportion of that money goes to pay roads, out of general taxation. While the money isn't technically the same, it's a little disingenuous to claim that because it all goes in the pot, it all becomes the same money. It's like moaning about smokers costing the NHS billions and then conveniently forgetting the fact that smokers pay for 15% of the NHS.

      1. pmonk

        Road tax (fail)

        So since I pay VED, but generally cycle, does that mean I get special treatment? Or since my higher income tax means I pay for proportionally more road use, does that make me special?

        Actually, the VED is intended to be related to the pollution that drivers make everybody live in (and cycle in).

        So the argument is perfectly correct.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stopped traffic is congested traffic

    I complained to the Department of Transport a couple of years ago, pointing out that most traffic lights are set to change too quickly. This means that the traffic is stopped for longer, which equates to congested traffic,

    The number of lights that give traffic no more that 15 seconds before changing is significant, and has an adverse effect on the traffic. Quite simply, if the lights change twice a minute, then there are twice as many stationary cars, as if they changed once a minute.

    Priority should be given on getting traffic out of congestion zones.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You can complain for all it is worth

      The policy was to _INCREASE_ the revenue:

      The Dft in the previous government refused to sponsor schemes for relieving congestion that were reducing revenue from tax on burned fuel unless the reduction was offset via a similar reduction to council, etc budget subsidies from having new (congestion charges) revenue.

      You can continue complaining for all it is worth, but this policy has only been softened. It has never been officially repealed and the current government has not openly stated that it will stop doing that.

  4. petur


    Over here (Belgium) they like to introduce roundabouts, removing traffic lights. And the country of origin of roundabouts (?) is moving away from them.

    All together: :)

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Even worse...

      ... we now have roundabouts with traffic lights on them!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wasn't there a suspicion that Red Ken had deliberately faked the lights to cause congestion as a way to justify the congestion change?

    Another option, at very busy junctions, might be "grade separation", i.e. build pedestrian and/or cycle bridges and underpasses. That way there would be no hold ups at lights.

    Of course, that presupposes cyclists would use them. Round here they ignore cycle lanes and red lights equally, preferring to toddle along in the middle of the road annoying everyone. Why is there never an HGV when you need one?

    1. DaveyDaveDave

      Cyclists ignoring cycle lanes

      In my (limited) experience, that's because it's very likely that the cycle lane either:

      - doesn't go anywhere useful

      - goes where you want, but forces you to use 3-sides of a 4-way intersection, rather than just turning right with the traffic

      - is so full of potholes/draincovers/rubbish that you're safer on the road

      - or - most commonly - is completely ignored by the other road users, who are either parked on it or walking in it

      I've cycled to work for various jobs, and almost always got used to ignoring the cycle lane for part of the journey for at least one of the above reasons.

      I've also never seen a cyclist 'toddling along in the middle of the road'. What I do see frequently though is drivers who are completely unaware of the width of their cars sticking behind a cyclist who they could easily pass without even troubling their steering wheel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        >What I do see frequently though is drivers who are completely unaware of the width of their cars

        >sticking behind a cyclist who they could easily pass without even troubling their steering wheel.

        So true! The number of car drivers who seemed convinced they're actually driving buses or HGVs, needing the full width of the *oncoming* lane to overtake a cyclist, is staggering :)

        1. MonkeyBot

          Re: Width of a cycle

          The reason they do that is because the highway code states:

          "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)"

          On a similar note for cyclists at junctions:

          "Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb."

          We don't need new traffic rules to stop cyclists getting squished at junctions, we need to make cyclists follow the highway code... or just do nothing and let natural selection work it's magic.

          Personally, I'd like to point out to motorcyclists heading towards Lincoln that the sweet spot between staying in my slipstream and keeping to the right to be in an overtaking position also happens to be my blind spot. After 10 miles of that shit it's 50/50 whether I knock off your bike just to prove a point. Overtake or back the fuck off.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I can't see why drivers might think they need to do that ...

      2. Your Retarded


        Whilst I am both a cyclist and a motorist, I am usually pro-bike in most discussions about road priority and so on. However I have on several occasions observed or been held up by cyclists choosing to deliberately ride two abreast in the middle of the carriageway in order to hold up other traffic and cause the maximum amount of inconvenience.

        When you see a queue of 20+ cars behind cyclists who are out of the saddle, toiling up a steep hill at less than 10mph there is no reasoning to excuse them. They aggravate the motorist/cyclist issues unneccesarily and have no place on the road.

        So, not all cyclists are angels. There are often factors that come into play as discussed above, cycle lanes and allowances are not always what they are cracked up to be. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the actions and attitude of a few are spoiling the experience of road use for others.

      3. Anton Ivanov

        Yeah especially if the cyclist doges a pothole

        As someone already noticed somewhere else on this thread most potholes are bang in the middle of where cyclists cycle. A cyclist which is being overtaken too closely cannot dodge 'em and will go in and fall under you car.

        So despite the fact that I usually drive one of the narrowest superminis on the UK market (an old Sirion), despite the fact that I am aware of the width of my car down to sub-10cm (the clearance from my mirrors to the brick in the driveway is sub-10 on either side at the narrowest and I have parked it in it for 7 years now) , I will still wait for a clear road and give a cyclist at least 1m clearance while overtaking it. Better be safe than sorry.

        In any case, Lewis is attributing all of this to the wrong reason. Any traffic scheme anywhere in the UK under Blair and Brown had to provide a guarantee that the revenue to the crown from VED will not decrease or if it will decrease it will be offset by other revenue and appropriate subsidy decrease to the local authority. Some of these have come to light like the pan-UK Green Wave prohibition (on the beeb) and the DfT conditions on the Cambridge congestion charging proposals (multiple times in the local Cambridge rag). Others will come out sooner or later.

        The Congestion charge decreased congestion so VED take dropped. That had to come from somewhere and the Mayor office obliged. The "pedestrian safety" provided a good excuse. No point to look for other evil reasons for this when this one is known, has already come up on investigating other attempts to tackle congestion and is enough.

    2. paulc

      faked the lights?

      "Wasn't there a suspicion that Red Ken had deliberately faked the lights to cause congestion as a way to justify the congestion change?"

      they did the pre-congestion charge traffic surveys in a week during term time and the post congestion charge traffic surveys during the school holidays when the school runs weren't happening

  6. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Road Tax?!

    The title of the report points out the problem, there are a hell of a lot of motorists on our roads who would rather endanger peoples lives than wait a few seconds.

    There is no such thing as Road Tax, there is Vehicle Excise Duty which does not pay for roads, they are paid for by general taxation. This of course means that cyclists and pedestrians pay just as much for the roads as the motorists who " destroy, and block up" them.

    Also one of the big reasons for increased congestion has been Thames Water, who after years of putting off digging up our streets were forced to complete their works over a relatively short period.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fuel duty

      as I recall it together with VED raises far more than is spent on the roads

      however since I both use a car and walk on the pavements as do, I suspect, most motorists - I never understand why they complain about pedestrian/cyclists not paying :s

      It is strange those motorist who must save a few seconds - they seem to want to break the 30/40/50 limit - but when on 70 limit usually at or below

    2. MonkeyBot

      So where's the £46bn going?

      As someone who pays VED and also looks out for cyclists (I can't afford the repairs), which service would you like to thank me for subsidising?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What I suspect contributors mean is....

      The tax take from the combination of VED and fuel duty more than outweighs the amount of money spent on roads in maintenance or construction and, in consequence, powered vehicle users/owners contribute to carriageway infrastructure to a substantially greater extent that pedestrians and cyclists, for example.

    4. Russell Howe
      Thumb Up


      Also don't forget there are some pretty major construction projects on at the moment in London. Crossrail, the olympics and the Shard, to mention just 3. The number of private cars in central London on my commute from N16 to W1D seems insignificant compared to buses, taxis and commercial vans/lorries.

  7. Steven Jones

    Easy enough for a cyclist to turn left at red legally

    In fact it's very easy for a cyclist to turn left (legally) at a red light. Simply get off the bike (before any pedestrian barriers) and push it round the corner. I'd particularly recommend it over trying to cycle down the inside of heavy vehicles.

    On of the advantages of cyclists is that they can readily turn themselves into pedestrians subject only to their being space on the pavement (or sidewalk - a more logical name).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Surprisingly illegal

      It's no more legal to get off your bike and push it round the corner against a red light (whether you use the pavement or not) than it is to get out of your car and push that . I was told this by a prosecuting solicitor with a special interest in road traffic law. Of course, you're unlikely to be prosecuted for it.

      Additionally, if motorists turning at junctions obeyed the law by giving priority to pedestrians then we wouldn't need pedestrian phases.

      1. Axel
        Thumb Down

        Pushing a bike on a footway or footpath is legal

        That prosecutor was misinformed. The Court of Appeal ruled in 1980 that anyone pushing a bicycle is a "foot-passenger" (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441) and is not "riding" it (Selby).

        In his judgment in the Court of Appeal in Crank v Brooks, Waller LJ said: "In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a 'foot passenger'. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a 'foot passenger'. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand."

      2. David 30

        Unsurprisingly not

        Not true - while pushing your bike you're considered a 'foot passenger', legally no different from someone without a bike. If you were to put one foot on a pedal and push along the pavement with the other, that would be illegal, as is using a scooter on the pavement.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        RE:Surprisingly illegal

        Pedestrians don't have priority in the UK... Dispite what some think they have just as much responsibility as any other road user.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Don't represent yourselves in court

          I'm the original "Surprisingly illegal" AC.

          First, the Crank v Brooks case is irrelevant. I'm not talking about a pedestrian pushing a cycle, but a cyclist who chooses to masquerade as a pedestrian to evade a traffic signal. If you can't see the difference, consider the importance of intent. N.B. If cyclists weren't ordinarily treated the same as other traffic this case would never have arisen.

          Second, a quote from the 23:15 AC's linked highway code page: "If you have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, you have priority and they should give way".

          1. Paul 4
            Thumb Down

            If you want to play that game...

            "If traffic is coming, let it pass. Look all around again and listen. Do not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and you are certain that there is plenty of time."

            You said "if motorists turning at junctions obeyed the law by giving priority to pedestrians then we wouldn't need pedestrian phases". They don't. They should not walk out in to the road when they will not make it across without causing a car to stop, or cross where visability is limited, however the law says that if you do cross and a car that was not visable comes you have right of way, not that pedestrians have priority over cars. You are willfully missinterprating the highway code.

            An equivelent would be where cars are parked restricting a road to one lane. The car who's lane is free has right of way, but if a car pulls out round the parked cars befor another car appears then they have priority.

        2. 5.antiago

          Highway Code = law?


          Pedestrians don't have priority in the UK... Dispite what some think they have just as much responsibility as any other road user."

          Your statement is a bit wrong. Pedestrians do have priority, in two different meanings of the word priority (and it's not clear exactly which way you are meaning it).

          They have priority in terms of "right of way" - as soon as a pedestrian steps on the road they have right of way and other road users are legally obliged to avoid them. I'm sure there are legal conditions to this i.e. not knowingly acting in a way that predictably might cause an accident by stepping out unexpectedly, but in general pedestrians are the protected group. The Highway Code might have a bunch of rules for pedestrian, but most of them are actually just guidelines.

          Also, the article uses the term priority within the context of traffic lights, which is different from how you are using the word priority (I think). What the article is saying in fact is that pedestrians DO have priority and it's causing jams.

          You've linked to the Highway Code but that's mostly not law, just sense. The only laws for pedestrians on your link are marked with "do not/must not" in bold (and a legal reference), the rest are just to keep safe and to guide courts in establishing liability for accidents and insurance purposes. It says so in the introduction to the Code itself

      4. Adam-the-Kiwi

        Re: Surprisingly illegal

        That is technically true, since, according to the Road Traffic Act 1988, traffic lights or road signs apply to "a person driving or propelling a vehicle". A cyclist pushing a bike is propelling a vehicle.

        If, however, you pick your bike up and walk it across the junction, you're fine. There is case law to support this, but I can't find it at the moment.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      I think you will find you need to be arrying the bike for this to be legal - if you push it, it is still a vehicle. If you carry it, you are a pedestrian and the bike is a parcel.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A more logical name

      Oh yes, because I walk sideways on the pavement all the time.

      It's called a pavement because it's paved. The name dates to a time when roads were mud or cobbles and the paved area (quicker to lay but not good for weight [unless you're a Roman]) was for pedestrians (or more logically, 'walkers').

      Are you American?

      1. Richard Steiner

        Sidewalk = walking pavement on side of road.

        The term "sidewalk" makes perfect sense on this side of the pond, especially considering that "pavement" is a generic term for both roads and pedestrian areas over here.

      2. Steven Jones

        Pavement vs Sidewalk

        Originally a pavement simply meant a hard, paved surface which could be used for road traffic or walking. Indeed there was little difference at one point. It is therefore an ambiguous term. Sidewalk is quite logical in this respect (not all American usages are so supportable).


        As for it being illegal for a cyclist to get off their bike and push it round a corner at a red light, then I'd like some case law? Does that hold true for getting off a bike and crossing over to the other side to avoid a no right turn sign? What the highway code says (and I know this is not a definition of law as such) is that a cyclist cannot cross the stop line at a red light. However, I'm not suggesting that - in the case I'm referring to you would be getting off the bike before the junction, not at the junction.

        Of course, do it right at the junction and it's a bit more questionable, but I'd like to hear of cases. Indeed in some circumstances the Highway Code actually recommends getting off your bike and pushing it on safety grounds, albeit not under these precise circumstances. It would be a distinctly perverse law for prosecuting somebody for getting off their bike and pushing it round the corner in order to avoid being alongside a lorry or bus. Of course there are many cyclists that pay no head of red signals anyway or, for that matter, about the rules regarding not cycling on the pavement.

        Incidentally, for those who want to try it, there is case law for motorists being found guilty of going through a red light by nipping through a garage forecourt at a junction by a traffic light. This is not advisable, not least because garages have CCTV...

      3. Axel
        Thumb Down

        That's not true.

        The Court of Appeal ruled in 1980 that anyone pushing a bicycle is a "foot-passenger" (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441) and is not "riding" it (Selby).

        In his judgment in the Court of Appeal in Crank v Brooks, Waller LJ said: "In my judgment a person who is walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle, having started on the pavement on one side on her feet and not on the bicycle, and going across pushing the bicycle with both feet on the ground so to speak is clearly a 'foot passenger'. If for example she had been using it as a scooter by having one foot on the pedal and pushing herself along, she would not have been a 'foot passenger'. But the fact that she had the bicycle in her hand and was walking does not create any difference from a case where she is walking without a bicycle in her hand."

        1. Paul Powell

          Er - no

          The judgement you have posted clearly refers to someone who is "Walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing a bicycle"

          That does not broaden automatically to "anyone pushing a bicycle is a foot passenger". It's even qualified with "having started on the pavement on one side on her feet". How would that ever apply to someone who is starting on the road?

  8. The Indomitable Gall

    Benefits to wheeled traffic and pedestrians

    "Approximately half of all UK traffic lights are at junctions, and thus potentially offer some benefits to wheeled traffic as well as pedestrians (though this may only be true at certain times of day, or in many instances not at any time for either motorists or pedestrians). The other 50 per cent of lights are purely for pedestrians' benefit, being situated at crossings."

    I would say that pelican crossings are of vast benefit to vehicular traffic in busy urban areas, more so than to pedestrians

    Why? Because the only real alternative is a zebra crossing, where pedestrians have priority 100% of the time. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been confounded by a constant stream of pedestrians leading to traffic being blocked for several minutes at a time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What about those lights that only turn red when (they think) there's nothing coming?

      We have a lot of those round here. They give the impression of being completely useless as I always end up crossing the road before the lights have done anything. Sometimes I hear them beeping in the distance behind me, after I've already crossed. Sometimes they actually stop cars half a minute after I've used a gap in the traffic to cross.

      They should get rid of the radar detector and go back to the simple timer algorithm. I'd be willing to wait for the lights to change if there were some fixed upper bound on how long I'll have to wait.

      1. Test Man


        I have experienced them too. They are all pointless as they don't actually stop traffic but do as you described, only change the lights when there is no traffic, thus rendering them completely useless.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Errrr, motorists pay, cyclists/pedestrians don't??

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. [ ... ] cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free."

    As far as I understood, it's our council-tax which pays for the road infrastructure; not the VED

    1. bothwell

      @council tax

      If I were able to 'use the facilities for free' then I would expect a sizable discount on my council tax.

      The local council, however, is unlikely to agree.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        pedestrians use the facilities for free! ODFO

        Driving is a privileged NOT a right. People have a RIGHT to walk where they please car drivers are licensed to make use of these facilities, Pedestrians do not have to pass any test's to make use of the roads, Pedestrians have priority at ALL junctions (except motorway junctions and that still doesn't mean you can run them over) if a pedestrian chooses to cross the road then it is YOUR responsibility to stop your vehicle and allow them to do so, when you took your driving test you were proving that you are capable and responsible to drive safely under these conditions. If you have any objections to driving under these conditions give up your driving license NOW do not imagine pedestrians including small children will obey rules so that you can drive faster. You are a GUEST licensed to make use of the pedestrians domain.

        (P.S. I agree that poorly timed traffic lights are a problem, just not as much of a problem as loutish driving attitudes encouraged by the like of Jeremy Clarkson)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          truth hurts

          It's funny that 5 people don't like your truth, and cannot understand the legality.

          Signing for your driving licence you also sign up for an extra subset oflaws which can only be applied if you agree to it - guess how you agree?

          Which is also the reason why cyclists cannot be done for breaking the speed limit, only done so by other offences - dangerous cycling etc even then it needs to be proved to be dangerous.

          What also gets to me - is people are giving money to the government (VED) and have NO IDEA what it is for...

          PS. I don't think Jeremy Clarkson has such a loutish driving attitude, what he says is entertainment and to rile people who are too sensitive. Do you think he actually drives like this on the road? Probably not - my guess because of his position etc he would be more careful about being caught out etc etc. As for "the followers beleive him", most of them would be twats regardless.

    2. Steven Jones

      Central Government Grant

      Road maintenance for non-trunk roads is financed by a central government grant to local authorities amount to £831m from what I remember. I think another £100m is being handed over to fix this seasons potholes.

      So generally it's not the council tax that pays for road maintenance. Of course motorists pay far more in tax than is spent on the roads. However, it's not terribly important - the rights that people have to use the highways are enshrined if law, and it doesn't much matter who pays for them.

      Of course we also tend not to have hypothecated taxes in the UK, with the exception of the TV license fee. Once NI amounted to a hypothecated tax, but no more. (Although a few have crept in recently, these are relatively minor). So the taxation of motorists is treated as general taxation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        less tax


        Motorists pay far less tax than is spent on the roads, you do have to remember there is much more than laying a bit of tarmac, DfT and many other sources have calculated all this and its running at a few billion deficit.

        It's a socialist system, we all pay - imagine all them people that don't drive, or people that live no where near motorways which cost much more in upkeep. But it's the same with healthy people and the NHS etc but I don't think I would see it any other way.

        Ideally we need to scrap VED, electronic setups means MOT/Insurance can be checked automatic without any visual identifiers. If they really want one, they could just make insurers supply a docket instead (which is what I think happens in Ireland?). Scrap VED... scrap the enforcement and administration of it - its not as if Police will give you points for no VED, no MOT and no Insurance combined (its usually just one of the few offences, just like 2 bald tyres is 3x3pts yet most people will just get 3). Put an extra 1p on duty. Then we actually pay for what we use... and if we want to save, we use more efficent cars.

        It's very hard to get motorists to see why its a silly idea that car taxes should be ring fenced... Imagine tobacco duty paying for smokers lounges, or alcohol duty paying for open houses...

    3. The First Dave

      @AC 14:47

      The exact mechanism that gets money from the motorist to the road-menders isn't important, the point is that cyclists do not contribute directly, do not have insurance, and have no business undertaking vehicles to reach an "Advanced Stop Line", and more than motorcycles have a right to use the white line as an extra lane simply because the remaining traffic is only doing 50 MPH...

  10. Nadjau


    The countdown indicators at major pedestrian crossings in Singapore work well.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Green in other ways, too

    It has never failed to amaze me that the holding of traffic, particularly in town scenarios, has a particularly detrimental effect.

    Most combustion engined vehicles are at their most polluting, and fuel consuming whilst the engine is running but the vehicle is at rest.

    Having lived abroad in Germany, Netherlands and France, I can confirm that the 'flashing amber' crossings present very few issues: just a case of using the rules of the road in that locale. Germany, in particular, would 'reward' careful driving by giving a driver a green light, largely through each junction, if they drive at or slightly below the speed limit - Very efficient and effective.

  12. EddieD

    No they don't

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads"

    Complete bollocks. The road networks are paid for by everyone, whether they drive or not, as they are paid out of general taxation, of which VED/FDE are a small component.

    Hell, even as far back as Winston Churchill in the early 30s this was the case - I know the RAC foundation is a throwback to a more primitive time, but even they must be able to catch up sooner or later.

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    1. Anonymous Coward

      No requirement to stop

      There is no *requirement* to stop when someone is stood by the side of the road at a zebra crossing, you should be *prepared* to stop and *must* stop for anyone already on the crossing.

      1. Graeme 7

        A leap of faith

        Does that mean that at zebra crossings I have to jump out in front of your car and just hope you stop?

        I tried that once when I was 3 but my mum and the driver (probably not you) weren't terribly happy with me apparently following the rules of the road. After all I was on the crossing before the car got there.

        1. M A Walters

          Zebra crossings

          Technically correct, although most drivers will stop before a pedestrian steps out and most pedestrians will wait till the driver stopped:

          Highway Code Section 195

          Zebra crossings. As you approach a zebra crossing

          - look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross

          - you MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing

          Note the "when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing"

          1. Steve Loughran

            And rule 170?

            Highway code Rule 170 says turning cars are meant to give way to pedestrians who are already out there: "watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way"

            Anyone being strict about zebra crossing rules must also be expected to stop for pedestrians already crossing. Try that in London and the taxi behind will go into the back of you. then get irate/

            1. Mark 65

              Highway Code

              Not sure about this instance, but isn't it the case that the highway code is a set of guidelines of which some, but not all, are based upon underlying laws or acts?

          2. Steven Jones

            Literal readings...

            I wouldn't try the "he/she hadn't stepped on the zebra crossing" line with a policeman or magistrate. Anyway, as a pedestrian there's an easy way to settle it. Just put your toe onto the crossing far enough to be seen, not far enough to be run over.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          re: A leap of faith

          S25 of Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997/2400

          Basically yes, pedestrians do have to take a deep breath and step out. The Highway Code requirements are a 'should' rather than a 'must'.

          That said, you'd hope that you don't need to legislate basic common sense...

          Mine's the one with the PCN and 3 points in the pocket

      2. MrCheese


        Hope you don't hold hold a license with that knowledge

        1. Evan Essence

          Yes, really

          Rule 195 here:

  15. Jamie Kitson

    Oh Boo Hoo!

    God forbid that pedestrians should be given priority over cars.

    1. Martin 19
      Paris Hilton

      God forbid that we realise that cars contain people;

      and most of the time (outside London at least) a particular crossing will be set to give the one person who might cross per hour a good half minute to traverse the several yards of road, while keeping a couple of hundred people in cars/lorries/buses waiting at a red light.

      1. Brezin Bardout

        Half a minute per hour?

        I didn't realise drivers had it so bad. How do you cope?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        get priority for a reason... well 2 really.

        As a driver you are, in theory, trained in the rules of the road. You have been tested on this and licensed. A pedestrian can be anyone, with no knowledge whatsoever.

        Secondly, in a collision, the pedestrian is generally going to be worse off!

    2. Mike Richards

      Kind of worrying

      That all these proposals for flashing lights, drivers proceeding on their own judgement or allowing turning on red don't do anything for pedestrian safety.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        @Mike Richards

        The evidence from other countries suggests otherwise, even in countries like Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, and Belgium, all of which have quite poor (very poor in the case of Belgium!) standards of driving compared to Britain.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    SO what

    I live in London, i walk and don't drive and I catch Bus's - what is the problem!

    Seriously a report from a motoring group is hardly unbiased now is it.

    Lets ignore all the rubber neckers who cause delays. Let us also ignore idiots who insist a hatched junction can double as a free carpark and lets also ignore the idiots who crash and casue a accident and as such delays.

    More delays due to idiots on the road than anything else - always has been always will be.

    Let us also ignore cyclists and motorbike's who according to this report don't exist, I'm sure they like the lights as they are in general - just the other road users that casue them problems.

    Seriously you can all suck it up and walk for all I care.

  17. Malcolm 5


    "and pedestrians to red-man signals" of course red-man signals have a different status that the other indications listed; it is legal for a pedestrian (and a cyclist at a toucan) to cross against a red man/bike.

  18. skellious

    I for one welcome flashing amber lights

    I'm a pedestrian, I used to drive but for the last few months, due to moving from countryside to city, I no longer do so. A lot of taxis in particular basically ignore red lights by creeping so far over the stop line as to make it pointless. if they could be encouraged to replicated this behaviour with blinking amber lights, stop would MEAN stop and the rest of the time they could keep moving and save their petrol. I also agree that any area where you can see all pedestrian crossings clearly would benefit from replacing crossing phases with pedestrian-priority phases. (clearly such could not be the case with blind corners)

    Most of the time I just cross the road using the good old green cross code, and I've only been hit twice!

    I shall watch the developments with interest.

  19. EC

    Other views

    Lewis, you've done a great job of reporting on the RAC's report. How about some alternate views, perhaps from Sustrans, the IAM or RoSPA?

  20. harimanjaro

    Who pays?

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads"

    Vehicle Excise Duty goes into the big bucket of tax revenue that pays for our hospitals, wars, roads, MPs expenses and everything else. There is no hypothecation, we all pay for the roads through general taxation.

    So there.


  21. Jim Wormold

    No such thing as an actual Road Tax since the 1930's

    Everyone pays road tax (as in a tax that is ring-fenced for highway maintenance) as part of their council tax.

    I presume that the "road tax" referred to in the article is actually Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

  22. Anonymous Coward

    It's not so much the number of traffic lights ...

    it's the brain dead way they're (not) linked up.

    There is NOTHING more frustrating than having a traffic light go green, only to be stopped 20 yards on by a red pedstrian traffic light (with the road beyond clear). And then having the pedestrian light go green, while your traffic light - wait for it - goes red.

    Surely, they could all be linked into a hyper-grid, and we'd maximise road throughput.

    1. voshkin


      Red light after a green light are specifically designed for traffic "calming" - read traffic creating.

      - especially noticeable on a straight stretch of the A41 - light goes green, by the time people fiddle around with handbrakes and gears, and accelerate enough to reach the second traffic light, it is red.

      if the timing would be adjusted to sync the lights - the cars would flow in a stream, much faster than 15-20 MPH as they do currently (in a 40 MPH zone)

      1. Ben Tasker

        In Ipswich

        they do this deliberately, they monitor the traffic in the town centre and if they *think* it may at risk of getting congested the lights on the main roads leading in are instructed to slow everyone down.

        It's frigging annoying, especially if you reach the centre to find little to no traffic (which of course is proof that it works and not that someone forgot to flip the switch back).

        To be fair, I think it may be automated rather than requiring a fleshling but that's what they're doing down this way

    2. Graeme Coates
      Thumb Down


      This is the whole idea behind SCOOT systems (having computer controlled linked systems) - but it's all a load of rubbish as more often than not, it's not implemented correctly in the first place, or plainly doesn't work (or is *designed* not to work).

      Google "Abingdon Integrated Transport Scheme" for an example of how to turn a flowing one way system in a 400 year old market town into an unpredictable and often gridlocked mess, killing all life in the town centre as a side-effect.

      1. David 30

        Life on Mars

        To be fair, all life in Abingdon town centre was dead long before the traffic system was changed.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Don't worry...

    With the wave of revolutions spreading through Libya (2Mbpd), Egypt (0.5Mbpd), Algeria (2.5Mbpd) and Oman (0.8Mbpd) and maybe soon Saudi Arabia (8 Mbpd) amongst several others (Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain have all seen fatal riots) then

    $112 /barrel oil (In Stirling terms nearly equal to the price peak of 2008) will seem like a fond memory.

    Congestion will also be a distant memory. I have commuted by bicycle for the last 10 years. It is quicker than driving in my home town. I am trading in my car for one that does 82mpg.

    I recommend you do the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ...a 1 1/2 hour bike ride (each way), in the rain, snow and cold up some very steep hill (both directions) and trade my old car in for a brand new shiny one.

      No problem.

      All I need you to do is ask if you can wipe 10hrs of my working week, install showers at work for when I'm either covered in sweat or soaked through and a cash gift of £15k for the new car. Oh and can you get servers on the back of bikes these days?

      Now go back to the land of the Faries where everyone lives in an ideal world.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Heard that one before...

      I work with someone who did the original planning for the M25. Their conclusion was that it was too small for the amount of traffic it was going to carry. Happily, people such as yourself pointed out that with the price of oil, cars and other such things, nobody would be driving within a few years of its opening so it didn't matter.

  24. Simon Lyon
    Thumb Down

    Motorists do not pay for the streets and roads

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads."

    It's regrettable that this fallacy is still constantly promulgated in the press (paper and online).

    The Road Fund Licence" was abolished decades ago and replaced by "Vehicle Exise Duty". It is an (arguably unfair) tax on owning a car but has nothing to do with building and repairing roads. VED goes directly into the general taxation pot and is in no way ringfenced.

    Road building is funded (often these days by PPP ripoff agreements) mostly from central government funds. Road repairs are generally the responsibility of the local council, paid for out of council tax.

    In short, the fact that a car driver has been taxed for owning a car gives him or her precisely 0% more right to use the roads than anyone in or on any other form of transport.

  25. dr2chase

    We have some data here from the US

    On pedestrian deaths -- 3000 due to cars and light trucks. Bicyclists managed to kill 1 in that same year. Even accounting for our pathetic ride share, that's probably still a 30:1 safety advantage for cyclists, which suggests that perhaps they should be allowed to turn right on red, to avoid being shredded against a barrier by a lorry. It's extremely unlikely that they would kill anyone. (The video "bike messengers are on crack" demonstrates worst-case cyclist behavior, with no apparent collisions. Imagine the carnage if a car drove like that -- bikes are much safer for pedestrians.)

    I find, also, that when traffic is very heavy, if there is a safe route, that a bicycle makes much better time. I can depend on making 12mph through most conditions (icy roads limit me to 10).

    1. Jim Wormold

      Right on red?

      Are you really trying to kill the cyclists? Or did you mean left on red!

      1. dr2chase

        Left on red, yes (at least in the UK)

        Right on red here in the US.

        And there I was, careful to use "lorry" instead of "truck".

      2. Dave Bell


        It makes sense for an American. Most of the world drives on the other side of the road to us. Maybe the DoT hasn't realised.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    X-crossing - works for me

    I think the majority of crossings work this way in Edinburgh, where I live, and it's brilliant.

    Of course I'm speaking as a pedestrian, as we also have great public transport and it's not a huge city anyway.

    When I was recently in Melbourne, Australia, the crossings were infuriating. Long cycles, no x-crossings despite the grid streets, and jay-walking is illegal. Spending 5 minutes to get to the opposite corner on a quiet street was utterly utterly stupid, and made me realise that I really took x-crossings for granted.

  27. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Hidden costs

    £46bn for road and fuel tax, but what is that £15bn for. Does it include NHS expenses following a road accident? How about the cost of police and firemen dealing with an accident? Watch out for policy based evidence like "alcohol related traffic accident injuring a pedestrian" can in include a drunk pedestrian lurching under a car.

  28. Bristol Dave

    Yeah yeah, same old "no such thing as road tax" arguments - BOLLOCKS

    Yes, roads are paid for by general taxation - because no tax in this country (bar a couple of exceptions such as the congestion charge) is hypothecated.


    Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on.

    The amount that motorists pay into the "big tax pot" alone through VED and fuel tax more than pays for total expenditure on roads.

    So in effect, motorists do pay for the roads. You can't use semantics about non-hypothecated taxation to claim they don't.

    1. Kay Burley ate my hamster

      Let see if that works

      I'd be happy to have roads spending limited to the money raised by VED, the money saved from general taxation can be spent on trains and segregated cycle lanes.

    2. harimanjaro


      So if I drive a Hummer I've got more right to be on the road than someone driving a Fiat 500, just because my VED band and fuel consumption are sky-high? Hey, I earn about twice the national average, too, and pay lots more income tax as a result, so how about all these poor people getting off the road too?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re "Bollocks"

      "Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on."

      So, basically you are saying the more tax you pay, the more right you have to use the roads. So if these cyclists in London happen to be the City Banking type that earn mega money and huge bonus's, then they probably pay a lot more tax than the delivery driver in his van even taking into account VED etc, so they have even more right to use the roads 'for free' than the drivers.

    4. Graeme Coates

      Fourth power

      Road maintenance comes out of local council budgets so we do all pay for the roads, and while vehicle owners also pay VED, etc, it's not entirely true that road users pay for the majority of the cost of the roads (a big top rate earner pays more in income tax than most will spend on fuel/insurance/etc - should they get priority over one other individual?). Remember also that most cyclists also own cars, pay VED, insurance, fuel, but choose not to drive everywhere (I include myself in this category) - it's not fair to use the "I pay my road tax" argument in this situation either.

      I believe the best estimate (though there is a lot of uncertainty) on the amount of damage done to a road is something like it being proportional to the fourth power of the axle load of the vehicle. So, if you want everyone to pay proportionally for their damage to the roads, peds and cyclists alike would owe about a penny over their lifetime for every pound of VED that covers the wear caused by a car. Short of global road tolls, this is probably one of the fairer ways of paying for road maintenance.

      Of course, the road haulage industry wouldn't like this much as they would pay something like 1000-10000 times the "damage tax" compared to a car....

      1. Anonymous Coward

        City *anking Types

        If the cyclist in question is a criminally over-rewarded City *anker, then they are indeed a legitimate target for all socially responsible motor vehicle owners.

        Even for country boys like me who wouldn't dream of trying to drive in "That London". On the very rare occasions I visit, I walk. I place no trust in pedestrian crossings and assume (usually rightly) that every road user, cyclists included, will attempt to kill me a some point.

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Easier way of paying proportionately

        We already have a way of paying for roads dependant on the use and damage done. Its called fuel tax. The more you drive, the harder you corner, the more you squeal away at the lights etc. etc etc the more fuel you use, the more fuel tax you pay.

        What they should do is scrap VED which is a total waste of time. Put an insurance disk and maybe an mot disk in all cars instead of the VED and the things VED is supposed to check (valud insurance, valid mot) are shown clearly for all to see.

      3. Mark 65

        Re: Re "Bollocks"

        "So if these cyclists in London happen to be the City Banking type that earn mega money and huge bonus's, then they probably pay a lot more tax than the delivery driver in his van even taking into account VED etc"

        City bankers don't pay tax, or at least not too much. Read the articles on Barclays corporate taxation for indications of the principles.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      until you factor in that cyclists earn more...

      Although statistics show that on average cyclists earn more than non-cycling car drivers, so therefore pay more in income-tax, on average pay more in council-tax and on average own more cars (most cyclists also drive cars). So it is not at all clear from your simplistic argument that motorists pay more for the roads, and even if they did, why should this give them a greater moral right to use the roads? Should children / the elderly / the unemployed also be criticised by motorists if they try to use the roads in the same way that cyclists are (by a small but vocal minority of motorsists)?

    6. Ben Bawden


      By that logic, a lorry has more right to be on the road than a car, as the VED on that is more.

      A more polluting car has more rights on the road than a small economical one (some very efficient cars pay £0 VED).

      Someone earning £100,000 has more rights on the road than someone earning £25,000, as they pay more income tax.

      A smoker has more rights on the road than a non-smoker.

      What utter drivel.

      Also note that the majority of cyclists also own a car.

    7. Anonymous Coward

      Give it a rest

      VED: Tax on CAR ownership

      Fuel duty: Tax on fuel for CAR

      Insurance: Protection against damamge to CAR

      If you didn't own a car you'd have full use of the roads and wouldn't pay any of these so it is your agruement which is in fact bollocks.

      You're average motorist these days is full of over-inflated self-entitelment as result of the shafting he/she takes from HMG and impatient as hell despite having the fastest, easiest and most comfortable form of trasnport on the roads

      Who cares if you've got to wait another 30 seconds at the a warm, dry, private car, with your tunes fscking hoo, go get some perspective ffs

    8. Skizz


      "Motorists pay the same "general taxation" as cyclists and pedestrians do, and ADDITIONALLY they pay vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel, motor insurance premium tax, the list goes on."

      This would only be true if the cyclist didn't own a car. I guess there are a lot of cyclists that don't own cars, but then there are lots that do (and choose not to use them).

      I own a car and cycle to work. So maybe I whould have a sign saying "Own's a car too, be nice to me, I'm making your journey quicker by reducing congestion".

      Part of the idea behind fuel duty is to change behaviour - i.e. use public transport / cycle / walk / etc

    9. Bristol Dave

      Just to clarify

      I wasn't trying to suggest that motorists have more right to be on the roads than cyclists. It's a moronic sentiment and I've never used it. In fact I own a bike as well as a car and use both.

      However, if you add up total revenue form VED and fuel duty/VAT, and you take the total amount of expenditure on the roads, there's a massive surplus in tax take. So to use the "no such thing as road tax" argument to imply that motorists haven't contributed MUCH MORE than their fair share to be there is completely disingenuous.

    10. Steve Loughran

      IF you go that way, you have to look at total input

      If you start saying some road users have more rights to the road based on how much tax they paid "into the pot". then anyone on 40% tax should have right of way over anyone in the normal tax band, anyone earning in the 50% band should have rights over everyone else. and any of us walking or cycling who has left their car at home should have some hi-viz top to say "don't run me over, I paid for these roads"

      If someone in the 50% tax band, was, say, walking, they should have right of way of anyone driving who is on benefits. And only smokers should be allowed into NHS facilities.

      VED, fuel and VAT duties on cars aren't hypothecated because we all share everything else the government does.

      Can I just say I'm appalled by how ill informed this article is. Either the author or the RAC haven't noticed the near doubling in car volumes in past 15 years, and attempted to correlate that with congestion. Instead they blame traffic lights and a lack of new roads. But where do new roads go in our inner cities? They don't unless you knock them down and move the people who lived there to tower blocks. We have a name for that -Glasgow-and it still has its traffic jams.

    11. Axel
      Thumb Down

      You forget about all the other costs motorists create

      VED revenue in 2004/2005, for example, was £4.7bn

      Revenue from fuel duty in 2004/05 was £23bn.

      Total expenditure on road building and maintenance in England in the same period was £6bn.

      The economic cost of road accidents, for example, was estimated in 2004 to be some £18bn per year (DfT 2004, 5) and the cost to the British economy of road traffic congestion was estimated to be £20bn, rising to £30bn by 2010.

      Maddison, Pearce et al in The True Costs of Road Transport estimated the cost of air pollution from road transport at £19.7 billion per year

      Revenue = £27.7bn

      Costs = £63.7bn

      So, motorists are subsidized from other revenues by £36bn per year.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safety culture saves lives?

    This FIA Foundation report (data from 2005) might give a few clues to the emphasis on pedestrian crossings:

    It seems that GB has low pedestrian deaths/population at pedestrian crossings, but high pedestrian deaths/population away from crossings. GB has an overall high rate of pedestrian deaths compared to other European countries in the report.

    Presumably the statistics are all the fault of town planners who are forcing UK motorists to race between pedestrian crossings in order to maintain their average speed and arrive at work/school/shops/pub on time.

    1. Steve Loughran

      worse than that

      the primary cause for falling pedestrian deaths in the UK is the fall in the #of people walking, especially on the school run. The less pedestrians you have, the less to get run over. This isn't an improvement in safety, its a failure of the country's transport system in favour of one transport option (motor vehicles) over all others.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    I'd always just blamed corruption

    I suspected some of our local councillors had shares in a traffic light manufacturer as every new piece of roadwork seemed to be accompanied with an infeasibly large number of lights. It's like they bought 10 but got BOGOF and felt they had to use them. Lights where lights had no right to be. Pedestrian crossings where you'll get one pedestrian every 10 years.

  31. Jimmahh

    Baffles me...

    Why are pedestrians, cyclists and motorists referred to in articles/studies like these as if they're entirely different species?

    I drove to work today, but tomorrow I'll be cycling down to the station to catch the train into London and then walk from the station... I guess I must be some kind of weird one-off mongrel =P

  32. Stephane Mabille

    Disabled fault?

    "Mayor Ken's parallel policy drive to cut down the time it takes to cross the road in London, and in particular to make the streets safer for the disabled"

    So RAC solution: drive over any wheelchair, you'll be at the office 10 seconds earlier????

    1. M A Walters

      Re Disabled fault?

      That's missing the point. Is the time delay excessive or not?

      Plus, your "RAC solution" won't work: you are legally obliged to stop after an accident, so it will take longer ;-)

  33. David 45


    Having driven a lot in London, I would say there is a distinct increase in EVERYTHING! Street furniture, traffic lights, numerous multi-coloured lines on the roads, road signs galore that all drivers are supposed to take notice of whilst, at the same time, avoiding joggers wearing headphones, suicidal courier bikers and idiot pedestrians away with the fairies nattering into mobile phones, totally unaware of their surroundings. In Maidstone, my home town, I think the council have got hold a job lot of traffic lights cheaply that they just had to get rid of somewhere. They have installed them on roundabouts (rather defeating the idea of a roundabout, I feel), creating queues where there weren't queues before. How can that be an improvement? In my opinion, there are grounds for making the latest installation at a junction near a large secondary school and a special needs school, part-time, as they are really only required mornings and afternoons at school times but no - once again they now have caused new queues to form at all hours of the day. This is about half a mile from a previous abortion that was done a few years ago that was effectively a stretched roundabout on a fork in a main road, which worked amazingly well, as everybody filtered and rarely stopped. Not content with this and definitely not working on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle, traffic lights were installed, together with a pathetically short bus lane that stops short of the traffic lights, effectively giving buses no priority on the junction itself. It took forever, nearly bankrupting a row of small shops next to the junction, and now, once again, there are horrendous queues up both forks in the morning and evening rush hours stretching right back to the aforementioned new set. The combined effect and the resulting traffic jam has to be seen to be believed. I am totally bewildered as what to what thinking has been involved in the planning of these schemes whose only purpose seems to be to bring traffic to a grinding halt. I've yet to find anyone who thinks there is an improvement. Town centre is mostly pedestrianised, causing traffic to have to travel long routes around the edge of town (encountering even more traffic lights as they go) and this doesn't strike me as very "green" with all the extra fuel that's being burnt in the process but that's progress for you!

    1. mike panero

      Same here

      What's with this putting them on roundabouts?

      1. Ben Tasker

        They learn eventually

        The local council has just removed a set of lights that they stupidly placed on a roundabout, the road flows properly again now.

        Pity they haven't got that far with the other round-a-lights though.

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Cambridge similarly aflicted

      I think the excuse is that the government give them money to install and run traffic lights, unfortunately a council actually makes a small profit from this so they are encouraged to install more and more.

      You shoudl try Newmarket road in Cambridge - I believe there are something like 8 sets on a 0.8 mile stretch, at one point there are two sets of traffic lights 1.5 car lengths apart!

  34. Simon Lyon

    Bristol Dave

    As I pointed out above - most road building and repairs comes out of council tax.

    You pay VED and all the other taxes to the pestilential treasury for the privilege of owning a car.

    Very little of that money is ever spent on the roads.

    We all pay council tax equally therefore we all pay for the roads equally.

    It may be highly unfair that you have to pay all that tax *for owning a car* but it doesn't have anything to do with road building and repairs or your rights to them.

    1. Bristol Dave

      But when it's non-hypothecated

      i.e. all the tax goes into a "big pot"), what's the difference?

      I never meant to imply drivers have more right to be on the road than cyclists.

      But when the "there's no such thing as road tax" arguments over symantics (because that's all they are, symantics) are used to imply that somehow drivers haven't PAID THROUGH THE NOSE to be on them, it drives me nuts.

      1. Ben Bawden


        Some drivers complain about cyclists getting in their way and use the "I pay road tax" argument to imply that they have more rights.

        As a car owning cyclist it drives me nuts that some drivers deploy such moronic arguments.

        And in any case, apart from motorways and a few other main trunk roads, road maintenance is paid for out of local council tax and not general taxation, so cyclists pay the same amount towards that as drivers do.

      2. MrCheese

        Then it is you who've missed the point

        No right minded soul on this site would or could argue than motorists aren't royally extorted (literally) by the government for the mere priveledge of putting a car on the road, the fallacy that all that money from said extortion goes back into roads is about as accurate as saying all the tax I pay on cigarettes goes to the NHS.

      3. Your Retarded

        I agree with you Dave

        There is no concept of some road users having more 'right' to be on the road than others.

        It is however true that vehicle owners pay more for the convenience, and rightly so. Not that a reduction to fuel duty would meet with anything other than rejoicing from me.

        The roads should be designed so as to make them most efficient to all users whilst maintaining a reasonable level of safety for all users.

        And all road users should be courteous and considerate towards all other road users, and obey the rules of the road at all times.

        Then wouldn't the road be a wonderful and happy place...?

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      council tax and roads

      Council tax pays for local roads, trunk roads and motorways do NOT come from council tax.

      Council tax mainly comes from the treasury.

  35. John Robson Silver badge


    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. So far from helping pay for the infrastructure they use (and destroy, and block up), buses are heavily subsidised: cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free. But the roads budget (no more than £15bn annually) is dwarfed by the revenues received by the government from road tax and fuel duty (£46bn as of last year)."

    Please correct this drivel:

    Road tax does not exist (abolished in the 1930s), VED is based on emissions, so many motor cars pay nothing.

    Fuel duty is no more saved to pay for the roads than duty on alcohol is used to build breweries.

    The cost to the NHS/Police/Fire service of traffic "incidents" vastly outweighs any contribution from fuel duty etc. Motorists in this country are very nicely subsidised...

    Also most cyclists pay more attention to red lights than most motorists. I'm generally horrified at the number of motorists who treat amber or "just red" as green.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facts

      'Also most cyclists pay more attention to red lights than most motorists. I'm generally horrified at the number of motorists who treat amber or "just red" as green.'

      While I know that personal observation =/= scientific data, I have seen far more cyclists jumping (or completely ignoring) red lights than car drivers. Ditto continuing through pedestrian crossings and mounting the pavement to bypass traffic controls.

    2. Bristol Dave

      Sorry, but

      "Also most cyclists pay more attention to red lights than most motorists. I'm generally horrified at the number of motorists who treat amber or "just red" as green."

      Absolute and utter bollocks. Maybe it's a "Bristol" thing, but a cyclist heeding a red light is a VERY rare sight, especially during rush hour.

      If I had a pound for every time I saw a cyclist sail through a red light because, apparently, the rules don't apply to them, I'd be a very rich man indeed.

      But who are they bound to blame if they have an accident due to jumping the lights?

      1. Adam-the-Kiwi

        Re: Sorry, but

        Perhaps it is a Bristol thing. Up here in Edinburgh, there are plenty of cyclists that ignore the lights, but many more who obey them. Cars, buses, taxis, trucks and vans: nearly every change of the lights sees someone go through on amber or red. I'm sure there would be a higher percentage of vehicle drivers ignoring the lights if it wasn't for that pesky minority that obstructive stops on a red.

        The difference? Generally, the cyclists will slow down, look both ways and, once they're happy (to their own criteria for risk assessment) move through the lights slowly. Vehicle drivers will generally see a light going amber and put their foot down, often accelerating to well past the speed limit, before hurtling across the junction.

        Damn cyclists.

        Oh, and on the funding thing, Dave - I own a car and a motorcycle, so pay VED and insurance tax twice along with the fuel duty and VAT I incur when I am driving/motorbiking, and pay a lot more than average income tax. So, here is one cyclist - and there are a lot more like me - that has contibuted "MUCH MORE than their fair share".

        1. Bristol Dave
          Thumb Down

          RE: "The difference"

          "The difference? Generally, the cyclists will slow down, look both ways and, once they're happy (to their own criteria for risk assessment) move through the lights slowly. Vehicle drivers will generally see a light going amber and put their foot down, often accelerating to well past the speed limit, before hurtling across the junction."

          So if I "move through the lights slowly" in my car I can drive right through red lights too? In fact, can everyone? Thought not. But what's the difference? A car is bigger than a bike but the principles are exactly the same. If I creep through a red light it's no more dangerous in a car than it is on a bike. Hence why traffic signals (e.g. lights) apply to ALL ROAD USERS.

          By all means admit to riding through red lights as a cyclist - everyone sees cyclists do it anyway - but don't for goodness' sake try to justify it.

          1. Adam-the-Kiwi

            Reading and comprehension.

            Did I say or imply anywhere in my post either that it's OK or that I do it? I was simply pointing out that, despite all the hot air about cyclists going through red lights, more vehicles do it and do so in a much more dangerous way. For some reason many people have a massive blind spot to that, while accusing cyclists of leading the country to anarchy with their traffic-light-ignoring schemes.

            For the record, I observe all traffic signals, including the apparently optional-to-vehicles amber light.

          2. Adam-the-Kiwi

            re: Justification

            Oh, and one other thing that other cyclists can use as a reasonable justification for riding through red lights. Cyclists who do so (in London, anyway) are statistically safer than those that don't. Perhaps that's because of the almost universal abuse of the Advanced Stop Line area by vehicles (which is an offence, incidentally)?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "VED is based on emissions, so many motor cars pay nothing."

      Yes, but nearly every car pays something, and a massive, massive majority of them pay a lot, over £100 pa. Not everyone is suited to or can cope with a VW Polo BlueMotion or Toyota Pious.

      But frankly VED pales into insignificance when compared to Fuel Duty, which is much higher in this country than many, many others - before you add VAT to it (a tax on a tax, and one of the only examples in UK taxation that I'm aware of).

      Finally, do you have any statistics or facts to back up your claims about cost to Police/Fire/Ambulance services by motorists, or is that just unfounded drivel?

      Honestly, why do cyclists find it so hard to accept that motorists are raped financially just to be able to use the roads they use for free?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    " countries such as France and Italy"

    "The DfT should consider carrying out trials of flashing amber lights at times when there is little traffic, which would allow drivers to proceed with caution at junctions, as is common in countries such as France and Italy."

    An excellent idea! Taking as an example a country like Italy where I was recently run over at a pedestrian crossing while carrying my little child by a woman doing 60kph who veered and accelerated left towards the centre of the road (without looking) where I was already almost done crossing to avoid having to stop for other pedestrians waiting for her to stop.

    While I was in a sorry state in hospital there were three unluckier souls who died being hit crossing at green lights at traffic lights by motorists who couldn't be bothered to respect a red light in broad daylight.

    Orange lights at night in Italy are only useful so that you get less blame when you hit pedestrians.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Newsflash: There are idiots in the UK as well as Italy (and France!)

    2. Chris Miller

      Depends where you are in Italy

      In northern Italy, eg Milan, red lights are mandatory. In Rome, they're advisory. And in Naples and the Mezzogiorno, they're purely for decoration.

  37. Dale 3

    Button operated ped crossings

    I find it really frustrating when pedestrians get to a crossing, press the button and immediately walk across before the signal has changed, which means by the time I reach it I have to stop at the red signal and wait for nobody because the pedestrian is long gone. If you're going to walk across the red signal anyway, leave the button alone!

    Maybe it would help if the button only registered when pressed a second time after a few seconds of waiting.

    1. Test Man


      I hate it when I press the button and the stupid lights refuse to change for minutes because of traffic in the distance despite there actually being a few seconds break of traffic where it could easily go red and not cause accidents. I mean it's pointless. If it only goes red when there is absolutely no traffic then what's the point of the lights at all? I do have EYES so clearly don't need the lights in these cases!

      1. DavCrav

        Not how they work

        Traffic lights don't stay green because of traffic, at least in my decades of experience using them. How they (pedestrian crossings) work is that they will go red as soon as you press them, unless they have gone red within the last n seconds (where n depends on the lights, but normally around 30-60), in which case they wait until n seconds since the last change has been reached, and then change.

        Pedestrian crossings at junction are different, in that they have their own position in the sequence.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Approximately half of all UK traffic lights are at junctions"

    And approximately half of them are actually roundabouts! The greatest invention of our times!

  39. Oliver 7
    Thumb Up


    1. Never mind just cyclists, we should adopt the system of any traffic being able to turn left at a red light (in the US traffic can turn right on a red). If you think about it it makes perfect sense.

    2. Fewer junctions with lights with pedestrian sequences please. My council continue to build more and more crossings and turn more and more roundabouts into junctions, simply because that seems to be the current received wisdom.

    3. Shorten the pedestrian crossing time, lengthen the cycles between pedestrian 'invitations', that way more cars get through, it's also greener! Use the intelligent lights to increase traffic flow, this has been done in Dundee for example.

    4. Start investing a little more of the tax take on the existing infrastructure. And I don't mean more street furniture, extended pavements, speed humps, signs and the ilk, I mean rebuilding the fucking wrecked roads that are already there. Motorists subsidise the road network three times over through duty and tax, we should expect a basic service in return.

    1. Ben Bawden


      Fuck the pedestrians, they don't need to get anywhere, otherwise they'd be driving, right?

    2. Chris Miller

      Just for clarity (I agree with the principle)

      It's not true that you can turn right at reds *throughout* the US - it varies from state to state. Try it in the wrong spot and you're very likely to get a ticket.

      1. peyton?

        Appears to be a federal thing

        with only NYC barring this as a rule (of course, all places bar it for specific circumstances, and post appropriate signs). Perhaps you are thinking of left turn on red from a one-way street onto a one-way street. That is legal in all but 8 crappy states.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      pedestrian deaths

      You forget about the pedestrians in your turn right on red idea. The primary cause of pedestrian death in the US is vehicles turning on red and failing to give way to pedestrians who have the right of way. Here in the UK, pedestrian crossings giving the pedestrian a green light mean you have the right of way over everyone not breaking the law/incompetent

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    very convienient

    Funny how you don't mention the consistent drop in road fatalities over the last few years?

    And I am sick and tired of the argument about motorists paying for the roads, the £15bn road budget is for trunk roads and motorways ONLY, the rest of the roads are paid for by local authorities . Rail bridges (road crossing rail, rail crossing road) are all paid for by network rail. And what about the costs of road traffic accidents and pollution?

  41. Tim 11

    Change the priorities

    traffic lights should never have an absolute ability to stop the traffic; they should only change the right of way from one traffic stream to another. i.e. anyone should be able to go through a red traffic light at any time if there is nobody coming from the other way.

    flashing amber would be a reasonably half way house, or just turn the lights off outside of rush hour. have you ever noticed that traffic flows much more freely when the lights are broken.

    1. Ben Bawden

      letters and/or digits

      You clearly have more faith in the ability of the average driver than I do.

  42. Graeme Coates


    What ever was wrong with those? Traffic flowed, they aren't generally that unsafe - there are countless examples of places where a roundabout replaced by lights has instantly caused a massive snarl-up.

  43. Duncan
    Thumb Down

    In London Green means go, Yellow means go, Red means .....

    "The DfT should consider carrying out trials of flashing amber lights at times when there is little traffic, which would allow drivers to proceed with caution at junctions, as is common in countries such as France and Italy. "

    Do the report writers live in London? I can only say while I can imagine this working in most of the country I can assure you that in London this would not work (unless of course they have cameras watching them all) at any time of the day/night. Simply put to the average London driver green means go, yellow means go, and red means quickly get through it before anyone starts to cross..... There are loads of 2 or 3 lane roads in the middle of London and I would not be happy to cross them without a red signal. You can see this being a failure by just watching Pelican Crossings. Many drivers just ignore them and keep driving even right outside Police Stations, etc. It's not like anyone even sticks to the 30mph limit - Haymarket is like a drag strip at the weekend.

    Bad idea. (and yes I do drive in London as well)

  44. Tim #3

    Don't forget

    The market leader in traffic systems is doing very well

    No doubt this results from them having lots of great salesmen who have been highly successful in developing relationships with councils...

    1. mike panero

      Too right

      I agree the whole thing has long ago reached ludicrous levels, it has to be bribes

  45. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    A few points:

    1) Why should it be unreasonable for buses to have priority at red lights? They have to run to a timetable after all, and provide a service for those who cannot afford to drive.

    2) Why should cyclists be able to turn left at red lights? They can already accomplish the same thing by dismounting and walking round on the pavement.

    3) It is interesting to read that a large number of accidents involving cyclists are a result of them being hit by larger vehicles turning left. I can't help but wonder whether it is past the time where we should have introduced a compulsory road test for cyclists, so that they are made aware of the fact that this, and many other things done by cyclists on the roads are dangerous, such as weaving through traffic, cycling at night with no lights, not wearing a helmet, riding through red lights, etc. etc. All the other vehicles on the road are, after all, driven or ridden (in the case of motorbikes) by people who have taken a test to prove (to some degree) an understanding of the dangers of the road.

    4) As both a motorcyclist and and a car-driver, I know first-hand that there are many many bad drivers on the roads. The main reason motorbikes are dangerous isn't that they go faster than cars, but that bikers are essentially unprotected on the roads. Having almost been killed or injured by car drivers on more than one occasion, there is now no possible way you would get me on a push-bike on the road, where you are not even able to get out of the way in time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Title is required


      You neither drive a car or a motorcycle, you ride in (or on) it. The engine drives the vehicle, you merely control it.

      You drive a pushbike with your legs


      Yeah, I know it's common parlance but if you want to annoy people it's a good correction to make!

  46. Timo

    bring on jaywalking

    if the entire city is so congested... that traffic doesn't move... then isn't it relatively safe to cross in the middle of a block? Voila your pedestrian problem is solved, and then you can take out some of the crossing lights. Duh, wait, then the congestion problem would be solved too, but screwing up the possibility for jaywalking.

    1. Sean Baggaley 1

      Let me guess...

      ... you're from the Americas, aren't you?

      London doesn't have "blocks". It isn't built on a convenient grid pattern. Almost every major (and minor) city, town and village in the UK—and most of Europe—was designed and built for the horse and cart, not motorised vehicles.

      The congestion seen in London isn't even strictly the fault of car-driving commuters either: only a minority of commuters drive into the city during the peaks. Most of the traffic congestion is caused by service vehicles travelling *between* businesses in the city (e.g. office supplies, plumbers, couriers, climate control servicing employees, and so on).

      Buses are also a major contributor, in part because London's road network wasn't really built for such large vehicles. HGVs aren't that common in central London, but major construction projects require them, leading to hellish congestion around the various sites.

      One possible solution might be to revive the disused "Mail Rail" infrastructure and extend it dramatically for use as a freight and package delivery system. London's many Boroughs, each with its own business and shopping centres, is part of what contributes to the congestion, so removing the *causes* of that congestion, rather than mucking about trying to alleviate its symptoms, makes sense.

      As long as we insist on sharing infrastructure across such varied modes of transport, any solution will inevitably be a compromise.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    I for one welcome our flashing, beeping overlords!

    Let's face it - buses and pedestrians really SHOULD take priority over cars!

    Also, if the congestion charge is no-longer working in persuading car-users to get out of their personal boxes & move over to public transport then the charge needs to be increased until they get the message.

    More cars is not sustainable, however without more cars the RAC faces decreased revenue ... listening too intently to a report funded by the RAC is like listening to Agro-corporates arguing that GM foods are fine (despite the fact that they cause infertility)

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Ummm, what with the who now?

      "listening too intently to a report funded by the RAC is like listening to Agro-corporates arguing that GM foods are fine (despite the fact that they cause infertility)"

      Sources please, or was that just a mad ramble with no basis in fact? I'm no fan of big corporates like Monsanto, but some of the 'debate' we hear about GM is entirely irrational. I find it interesting to note that none of teh anti-GM ranting is coming from people who actually understand the science underpinning transgenics, whether they agree with it or not.

      As for your suggestion that the congestion charge be increased; maybe the reason that people won't move from their personal boxes onto public transport is that the public transport in this country is pitiful, with buses virtually non-existent on rural routes and trains costing a fortune. Why is it that I can get a bus from Athens to Kalamata in Greece, which is a four hour journey on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus, for less than 20 Euros, but a train from London to Bristol (half the distance, and, by economy of scale, theoretically cheaper per mile) costs £84.50? I'll give you a little clue here; it might be something to do with UK train and bus companies being privately operated...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "USDA senior scientist sends “emergency” warning to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock "


        1. jake Silver badge


          Uh ... you do know that the pathogen isn't actually part of the GM soy & corn DNA, right? It's an external pathogen that could have attacked any crop of corn & soy. And as a side-note, corn is ALWAYS GM. There is no such thing as "wild corn". Stop it with the FUD, already.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Where in the article did it say that the congestion charge isn't working? In fact I'm sure that I read that it has decreased the number of vehicles in the CG but that this has been counterbalanced by an overloving of traffic lights.

      So, logically - kick the pedestrians and cyclists out, get rid of the lights and the congestion will ease.

      Not very fair or practical though!

    3. Spanners Silver badge

      Read the article

      It says that London has less cars now but, due to gerrymandering, it is as bad as ever.

      Yes, there should be less cars but if you deliberately snarl them up, you loose that benefit.

    4. jake Silver badge


      "Agro-corporates arguing that GM foods are fine (despite the fact that they cause infertility)"

      You do realize that virtually every bit of food you eat, with the exception of wild-caught fish & game, has been genetically modified by human beings? Even so-called "wild rice" and the like.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Traffic light algorithm

    Pedestrian view.

    Stay at red until there are no vehicles moving within 100 yards, then turn green for 5 seconds.

  49. ScottAS2

    A modest suggestion

    We should allow cyclists to dodge through red lights so they don't get squished by cars that have driven into the advanced stop area? Why don't we just enforce the current rules on passing stop lines - for bikes and cars?

    My preferred method of doing so would involve land mines with carefully-calibrated weight sensors just beyond each stop line, and linked to the traffic lights (pop some in the bus lanes while you're at it). Pass the line when you're not supposed to: pay the price. Re-offending rates would plummet.

  50. JaitcH

    Forget Flashing Amber lights, make them Flashing Red

    Too many motorists, of which I am one, think that flashing amber lights allow you to go careening through an intersection.

    Flashing red lights, on the other hand, require motorists to briefly stop - still much quicker than a traffic light sequence.

  51. mike panero

    Death of the roundabout

    Down here in Dorset they have a history of converting roundabouts to traffic lights, including one recently in Holdenhurst Rd, Bmth. So even the lack of cash is not stopping them destroying the road network.

    I did not think it was Greens I always thought it was kickbacks, bribes and a government policy of wasting your petrol so you paid more tax that powered this, still lets blame the Greens now its all gone so wrong, not called Green for nothing...

    1. John Sturdy

      Not just Dorset

      Cambridge pretty much completed that some time ago, and put traffic lights on some of the remaining roundabouts.

  52. tony trolle

    I stopped working in London

    over 20 years ago. Now I'm working in America the Car is king.

    At crossings here, kids just slowwwly walk across but older folk move faster I assume cuz they have seen their peers run over? Also you can turn in to the traffic flow at a red.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing about this on the BBC

    Which sort of shows traffic lights are there to drain your wallet not "reduce" congestion

  54. Simon Lyon

    Let's deal with a few more fallacies regarding bikes

    1) Everyone who has ridden a bike in London for more than a day knows not to ride up to lights next to a lorry that may be turning left. Every time I've been in this dangerous position the lorry has drawn up next to me! If this happens then I WILL turn left before the lights go green. I will not apologise for this and the only people who get killed in this situation are those who don't have the good sense to put their life and welbeing before misguided laws. Suggesting that training and road tests for cyclists will resolve this is foolish at best and insulting at worst.

    2) Helmets are bits of plastic-covered foam that are not built to withstand the shock of a fall from the height of a bike - they are a con job. The vast majority of cyclist fatalities are from injuries to the body. Every country that has introduced compulsory helmets has seen a *rise* in cylist injuries. Some studies suggest that wearing a helmet and cycle-specific clothing gives motorists the impression that the cyclist is "professional" or "experienced" and can be passed closer to and given less room than "amateurs" in normal street clothes. The most common injury from coming off a bike where a car is not involved is to the knees and palms due to the riding position.

    3) Red light sequencing in London is designed to control motor traffic - not for the benefit of pedestrians or other road users. I was told last year by a police officer that the aim is to control the flow of traffic to a specific speed (think it was 16mph) and if you stay at that speed you should see a sequence of green lights. This is why pedestrian crossings will go red often even if no-one is crossing. Unfortunately, 16mph is somewhat higher than most cyclists ride at comfortably. If I encounter a red light, with no pedestrians and no cars I will go through it and I will not apologise. It takes a tap of the right foot for a car driver to get back up to the speed he was going before being forced to stop. I have to put sweat and muscle power into it.

    4) Much is made of cycling tests and cyclists being forced to respect the Highway Code. The writers of said book have clearly not been on a bike since they were 3-years old and had stabilisers and have been on occasion threatened by both cycling and motoring organisations with judicial review for certain new and mindlessly stupid proposals that they've had to withdraw or rewrite. A bike is not a car. It is not a slower version of a motorbike. Being muscle powered it has absolutely nothing in common with other traffic. Until the people who right the laws of the road get this into their head I have no respect for them or their publications.

    5) I have been cycling in London for 20 years. During that time I have seen 11 fatal accidents. In every single case the cylist was doing everything by the book and had no culpability for the accident. I have never been in an accident because, as previously noted, my safety v the law - the law loses. Note that does NOT extend to causing difficulty or harm to other road users, just to getting myself out of trouble withouty *anyone* getting hurt.

    1. Fred Dibnah
      Thumb Down

      @ Let's deal with a few more fallacies...

      Point 2: Having had a fall off my bike (empty slippery road, no traffic, nobody's fault but mine) which gave me a broken elbow and wrist, I must disagree with you. I remember my head hitting the ground but I suffered no concussion, but the foam of my bike helmet was cracked in two. Without that helmet I think I would be more of a dribbling gibbering idiot than I already am.

      1. Adam-the-Kiwi

        @Fred Dibmah

        If your helmet cracked then it likely did next to no good at all - it is designed to absorb energy by permanently compressing the polystyrene liner and it takes much less energy to crack it. That was simply a failure.

        If you didn't even suffer concussion, then you probably would have been uninjured without a helmet - in fact, without the extra inch or so of plasic wrapped around your head, you might not have involved your head at all. Perhaps the helmet actually put you at greater risk of a rotational brain injury and you were lucky to come away unscathed despite it?

    2. Pigeon
      Thumb Up

      I am pleased

      That you put so much effort in to your post. Good, but by now we've forgotten what the article was. I'll see if I can upvote you as well.

  55. Dave 15 Silver badge

    simpler solutions...

    a) All signals should be 'turn left on red' for EVERYONE. In the USA and large swathees of Europe they can turn right (they drive on the wrong side after all) on red, it doesn't cause mass death and injury and saves a heap load of wasted time.

    b) All signals should be off when roads are quiet - frankly nothing worse than sitting at an empty junction for 5 minutes just for the lights to circulate - totally pointless

    c) All signals should be sensor controlled so that they don't stop a full road to give an empty one a chance

    d) 75% of traffic signals should be cut down immediately

    The environmental cost of traffic lights is ridiculous - they are on 24 hours every day, they cause hold ups, stop people making progress, cause cars and lorries to stop and accelerate - both wasting fuel.

    We should also have a similar campaign against roundabouts - especially those on bypasses and similar which cause massive holdups as lorries have to stop and restart - and they all restart very slowly. Its time to invest all those billions in taxes and fines gathered from the motorist on the roads - putting proper junctions and sliproads in where they are needed.

  56. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Re impatient pedestrians,

    I believe there is a model of pedestrian crossing where as well as a button to press, a sensor detects a person waiting, and un-presses the button if they step out of range - I got caught out by that, I think. Or else the light just wasn't working.

    If there are children around then I press the button and wait, otherwise I don't press at first but look out for an opportunity to cross in a gap in traffic, although this is against the Highway Code I consider that pressing and then running is like ringing someone's doorbell and running away, which otherwise would be my selfish best option, unless a motorist sees me doing it and takes extreme umbrage.

  57. Evan Essence

    Buttons at junctions are fake, anyway

    "In London full pedestrian crossing stages generally happen only if a traffic-light button is pushed, but this isn't very helpful at busy junctions except in the middle of the night."

    I can't remember the last time I actually bothered to press a button at a junction (I don't mean a pelican), because they're all fake. Whether they're pressed or not, the traffic lights just carry out their cycle.

    That includes full pedestrian crossing stages, unless I've been very unlucky driving around in the early hours. I don't get "generally": I think you mean "never". Yes, 24 hours round the clock the lights stop all traffic from all directions, regardless of how many pedestrians are around. In the early hours that can average out to as near as dammit zero...

    1. CABVolunteer

      It depends...

      OK, there are some sets of traffic lights that do execute their standard cycle whatever buttons or sensors are activated, but not everywhere. There's a set of lights on Norwood Road in Southport that only activates the pedestrian crossing phase if a button has been pushed.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Not fake around here

      Sometimes the button is broken, although usually it's just the "wait" light. Sometimes, rarely, it's jammed on - I've only seen that once. Maybe somebody in your area is going around glueing the crossing buttons down so that they're always on.

      At complicated junctions with mid-road islands, parts of the crossing may be always pedestrian-safe at one or more stage in the cycle, and it is appropriate for them always to go "green man" then. In that case, practically speaking, the button only turns on the "Wait" light the rest of the time, unless it is turned on automatically anyway. And is not broken. But I assume that the buttons and lights are all connected to the control box in the usual way, in case for instance the designers change their mind.

  58. SharkNose

    Green Lanes

    It was reported a year or so ago that some old legislation had been overturned preventing the creation of so called green lanes, where steady driving at or around the speed limit from a green light would lead to the vehicle reaching the next light whilst it was green. Previously apparently the treasury objected due to the perceived loss of revenue as less fuel would be consumed.

    I'm amazed that the 'green' movement don't do more to promote getting cars moving and keeping them moving, this would have a profound environmental benefit; in my diesel golf, town/city driving with constant red light stops returns high 20s / low 30s MPG, at the same speeds without the constant stop / start I see mid 40s MPG figures.

    1. Fred Dibnah

      Green lanes

      In Portugal they use a similar idea to enforce speed limits - as you drive into a village on a main road, your speed is clocked, and if you are over the limit the traffic lights in the middle of the village change to red for a short time. Once you realise what is going on, you tend to keep to the limit. No speed cameras required. Simples.

  59. This post has been deleted by its author

  60. Dibbles

    Won't somebody PLEASE think of the environment

    A couple of interesting corollaries to this are what this increased congestion does for urban pollution (which would surely have given the RAC a bigger stick with which to beat the DfT); and the impact of increased congestion on bus schedules. It's all well and good painting bus lanes and giving buses priority at traffic lights, but it's no d@mn good if the bus is sat 350 yards down the road in the queue for the lights.

    Victoria Station/ Victoria Road in London is surely a good illustration of both of these points in action...

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Precious few mentions...

    There might be too many cars around?

  62. CABVolunteer
    Thumb Down

    Allow traffic to turn left on a red light? NO!

    If traffic is allowed to turn whilst in the red phase, then how do pedestrians cross the road safely?

    Anyone else remember the old joke of the teacher testing pupils on the meaning of the traffic lights?

    Teacher: Who can tell me what the red light means?

    Pupil: It means stop!

    Teacher: What does the green light mean?

    Pupil: It means go!

    Teacher: What does the red and amber mean?

    Pupil: Get ready to go!

    Teacher: And what does the flashing amber mean?

    Pupil (after thinking for a bit): That's when Mummy slows down to a stop, and Daddy speeds up!

  63. Magnus_Pym

    It's only in London

    Who gives a f**k?

  64. John Sturdy
    Thumb Down

    It fits with another of NuLab's plans

    The provision of more traffic-light controlled crossings is a natural fit with the dumbing-down of the population to the point where they can't cross even an empty road without them.

  65. henshaw11

    Please get your facts straight...

    >This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads. So far from helping pay for the infrastructure they use (and destroy, and block up), buses are heavily subsidised: cyclists and pedestrians use the facilities for free. But the roads budget (no more than £15bn annually) is dwarfed by the revenues received by the government from road tax and fuel duty (£46bn as of last year).

    Wrong, wrong, wrong...

    VED goes into a common pot, like all taxes. Roads expenditure comes out of a common pot, as does everything else, regardless of contribution/end user usage (librarys, hospitals, schools etc...get the picture?). Simply as a taxpayer, you're still contributing to the roads regardless - I think the figure's about £100 per person pa.

    Churchill severed the tenous link between VED/'road tax'/road fund license in the 30's to try to end the road lobby's sense of entitlement. Even when there was a 'road fund' it was only there briefly, and for *maintenance* of roads as a result of the damage vehicles were doing to them.

    The same roads, btw, that had been built *prior* to the existance of any kind of 'road fund', paid by public funding.

    Bear in mind too, that the level of VED that the lowest emission vehicles falls into is exactly the same as that directly paid by cyclists/pedestrians/horse rider....

  66. Richard Porter

    Puffins user-friendly?

    Puffin crossings are a completely daft idea. User-friendly they are certainly not. What the pedestrian wants to know is:

    a) what's coming along the road, and

    b) what signal is being given to the driver, plus maybe

    c) is the driver slowing down to stop or is he speeding up to beat the lights?

    The pedestrian is looking down the road, not at a littel box next to his left elbow. The Pelican is fine. The problem is that the DfT regards all road users as complete morons who need to be told what to do at all times, what speed to drive at, etc. etc., and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES must they be given useful information that would enable them to make an informed decision. At one and the same time the DfT is running a campaign called THINK! and doing its best to prevent road users from actually thinking.

  67. Richard Porter

    Flashing ambers

    A much better idea would be to adopt the "four way red" as used in South Africa. At times of light traffic the robots (traffic lights) at intersections show flashing red in all directions. Drivers slow down, and the first one to arrive has priority. Then they take turns - one from each direction or two if they can go together. it works very well.

  68. kennsmi


    I think someone touched on it earlier (fnarr fnarr)...but a certain German company has a lot to gain from more/new model/throwaway your old ones/churn traffic lights. In our most upstanding corrupt society the brown packets are flying.

    But won't someone think of the children FFS!!!111!! Round my way, they put in a pedestrian crossing, and yet still employ a Lollipop Woman...hmmm....don't see many Lollipop Men these days...I wonder why...

  69. Eponymous Bastard

    Off message - stinking retards

    Why should I have to suffer sharing my space with stinking retards who will quite possibly get on MY bus and play music at inappropriate volumes to impress their pregnant lard-arsed "birds"? That's one reason why so many of us like our cars even if they are uneconomical and cost a fortune to run; we like our space on this ever cramped island.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Behave your(our)selves...

    Traffic lights wouldn't be needed if everyone behaved themselves and used common sense.

    Yet we can't there is a minority that are totally ignorant that ruin it for all of us. And for the rest of the "law abiding" lot, we do make mistakes and push it from time to time.

    I wish that people would jsut understand the roles and rights of way of pedestrians, specially turning into a junction - this issue alone would make "left on red" very dangerous.

    So, you(us) all... UK public... its your(our) fault. Grow up.

  71. John Savard


    It certainly sounds to me that the complaints are legitimate. When cars can go through an intersection one way, pedestrians can go through the intersection the same way. And even in tiny Edmonton, Alberta, we have a countdown phase for pedestrians.

    And we generally do not have pedestrian crossings in the middle of the road, only at intersections.

    London, of course, is a very big city, like New York City, so it will have very heavy traffic. Building a city of the future with multiple levels of roads would be very expensive, and it would not seem to be worth it, as we are running out of oil (not to mention global warming). Of course it isn't reasonable to expect most people to take bicycles to work, but buses are suitable for that purpose.

    So, while it sounds like London has gone to ridiculous lengths to favor pedestrians, providing adequate bus service, and making it rational even for people who already own a car to take the bus to work - perhaps through further subsidies - is reasonable. If it cost one pound to take the bus from anywhere in Greater London to anywhere else, or, indeed, from any surrounding community in which persons employed in London were likely to live, that would be a start, although I suspect it still wouldn't be lower than the price of gasoline.

  72. Simon Lyon

    Fred Dibnah

    I wasn't there so I won't contradict your belief that your helmet was useful.

    I would ask you to consider something though. While, as I said, I've never been in an accident involving other vehicles I have of course come a cropper in similar situations to yours. I've injured my arms like you, and my knees. But my head has never hit the ground, because the reflexes we all possess have put my arms in the way of that happening (to their detriment).

    However, while your body knows where your head is it doesn't instinctively know where a two-three inch thick contraption strapped on top of it is.

    So are you certain that your head would have hit the ground if said contraption wasn't there?

    BTW - to be fair, I have no faith in the standard go-faster, "streamlined", standing on top of the head bits of tat with airholes in them.

    A round helmet however, fitting close to the head and following it's shape, which are available, is inarguably better protection than going bareheaded. But very few people choose such real protection because they don't look cool!

    I don't wear either because of certain training that makes it instinctive to tuck my head in and roll on my shoulders if I find myself unexpectedly airborne! But if helmets were compulsory I would certain choose the latter.

  73. david 12 Silver badge

    All junctions already have traffic lights

    No wonder they are building more lights at pedestrian crossings.

    There is effectively a dedicated workforce and a fixed budget for installing traffic lights. If all the crossings in London already have traffic lights, naturally the budget moves on to putting traffic lights BETWEEN the crossings.

    If all that work runs out, the planners will move to "upgrading" existing traffic lights. After that, who knows? But there might be enough work in "repairing" existing traffic lights to keep everyone employed until the next budget crisis.

  74. Anteaus

    Infinitely worse for all road users

    Just down the road from here they've put in about ten sets of lights where previously there was one roundabout and one set of lights. There are now traffic jams all day. There were never any serious jams before.

    I walk up that road frequently, and walking is a slow process too. Every junction involves waiting for two sets of pedestrian lights, sometimes three. The place is lined with 'cattle fences' to stop people crossing anywhere else except the lights, and cyclists are concerned about being crushed against these. Hence, although there are cycle lanes, they use the pavement.

    Then there is a rash of the 'bollard disease' where a section of pavement already too narrow for the volume of foot-traffic has had a third of its already-inadequate width taken away by a set of metal spikes stuck in the ground. What for, God knows.

    That, and they're using a new style of lights with no 'green man' except at the pushbutton. That means you have to rely purely on the audible signal, or the person nearest the button starting to cross, you don't actually know if the lights are red or green. I've seem several cases where a brake-squeal has led-to pedestrians stepping-into the path of traffic. Sooner or later there's going to be an incident where a bus or lorry with squeaky brakes mows-down a crowd of people.

    Not far away, there is a junction where you have to make violent swerve into the outside lane with only a few yards' warning, to avoid being chicaned-off left. You can tell when you're walking near this junction, by the constant peal of horns and the occasional screech of tyres.

    -Thing is, I'm not aware that there was any particular traffic problem in this street before they started on these changes. All of the problems have been created BY the changes.

    -What do these planners smoke, I ask?

  75. Mickey Finn

    Traffic Lights

    The author's first remedy is to experiment with a flashing amber period, when drivers use caution and discretion etc..

    Though it is a good idea, what needs to happen first is the introduction of "roundabout rules" at every junction with lights. Following this change, there would be no reason why 95% of traffic lights could not be switched off for some part of the day, pedestrian signals would respond "on demand".

    Traffic congestion cured...


  76. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'I'm a bus' transponder that makes the lights turn green?

    Allegedly, when HSBC relocated HQ from HK to London the then chairman wrote to the Chief of Met Police with the question "So, where can I get a special 'I'm a bus' transponder that makes the lights turn green?" - just like he had in HK.

    When that was diplomatically regected he tried again. Could the traffic lights on Lower Thames Street be relocated so his chauffeur could take advantage to exit the car-park.

    After a second rejection the chief of the met was off his christmas card list.

  77. Matt Finish

    I knew they were up to something...

    Over a 5-year period, the number of traffic lights on my 4-mile commute doubled, from 11 to 22. Several roundabouts were flattened and replaced with lights, and numerous pelicans popped up. Instead of arriving within a minute of my ETA, I could be held up for more than 5 minutes, depending of how many reds I caught. That may not sound much, but it's a long time to be standing around doing nothing when the weather's foul.

  78. Francis Offord
    Black Helicopters

    Male Bovine Ordure

    It seems to me that one aspect has been ignored in this matter, the Indisputable fact that councils will interfere with traffic "BECAUSE THEY CAN". I have seen, as a taxi driver, the chaos caused by a councillor buying/finding a packet of "traffic light seeds" and distributing them randomly throughout their area. Here in Newcastle we had a plague of new unwanted and unnecessary lights when it was decided that control had to be established for some reason. No planning had been done and when objections were made on a logical basis they were poo pooed as being unwarranted intrusion into council business.

    When the objections were proved to be valid it was decided that he council had not been wrong but that "they had misunderstood" what they decided. The inevitable result of forging ahead without consulting the experts, those who use the roads. Never mind that consultation had not taken place the council could not admit to having made a mistake as, like the pope, they are infallible in matters of this nature.

    There is a case to be made for proper consultation with local and national experts and consideration given to the proven results from other boroughs before charging recklessly ahead with personally recommended schemes which have not been thought through. Not only do they waste public money which, oddly enough, comes from the public through taxation and should be allowed to be taken into account through audited accounts and made public each year at the time of reckoning, the elections. Perhaps it could be made a part of the deal that any scheme should be personally funded by those making the recommendation until such time as it is proven to be useful and then funded by the responsible authority rather than wasting the monies

    used and having no recourse to recompense by those responsible. It would ensure that responsibility for madcap schemes would be made by those who proposed them and save a huge amount of public money FOR the public.

    I am well aware that this will never fly as it makes comparison the national government inevitable and, as we all know, thought processes are not best used by those elected into power and that, mostly, they are concerned with personal advancement rather than service.

    For those who do not comprehend the heading, work it out for yourself by analysis.

  79. Rhod

    The optimum situation for traffic flow... almost universally when there is a power cut. I've observed this phenomenon in several parts of the country including several of the most congested towns in the country.

    All that is needed in most cases, even at rush hour, is flashing amber lights that indicate "proceed with caution".

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting comments

    This is indeed a very interesting and at times amusing discussion. I think it highlights two important points.

    All road users seem amazingly unaware of their rights and responsibilities, even on basic aspects of the Highway Code. That makes me think that public education might be a very cost-effective way of improving road safety. Maybe some of the rules even need changing to make things work better, or to correspond better with people's natural expectations.

    Our road network is a hugely expensive investment that also costs a lot to maintain. But the question of how efficient it is at transporting people (by whatever means) never seems to come into the equation. We're used to looking for efficiency in (say) the NHS, but we never seem to do the same with most of our roads. Possibly this has something to do with the piecemeal way our roads are managed, but I can't help thinking that if all road-users paid a tax that went down as journey times increased, things would pretty soon start to work a darned sight better. The basic problem is that councils, like many public services, get their money whether they do a good job or not.

  81. Landis McGauhey

    Too Late to Tunnel

    I suppose it's far too late-- and thus would be far too expensive and far too disruptive to extant underground utilities-- to adopt the traditional-Russian "perekhodov": the underground pedestrian subways found, for example, at any major intersection in Moscow.

    Also, there's the perekhodov's nasty habit of functioning as suicide-bomber magnets: the firmly-confined and crowded spaces multiply, probably exponentially-so, an explosive's efficiency and effectiveness.

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A slight mistake

    "This might justifiably annoy motorists, as it is they who pay for the streets and roads."

    No, they don't. Councils pay for the roads, largely funded through council tax.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


      I think councils are about 20% funded by council tax, or council tax plus business rates, I forget. Anyway, most of a council's budget is a figure set by central government according to the council's local needs and whether the council isTory/Labour/Lib Dem, not that they admit it but it is.

      So that was misstated if "largely" means the same as "mostly", but I suppose it doesn't have to, and indeed would be redundant.

  83. Anonymous Coward

    You should see what they are doing to Weymouth...

    ...In preparation for the sodding Olympics yachting events. they have completely ripped up a massive chunk of the traffic infrastructure to put in a new road, which I have my doubts about, but not only that, they are replacing all the major roundabouts in and around the town with a series of lanes controlled by traffic lights. we suspect this is so they can Prioritize traffic to get all the dignitaries through town quickly, just for the couple of weeks that the events are on, and then after that, us locals will be left with the legacy of these lights.

    Already there have been quite a few near misses over the confusion with the lanes. But then, this is nothing new, This town has a history of ballsing up the roads around this town, check out our subway!

  84. Anonymous Coward

    Red in all directions

    It's not just that pedestrians are given more priority. Even more crazy than that I frequently find myself sat at a junction with the lights red to all directions, including pedestrians!

    Everyone is just sat there staring at each other twiddling their thumbs, while the pedestrians have to stand there assuming that a car will come along any second.

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