I read recently that back in the early 70s Canberra had only two sets of traffic lights but now there are well over 300 and increasing rapidly by the day.
Admittedly the population and hence the number of vehicles on the road have both increased substantially but do we really need so many lights. There used to be a number of quite adequate roundabouts (visitors often complained of going round in circles) but many of these have been replaced by lights. Are Canberra drivers so incompetent that they can’t safely negotiate a roundabout?
A major ‘aim’ of traffic lights apart from the question of safety at some intersections is to enhance an orderly flow of vehicles. To do this requires a degree of coordination between lights so that the flow is smooth and uninterrupted. Unfortunately in Canberra the opposite seems to be the norm. Even keeping to the designated speed limit it is usually the case that traffic will come to a halt at least every third or fourth light – this is a best case scenario.
One of the worst examples has been Northbourne Ave – before the current disruption being caused by the work for the light rail. Being the main thoroughfare you would expect that traffic on Northbourne Ave would have a degree of priority. My experience has been that any sole car or even pedestrian who approaches from a cross road instantly generates a change of lights. No wonder motorists on Northbourne Ave get frustrated and queues form – not to mention the waste of petrol for each stop and wear and tear on the engine. I can only imagine how frustrating it will be driving along Northbourne Ave when the tram is operational and has priority at each intersection. Imagine the rat running in nearby streets to avoid this situation.
Even more frustrating is the situation – quite common – where lights change even when there is no other vehicle in sight from the cross direction. I sometimes wonder whether the powers that be in Transport Canberra purchase the cheapest systems to operate the lights – a false economy give the vast amounts of taxpayers’ money spent on other aspects of transport in Canberra especially the never ending roadworks.
These problems are repeated throughout Canberra and are undoubtedly set to escalate. The latest addition to the traffic light ‘scene’ is the wondrous nine sets of lights at the intersection of the Barton Highway and William Slim Drive/Gundaroo Drive near Gold Creek. I gather locals are taking bets on the first major accident when motorists get totally confused by lane markings, turn indicators and the usual merging of lanes especially just after passing through the intersection.