Courtesy traffic system campaigner seeks green light

Fri, Nov 25, 2011, 00:00

IRELAND may get its first “traffic light-free” city centre if the ideas being pitched this week by a UK campaigner come to fruition.

Equality Streets is the brainchild of Martin Cassini who believes that replacing the constraints of traffic light systems with common sense and courtesy will lead to less congestion, fewer carbon emissions, improved road safety and billions of euro in savings.

Preaching his gospel across the water since 2000, he has just spent two days in Kilkenny at the invitation of the Kilkenny City Centre Business Association to establish how his principles could be put into practice in the busy but often-congested urban centre – and to try to convince the authorities to put a “bag over” the traffic lights on a trial basis.

His thoughts, which can be found on the website, have already gained some traction in his native England.

The town of Portishead outside Bristol tried out the system on December 14th, 2009, after the local council saw a report by Mr Cassini on BBC’s Newsnight.

“Everyone just loved it,” he said yesterday. “The lights have now gone, permanently. We monitored the trial and showed that journey times fell by more than a half – that’s despite more traffic using the free-flowing junctions – and there was no loss of safety.”

Now, the City of Westminster in London has agreed to switch off 145 sets of traffic lights on a trial basis and plans are in train for a similar move in Coventry. He hopes more will follow suit – not just in the UK.

An experiment carried out by Mr Cassini on Tuesday, at Kilkenny’s busiest junction on High Street, found a “dead red time” of two minutes and 17 seconds at one point, and green time of just 12 seconds.

“Everyone’s waiting for the lights to change. Instead of using their common sense and common courtesy, they’re waiting for signals to change,” he said yesterday on the second of his two days in the city.

“The first thing I’d do is a trial on the junctions along the High Street as a temporary measure.

“All you have to do is ‘bag over’ and let people use their common sense.”

Along with deregulation, what’s also needed is a re-education of motorists towards a “shared streets” concept, streetscape redesign and legal reform, says the campaigner who is a television producer but works in conjunction with Keith Firth, head of traffic engineering with SKM Colin Buchanan.