The number of traffic lights on our roads has increased by nearly a third in eight years, researchers have found.
A damning report, calling for many of them to be ripped out, reveals that motorists who think they are spending more and more time in gridlock caused by red lights are almost certainly right.
The study, published today, shows that the number of lights has increased to more than 25,000 as transport planners exploit them as a weapon against motorists.
For instead of being used as a road safety device to stop accidents, they have increasingly been deployed by authorities to deliberately slow down traffic, create artificial jams and ‘prioritise’ buses and pedestrians.
The report, called Every Second Counts, by the respected RAC Foundation, says the time has come to review their use ‘and consider whether some could be removed’.
But it also calls for radical changes to the way in which traffic lights are used.
These include trials to allow cyclists to turn left at a red light; constant Continental-style flashing amber lights at quieter times of the day; and reducing the ‘green man’ phase for pedestrians from ten seconds to a standard six seconds (as has already happened in London) to help traffic flow more freely.
The 30 per cent increase in the number of lights to 25,000 between 2000 and 2008 has occurred in parallel to a rise in speed cameras – which critics say have also been exploited by anti-car activists in local government
London alone has 6,000 sets of traffic lights, accounting for nearly a quarter of the nation’s total.
Nationwide, some 8,500 sets – including around 3,200 in the capital – are programmed to give buses priority over cars.
But too often the decisions about their use are taken secretly by council chiefs and planners ‘behind closed doors’, says the RAC report.
The 36-page dossier, written by former Whitehall transport and planning chief Irving Yass, says the number of traffic signals equipped to give priority to buses rose from 3,801 at the start of 2007 to 8,425 at the end of 2008.
As well as looking to remove traffic lights, the report says local authorities should see if they can replace them with alternatives such as mini-roundabouts.
The Department of Transport confirmed that Transport for London was seeking such a trial, but no decision has yet been made.