Monday, 9 November 2009

Traffic lights - a disappointing response

I'm disappointed with the council's response to the BEP campaign to reduce the number of traffic lights in Bristol city centre. They've come up with seven sets of lights shortlisted for a potential switch-off (either permanently or during off-peak times). But why are none of them on roundabouts? Surely a roundabout is in itself a device to manage traffic flow, which should be more than adequate apart from during the very busiest periods?

17 comments:

Chris Hutt said...

Large roundabouts, especially the gyratory types like Old Market, Lawrence Hill and M32 Jncts 2 and 3, have proven very dangerous for cyclists. They also make no provision for pedestrians to cross other than via menacing subways.

For these reasons alone it is right that these large roundabouts have been fitted with lights and, in many cases, at-grade pedestrian crossings, irrespective of whether lights increase or decrease motor traffic capacity.

Kerry, if you can identify a single roundabout where cyclists and pedestrians could be safely and conveniently accommodated without lights then please tell us which it is. I think you'd be hard pressed to find one.

I think your're being unfair in denigrating the response of the City Council on this. They have responded to the Evening Post campaign with astonishing alacrity and with what appear to be constructive proposals.

Christine said...

yes, disappointing. The Bedminster choice is a strange one, being a pedestrian crossing on a fairly sharp corner. I think it'd be better to have turned off some of the multiple lights on Bemmie Bridge roundabout system.

Paul N said...

It's a shame the council aren't at least trying out a no traffic light scheme. It's working brilliantly in Portishead. Maybe some people should talk to North Somerset Council.

Max Atkinson said...

A rethink about traffic lights reform could have serious energy saving benefits, as I pointed out on my blog a few months age at http://bit.ly/DuwkJ

When I first lived in Wells, when there were no traffic lights, the longest traffic jam I'd ever been in had two cars in front of me - and that was at 9.00 am!

Then Somerset CC, in collusion with WS Atkins, put traffic lights all over the place and we now have to sit with our engines idling whilst no vehicles pass in any other direction.

In every case, a mini roundabout would have worked just as well, or better. They would also have been cheaper (a few pints of white paint here and there) and more energy efficient.

Kerry said...

Chris, I'm not talking about all the time - but off-peak, say, at the Temple way roundabout - with pedestrian crossings perhaps still in place. I don't think that would be a problem for cyclists, would it? If pedestrians can still get across, cyclists could too, couldn't they, and would probably be able to use the roads more, seeing as they wouldn't get stuck at lights - which cyclists don't like!

Kerry said...

Max - interesting, WS Atkins have done consultancy work for Bristol Council in past, not sure how much - maybe they're to blame for the proliferation!

Docsavage said...

'...with pedestrian crossings perhaps still in place. I don't think that would be a problem for cyclists, would it? If pedestrians can still get across, cyclists could too, couldn't they,'

are you assuming they cross via pavements on ped crossings? surely this just diminishes the rights of the cyclist on the road, if we are expected to only access via crossings (which favour motorised traffic anyhow) and would also bring cyclists into more conflict with pedestrians.?

Kerry said...

Sorry, not sure if you know the roundabout in question? The cycle lane goes across the pedestrian crossings, rather than round the (three lane) roundabout. I'm sure there's no problem with cyclists going round the roundabout with the cars if they want to!

Chris Hutt said...

Kerry, the Temple Way roundabout would be very hazardous for cyclists without traffic lights, unless motorists could be persuaded to travel slowly, say <20 mph, around it.

Likewise it would be dangerous for pedestrians to cross without the protection of lights unless they had zebra crossings instead, but then the delays to motor traffic might be even worse.

Besides the Temple Way roundabout is going to become a traffic light controlled crossroads to accommodate the BRT route so an experiment there would be rather pointless.

I think when the council look in detail at the sites identified we will find that the traffic lights weren't installed for fun. There are almost always a good safety reasons for them.

Docsavage said...

I do know it, but cycle it on the road as the impractical solution of stop/start crossings doesn't work for me.
I don't think the crossing system favours cyclists at all, merely sidelining us while we wait for the cars.

Chris Hutt said...

Sorry for posting again but I just saw your follow up comment.

I presume you're suggesting that the existing lights around the roundabout would remain in use for pedestrians (and cyclists) but only operate on pedestrian demand instead of in sequence as at present.

I suppose that might work at off peak times but the roundabout would still become more dangerous for cyclists using the road and the cycle lobby would be loathe to accept that.

Max Atkinson said...

Kerry - my theory is that WS Atkins probably owns a company that manufactures and installs traffic lights, and that's why they tell councils to install them. I've even done a bit of Googling to try to establish whether or not this is so, but got bored before coming up with any firm evidence.

In Wells, there's the added problem that they like to pretend it's a city (albeit 'the smallest city in England) - and therefore we must have plenty of traffic lights and an expensive relief road
to prove that it's not a big village, which, of course it is!

Bristol Dave said...

Why haven't they included the Temple Circus Gyratory?

The lights, or more importantly, the timing cycles on this roundabout are an utter joke and clearly cause huge amounts of congestion. There are traffic lights on the roundabout, which wouldn't be so bad in itself (see the roundabout by 51"02' for a good example), except they're not linked in any way to the lights outside Temple Meads so you get synchronisation issues there.

The main problem though, is the pedestrian crossing just after the roundabout at Temple Way, which is the most ridiculous placement ever imaginable.

It's ridiculous for a number of reasons:

1) There is another pedestrian crossing literally yards down the road outside Temple Meads which serves the same purpose
2) Crucially, the pedestrian crossing outside TM is linked into the traffic lights so the timings are synchronised. The crossing just after the roundabout is not linked into either the set of traffic lights outside TM, or the ones on the roundabout.

This means that the lights are set to allow traffic onto the roundabout, but the traffic currently on the roundabout can't leave it because it's held up by the pedestrian crossing - this is what causes nearly all the congestion around it.

Why is the crossing even there? Get rid of that, pedestrians and cyclists can use the one outside TM, problem solved.

Chris Hutt said...

Dave, I think you'll find that the pedestrian/cycle crossing on the south side of Temple Circus is a link in the Millenium Mile route which also links to the Cheese Grater bridge which in turn links to the Railway Path.

The point about the Millenium Mile cycle/pedestrian route is that it is safe, direct and convenient, which it certainly wouldn't be if that crossing was taken out.

Also I think you'll find that the light timings on that crossing are indeed coordinated with the roundabout to minimise delays to motor traffic. They're certainly very slow to change in favour of pedestrians.

The Bristol Blogger said...

Yeah. That pedestrian crossing is a joke - for pedestrians too.

It's not even synchronised with the other pedestrian crossing going to Victoria Street/Redcliff Way.

So you stand around waiting to cross from Temple Quay; then get stuck in the middle and have to stand around waiting to get across to Victoria Street.

Scrap it.

dreamingspire said...

@Paul N: Portishead is a very different place, with much better behaved drivers.

Some of the light controlled pedestrian crossings have been installed on the basis that they are needed so that those who move slowly - the halt and the lame (sorry: the mother with a buggy and a toddler) - can cross safely. Its the rules, you see! One such split crossing is on Glos Rd just above the north side of the junction with Filton Ave and Wellington Hill - it was installed there and like that because it was alleged that the road is more than 11m wide and the rules say you have to do that - but the road is actually less than 11m wide - the pavement on the west side is far too narrow, making it frightening to wait there - and the crowds from the Mem Stadium simply flood across the road at the natural crossing point, not where the crossing is a few yards north. It was a jobsworth job! The mother with buggy and toddler can cross safely at the south side of the junction, and the Council ought to provide traffic control officers when there is a big crowd at the Mem and give them the ability to control the traffic lights (its not the job of the police, but there is a public safety problem).

Bristol Dave said...

The point about the Millenium Mile cycle/pedestrian route is that it is safe, direct and convenient, which it certainly wouldn't be if that crossing was taken out.

Oh yeah, heaven forbid that pedestrians/cyclists should have to walk/cycle a matter of yards down the road to use an already existing crossing!

Also I think you'll find that the light timings on that crossing are indeed coordinated with the roundabout to minimise delays to motor traffic. They're certainly very slow to change in favour of pedestrians.

There's absolutely no way I can believe this. They might be designed to minimise delays to motorists but because they're not linked to the other traffic lights it's pointless - the amount of times I've seen traffic prevented from leaving the roundabout because the pedestrian crossing traffic lights are on red, but crucially the ones outside TM are on green, with no traffic going through (because it's all held up by the pedestrian crossing - this also means traffic leaving TM is held up needlessly). Then when the pedestrian crossing turns green, the TM traffic lights turn red, and the traffic on the roundabout just about gets off it before being held up by the TM traffic lights.

This poorly-managed "gating" is replicated all around the Temple Circus Gyratory, it's even worse on the other side of the Gyratory on Redcliffe Way - the number of traffic lights, and the timing cycles of those lights, are clearly creating more congestion than is necessary.

Besides the Temple Way roundabout is going to become a traffic light controlled crossroads to accommodate the BRT route so an experiment there would be rather pointless.

Depending on how it's designed, this could be better. A traffic light controlled crossroads allows pedestrian crossings to be completely integrated with the traffic light timings rather than a traffic-light-controlled roundabout with a seperate pedestrian crossing which causes the problems I described above.