Maybe You CAN Be Too Safe
Watch out! Buckley’s on his hobby-horse again. Beware!
I caught just a bit of flack for this, written last August.
Only two months ago we experienced a short but very intense storm in the suburban areas north of DC. It happened right before the evening rush hour, and, of course the lights went out. Traffic lights not exempted.
In this, the second most traffic-congested area of the country (after L.A.), during the most congested part of the day, tens of thousands of drivers were forced to take their lives into their own hands and brave intersections without the benefit of technology.
Seldom have I seen moving so smoothly in my 29 years here.
Well, I understand. It’s hard (read, dumb!) to justify espousing the removal of red-lights, especially if you dress it up as a safety measure, of all things. Who would be so foolish?
Just because I believe people would drive safer if you removed air bags and replaced them with a sharp spike in the steering column doesn’t make me a fool, does it? [Really want an answer, JB? – ed.]
So what do I find today, but this, by Tom Vanderbilt?
What would happen if traffic lights were suddenly switched off? Would there be gridlock or would the queues of frustrated drivers miraculously disappear?
People in London are about to find out the answer in Britain’s first test of the theory that removing lights will cure congestion.
For six months, lights at up to seven junctions in Ealing will be concealed by bags and drivers will be left to negotiate their way across by establishing eye contact with pedestrians and other motorists.
The reason for the trial was pure accident:
Ealing found evidence to support its theory when the lights failed one day at a busy junction and traffic flowed better than before. Councillors have approved a report which recommended that they “experimentally remove signals since experience of signal failure showed that junction worked well.”
Vanderbilt is quoting the Times of London. Life may not be a Monty Python skit, exactly, but sometimes it appears to be so.