A world without traffic lights?

I have seen a few traffic signal concepts around on the web, but if someone said that a valid solution for congestion would be to get rid of all the traffic lights, I would have thought they were crazy. Then I saw these videos. (Skip to the second link if you want to go straight to the testing of the concept.)

It would obviously need thorough testing before anyone would adopt it on a large scale, but I think that this could be an excellent example of the best design is often as little design as possible. What do you guys think? Would any of you be willing to drive on roads without traffic lights?

There already exists an excellent traffic controlling/ calming design- the roundabout (traffic circus) that relies on a simple rule- give way to who is already on it. Doesn’t require any energy or input to run. My street is full of them (every second intersection) yet I still have had plenty of near misses from idiots who don’t follow the road rules.

In a car it isn’t as much as an issue compared to on a bike I’ve found the best way to get ‘road respect’ is to get eye contact with a driver- suddenly you have become a person rather than an object (also if you have an incident you can always tell if you are in the right- no one will look you in the eye if they have done the wrong thing, but they will stare you down swearing and shouting if they believe they are in the right).

Maybe this is the trick to removing traffic lights, make people more aware.

Full transparent OLED windshields/windows combined with GPS tech are going to remove the necessity of traffic lights, and road signs, and GPS devices, and lines painted on roads, and probably a great many other things like drive-thru menus, toll payment, and potentially headlights.

Traffic without traffic lights did work great in (southern) Italy until about 20 years ago. If everybody sits in a
Fiat 500, on a Vespa or Bike people not only have eye contact (especially with the girl on the scooter), but also
have all the same grade of vulnerability.

I always felt that the ignorance for rules was made up by the will of cooperation. Italian traffic worked like a
fish cluster, but scared most Germans to death.

The will and possibility to cooperate drops with the use of SUVs with dark tinted glass.


I highly recommend this book: http://www.amazon.ca/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-About/dp/0307397734/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1294233919&sr=8-4

There is a professor from Ontario that has done some interesting research as well. I’ll try to dig up his website tonight.

One of the things I loved about driving in Spain was the less frequent traffic lights. People seemed to pay more attention and traffic flowed better, especially during low volume periods. That’s one of the problems with lights.

Here in Montreal, we have a wide 4 lane boulevard, St-Joseph. Even at 3 am, it takes 10-15 minutes to drive a couple kms. The lights have no sensors to determine if their is traffic waiting at the intersections. Even worse, there are lights to allow pedestrians to cross. Of course, most pedestrians don’t wait for the light (it’s not clearly indicated). Also, there is no button for the pedestrian to push to cross, so they are completely unaware. That light is always red and it feels like no one has ever crossed when signaled.

I think the biggest problem is one that was in the video: the lack of trust in people. People seem to think that everyone else is a mindless zombie. “The cars will never give the right of way!” “Those stupid pedestrians never look where they are going!” Of course, if we feel that we could be in danger, we will use our brains. The traffic lights make us feel safe, so we start to act like zombies.

Go to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and you can see that world in action. There are something like 8 million scooters on the streets of HCMC, and a handful of traffic lights, which are often ignored. Apart from a couple down in the tourist areas, there are no crosswalks or signals. There are a few huge roundabouts, which don’t follow any of the conventional rules that roundabouts normally use.

When you’re there, it seems to work pretty well. The vast scooter traffic flows like a river, and people look out for one another. Stopped traffic is pretty rare. If you need to cross the road, you just go. Close your eyes, walk at a steady speed, don’t hesitate, and the river flows around you.

That said, on average 30 people are killed on the road in Vietnam every single day.

Never seen it with my own eyes, but there is something very hypnotic about that trafficflow.

It doesn’t always flow so smoothly in Vietnam.

And trust me, being on the back of a bike in that is pretty scary. Agreed though that if you are a pedestrian the best thing to do is just close your eyes and cross at a steady pace, remembering the number one rule… don’t stop!

That`s just crazy. But also everybody is moving relatively slow and there are only few cars.

Ill rather keep my traffic lights. Most accidents here happen on traffic cirles and crossroads whitout traffic lights. Many drivers are too busy texting/calling/ eating to notice whats happening on the road :unamused:

Kinda make you yearn for a simpler time, doesn’t it?

I can’t say that I have met many American drivers who understand the concept of how a roundabout is supposed to work; add cell phones to the mix, and it will never happen. But to be fair, I don’t think “American” traffic engineers know what they’re doing. The roundabouts is our area are only about a hundred feet in diameter, and 1.5 lanes wide!! (try that pulling a 50-foot trailer behind a semi tractor). Basically they’re 4-way stops (yield signs actually) at a circular intersection. Stupid. I don’t see how a roundabout could possibly be less than two full lanes wide.

Then again, “scale” doesn’t seem to matter.

I think the best solution is no traffic…public transit FTW

How about the “Diverging Diamond”? Pretty amazing I think, and much better usage of traffic flow than a standard cloverleaf.

Really? You really think that relegating everyone to public transit is the way to go? Conform everyone to the government’s (or in Vancouver’s case, quasi-government) mandated time schedule? No options for longer, independent travel? No freedom to take the back road on a whim? No feeling the joy of driving a winding road through the mountains with nobody else around?

Seriously, I understand that public transportation is something that everyone should use more of. But to say that you have to eliminate traffic?

I think everything is best in moderation. Every city should have a healthy mix of well serviced roads and reliable public transit.

Really? You really think that relegating everyone to public transit is the way to go? Conform everyone to the government’s (or in Vancouver’s case, quasi-government) mandated time schedule? No options for longer, independent travel? No freedom to take the back road on a whim? No feeling the joy of driving a winding road through the mountains with nobody else around?

What he said !

winding road, yeah !

Public transport is chronically in disrepair an unorganised and it is the same in every country I ever visited.
But the discussion public vs. individual transport is so 80ies !

The developement of integrated electronic communication on the one hand and lightweight commuter cars
on the other leads the private sector into more commune behaviour. The newest BMW and Volvo models f.e.
would be able to drive by themselves. Till now its litigation and common practice that doesn’t let them.

Why should public transport be bound to railways. Wouldn’t a swarm of those be of much better use in city traffic ?:

not for the winding road, though…


Look kids, Big Ben…Parliament.

On the subject: Boring drive may lead you to take risks: study


Well I think cars/traffic will end up the way of the horse. So you can still have your winding roads i’m sure. Not only a giant overhaul in public transit systems but the way a city is designed itself. As city’s now are mostly designed around the car.

“Trying to solve traffic problems by providing more road capacity is like trying to cure obesity by buying a bigger belt.” Glen Heimstra, in C. Kaufman personal communication.

You should all watch this documentary!!

HA! Exactly what I say every time I enter a round-a-bout

I’m still waiting… … .

Episode 1, Part 1