Pedestrians get the green light

By Alastair Sloane

NZ drivers may soon be seeing red, reports Alatair Sloane

New software means pedestrians get more time to cross busy intersections. Photo / NZ Herald
New software means pedestrians get more time to cross busy intersections. Photo / NZ Herald

Drivers frustrated by the number of traffic lights in Auckland will have more to grumble about if the Super City adopts the latest software being tested at pedestrian crossings in Britain.

It adjusts the frequency of traffic lights depending on the number of people waiting to cross the road.

The system is an evolution of existing technology that gauges car traffic volumes to dictate light sequences.

It can detect the number of people waiting on the footpath and automatically keep lights red - and drivers waiting - for longer the more pedestrians there are.

Britain's Transport Research Laboratory, which developed the system with traffic software companies Peek and Siemens, claims it can be adjusted depending on how busy the crossing is.

Andy Kirkham, a traffic signals consultant at TRL, told AutoExpress: "Usually, pedestrians get a fixed amount of time to cross, but this system will keep the lights red for longer to allow everyone to cross."

Transport for London is already sold on the idea and has installed it at busy junctions such as Victoria Station. TRL says it expects another 50 local authorities across Britain to adopt it by the end of this year.

The technology has been designed to improve safety at crossings, and has already been shortlisted for an award at a major traffic technology expo in the Netherlands.

But drivers will be dismayed to learn that TRL is not stopping with pedestrians. Next on the agenda are cyclists.

Kirkham says they could soon be given priority at lights, too. That could mean separate traffic lights for cyclists, or simply more favourable sequences.

"We are looking at the cycle network from a cyclist's point of view, and seeing whether there's a way to allow them to cycle without stopping at lights," Kirkham said.

To achieve this, sequences could be primed to stay green if cyclists approach them at a set safe speed - a system that's already in operation at some signals in Britain for cars.

- NZ Herald

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