Switch off the traffic lights

Martin Cassini from Ilfracombe believes the 'shared space' campaign by Equality Streets could help r

Martin Cassini from Ilfracombe believes the 'shared space' campaign by Equality Streets could help reduce the number of accidents and injuries on North Devon's roads. - Credit: Archant

Campaigner calls for a new system to reduce death and injury on North Devon roads.

NORTH Devon does not need more police on the roads to prevent death and injury, but fewer signs, lines and traffic lights.

Martin Cassini, a video producer from Ilfracombe, has campaigned across the country calling for councils and the government to adopt a ‘shared space’ traffic system.

Following our story last week which reported nine road deaths in six months in North Devon from April to October last year, he contacted us to highlight his Equality Streets initiative.

This would see traffic lights, road markings and unnecessary signage removed from most areas, apart from large multi lane intersections at peak times.

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“Instead of disabling road-users with a time-consuming, death-defying, ‘stop-go’ system of priority and traffic lights, we should replace priority with equality, and enable pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to interact sociably on a level playing-field,” he said.

“Imagine jumping a cash point queue. You’d start a riot – but that’s how the anti-social priority system operates. It tells us to ignore others who were there first.

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“If you take away the lights it allows infinite filtering opportunities – if you know no one has priority, you are not going to speed, but approach with care.

“Traffic lights take our eyes off the road, a recipe for danger. They make us stop when we could go, a recipe for rage. They cost the earth to install and run.”

In North Devon, he thinks Ilfracombe, Braunton and Barnstaple could scrap most of their traffic lights. Initially, he proposes monitored lights-off trials at North Devon Hospital, Pilton Causeway and Bear Street.

“Currently, roads are designed for conflict and competition,” added Martin.

“Green lights promote speed, aggression and unequal rights-of-way. If a child runs out or a cyclist wobbles, that’s when serious accidents occur.

“But when lights are out of action and there is no priority, we use commonsense to approach carefully. In the Channel Islands it’s called filter-in-turn. No lethal, conflicting speeds. No needless delay.

After a 2008 BBC Newsnight report and studio discussion with Jeremy Paxman, Martin instigated a lights-off trial at Portishead, which he said became permanent after journey times fell by more than half with no loss of safety, with economic benefits amounting to £450,000 a year.

Recently he finished a film for Cheshire East Council about the transformation of a notorious junction at the village of Poynton. Lights were scrapped; multi-lane approaches turned into single lanes with hugely extended pavements and free on-street parking.

On Monday, January 28 he is taking part in a presentation, film screening and discussion at Westminster about the Poynton scheme, hosting it alongside Chris Kelly MP and The Institute of Economic Affairs.

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