Remove 90% of traffic lights?

Recently, Sir Simon Jenkins has been advocating the removal of traffic lights from large towns – specifically, the removal of 90% of traffic lights from London.


Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, reckons that there are far too many traffic lights in London and that they are unnecessary and inherently unsafe. To many, this may sound shocking. Why remove something that we see as crucial to safety and to urban planning? Surely removing traffic lights would just end in more accidents as cars crash into each other at junctions, in turn causing car insurance premiums to rocket. No, Sir Simon insists that most traffic lights are unnecessary and has cited examples from the towns in the Netherlands.

A bad idea?

According to Sir Simon, “we’re obsessed with traffic lights in Britain, and in London there’s a light practically every 30 yards, mostly with a clear street ahead.” Simon accuses the lights of being “a very inefficient way of enabling road users to get around” and that they are “merely ways in which the state exerts control over us” as well as being dangerous. Dangerous, because they distract the road user from what is happening in front of them, or prompting erratic drivers in a hurry to speed through them as they’re about to turn red.

The urban cocktail

Urban road networks have been accused of being confusing, what with double reds, double yellows, single yellows, one way systems, contraflow systems, a myriad of complicated signs, loading bays, bus lanes, bus lane usage time signs, quick stop-off areas, pedestrian crossings.. the list is endless. Quite frankly, driving into the city is daunting, especially if you are not local.

Maybe removing the occasional traffic light would be a good idea. After all, if we are so conscious about road safety and cleaning up our urban air, having stationary cars producing noxious fumes is not the way forward. Reducing the number of traffic lights has worked in many parts of Europe, why not here?

Leave a Reply