Saturday, 8 February 2014
Disappearing traffic lights. Removal of motorized traffic from where cyclists and pedestrians needed to be made mass cycling possible in the Netherlands. A second transport revolution despite a rise in car use and ownership.
The first traffic lights in the world were installed in London in 1868. This gas operated signal exploded shortly after installation.
It wasn’t until the 2nd decade of the 20th century that electric traffic lights were invented and after the first of those was installed on August 5th in Cleveland Ohio, they were swiftly adopted worldwide.
The Netherlands followed shortly afterwards, installing the first traffic light in 1928.
Traffic lights were invented for very a reason: The adoption of motor vehicles led to a growing number of deaths and injuries. Controlling motor traffic was essential to improve safety. There are far more cars now than there were a hundred years ago, so they are still needed – but only on streets used by motor vehicles.
The first revolution
During the 20th century, not only were traffic lights installed in order to control the problems of motor vehicles, but other changes were made to streets in order to control pedestrians and cyclists.
The transformation of city streets to favour car drivers over cyclists and pedestrians happened across the world. The Netherlands was just like other countries in this regard. Traffic lights were required to avoid motor problems caused by motor vehicles, but those same motor vehicles were still seen as the solution rather than the problem.
|Not so long ago, Dutch children were educated about traffic
by “Bruintje Beer in het Verkeer”. This junction is just like
the one shown above. Chains stop pedestrians crossing
the road, formal crossings show places where this is allowed,
cyclists are not kept apart from motor vehicles, which appear
to be going rather quickly compared with everyone else.
The text specifically tells children not to cross diagonally,
It’s now encouraged by the most modern Dutch traffic light
junction design which make diagonals safe & convenient
Into the 1960s, Dutch towns were actually removing cycle-paths built earlier in order to make more space for cars and in other places the building of cycle-paths was opposed on the grounds of causing delays. For example, in Heerlen, “The head of the traffic police division has declared that the city’s traffic situation is leading increasingly to the use of traffic signals at intersections. Should bicycle paths appear at these intersections, this would require separate traffic signals, which would be too costly. Moreover, it would cause too great a delay for ‘fast’ traffic”.