IEA calls for the removal of 80% of traffic lights

Eighty per cent of traffic lights should be removed, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

A new report published by the IEA claims that this would boost the economy and improve road safety.

The think tank says the high proportion of traffic regulation is not only detrimental to road safety, the economy and the environment, but that it also imposes huge costs on road-users, taxpayers and communities.

From 2000 to 2014, when there was little growth in traffic volumes, the number of traffic lights on Britain’s roads increased by 25%.  The number of junctions controlled by signals has risen to about 15,000 with a further 18,000 pedestrian crossings.  The number of instructional traffic signs in England reached 4.57 million in 2013 – an increase of 112% since 1993.

The report also looks at other areas of driver control including speed cameras saying that, after Britain’s first speed was installed in 1992, within 20 years there were more than 3,000 at 2,300 fixed sites and that monitoring now extends to large sections of the motorway network, a step change in the surveillance of motorists.

The IEA report discusses the proliferation in 20mph zones, saying that in 2013 Islington became the first borough to bring in a blanket 20mph speed limit, and by summer 2015 around 14 million people lived in local authorities that had adopted or were in the process of adopting a 20mph standard.  It also looks at the effect of bus lanes on traffic.

“The importance of the road network means the cumulative effect of these measures imposes an enormous burden on the UK economy,” says the report’s summary.  “Just a two-minute delay to every car trip equates to a loss of approximately £16 billion a year.”

It wants most traffic lights to be replaced by filter-in-turn or all-way give-ways.  Many bus lanes, cycle lanes, speed cameras and parking restrictions should also go.  “Culling such traffic management infrastructure would deliver substantial economic and social benefits,” the report says.

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This report is shear fantasy. It claims that widespread use of 20mph started in 2013 with Islington when in fact it was Portsmouth in 2007 that set a 20mph limit for most roads. It was followed by Oxford and then Islington in 2011. Subsequent to that TfL set their main roads in Islington to 20mph.

The report makes much of the replacement of Traffic Lights in Poynton with a “lightless” shared space. However this cost £3,5m. Hence projecting this for 80% of the estimated 15,000 junctions with traffic lights comes to £42,000,000,000. I look forward to IEA asking George Osborne to dedicate such funds to this.

Comparison with Netherlands is also rather missing the point. Over there all the shared space implementations have low 30km/h(20mph) speed limits across communities. The very intervention that IEA are also campaigning against.

Let’s give that a trial and see what happens. Perhaps the City of Westminster where the economic drivers are all based would be a good place to start by removing all trafffic management, traffic control and parking restrictions?

Is the IEA Report too simplistic? It is well known that traffic can sometimes flow equally well when signals are switched off, but pedestrian facilities are lost. Linking of junctions and area traffic control can also be lost.