22 July 2009

White paint, red lights and fuel conservation

Yesterday, I suggested that the country could achieve significant energy savings by the simple and virtually free device of permitting left turns at red traffic lights.

Even greater savings in fuel consumption could be had by replacing as many traffic lights as possible with mini-roundabouts.

A few years ago, for example, there weren’t any traffic lights in the city of Wells, and the worst traffic jam I’d ever been in was one in which there were three cars in front of me (and that was at 8.55 a.m in the morning).

But Somerset County Council, aided and abetted by their highways consultants, W.S. Atkins, soon put a stop to all that by installing numerous sets of traffic lights at as many junctions as they could find.

As a result, Wells now has plenty of traffic jams in which, more often than not, you have to keep your vehicle idling while waiting for no traffic at all to come from any other direction.

In every place where the lights were installed, traffic flow would have worked more smoothly – and have cost far less money – if the County Council had spent a few pounds on white paint to create mini-roundabouts.

As there’s so little traffic in Wells, fuel conservation would have been significantly improved by a reduction in (a) idling time and (b) the number of times vehicles have to move off from a standing start.

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