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Traffic Lights Versus Roundabouts

Updated on April 12, 2014

Hate Traffic Lights

Hate is a strong word. It's a word that cuts deep into the soul. When someone says they hate something (with conviction), there's a familiar sense of negative emotion that we all seem to share. It's a feeling like no other. It's an emotion I designate for only a few things, but when I do decide to hate something it is on like donkey kong.

The few special things I decide to put into this category called hate are sacred . I will always hate them, and I will forever think they are evil. For instance, I hate being sick, I hate losing, I hate the freaking Dallas Cowboys, and I absolutely loath traffic lights. In fact, I want to punch them neon light thingy, especially the damn red one.

What real purpose do traffic signals serve other than to tick me off? It's as if each stoplight has a mind of its own, remaining red (or green in some cases) for far too long; conversely, not staying green (and yes sometimes red) long enough in other circumstances.

Furthermore, the whole sensor thing is a bit of a scam. (For those who are not aware, supposedly some traffic lights have sensors that detect if a vehicle is sitting there waiting at a light. In such cases, the traffic light computer recalculates the time the light changes in order to accommodate the waiting vehicle.) Whether the sensors thing is true or not, I think it is all bologna and a crap system.

Traffic Signals

Now that's just scary looking.
Now that's just scary looking.

Why Traffic Lights

I would personally like to thank Mr. J.P. Knight for inventing the worst possible thing on earth way back in 1868 just outside of the British Parliament House.

Although, to be fair, I'm sure Mr. Knight doesn’t deserve all the blame. I’m almost positive if Mr. Knight hadn’t created the traffic light, some other schmuck would've. Regardless, if he were standing in front of me today, I would have some unpleasant pleasantries for him.

Why do we have traffic lights? Well, according to Wikipedia (which is the ultimate source of information) traffic lights or stoplights, “are signaling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings and other locations to control competing flows of traffic.” This design is controlled by alternating signals between the colors red and green in order to establish who has the right away.

Now, I think it is fair to say that most people know what a traffic light is. So, why am I sitting here spelling it out for you? Good question.

Traffic Lights - Look at the Traffic Jam!

Traffic Signals Suck

I aim to prove that the use of traffic lights is a horrible way to control competing flows of traffic. Of course, the counterargument here is that it works and it’s better than the alternative, none. Sure, it may have worked back in the day, like back in the 1930s when traffic was much less tedious. However, just because the system did work does not mean that it is the best option. I mean, the telegraph works but does that mean we shouldn't use e-mail?

How many times have you personally sat in the middle of traffic, deadlocked, because the freakin' traffic light wouldn’t change? Or how many times have you been sitting there at the traffic light, three lanes across, and each lane is stacked somewhere between 20 to 30 vehicles deep?

Remember, that’s just one side of the traffic light people. If you look directly across the intersection you will see the same numbers and sometimes more depending on “the flow of traffic.” The term should really be called the halt of traffic.

Also, let’s flip the situation around, shall we? How many times in the middle of night have you just missed the green light, and you have to sit there for what seems like a decade while the traffic light cycles all the way back to you? Meanwhile, there are no other vehicles on the road, just you and your vehicle idly waiting. Yeah, controlling competing flows of traffic my ass.

Oh, did I mention that I hate traffic lights?

How to Drive Roundabouts

The Solution: Roundabouts

Thanks to another British engineer by the name of Frank Blackmore, the roundabout was invented. The roundabout, or traffic circle, is the best solution for today's traffic flow problems.

With roundabouts, you don't have to wait needlessly for a traffic light to turn that ridiculous green color. There's no more screaming at the light to turn green when you are running late for that all-important appointment. The roundabout takes all those frustrations and turns them into a simple stop and go...stop and go, free-flowing traffic.

How do I know it works? I was fortunate enough to live in England for two years, where roundabouts trump traffic lights. I fell in love with them instantly.

What are roundabouts? defines a roundabout as, "a circular arrangement constructed at the intersection of two or more roads in order to facilitate the passage of vehicles from one road to another."

Basically, when a vehicle approaches a roundabout, everyone in the inside of the circle has the right away, while those approaching the intersection must yield. Meanwhile, the vehicles outside the roundabout must only yield in one direction (the direction depends on which side of the road the you drive on.)

Simple right? If only everything could be so simple.


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