Steve Wallace: More innovation needed on our streets

You are alone at an intersection, waiting for the traffic light to change from red to solid green. There are no other vehicles, pedestrians or other modes of transportation coming from any other direction. It is either early morning or extremely late in the evening. It seems like an eternity before the solid green light appears. If you were in a progressive municipal jurisdiction, the extremely long wait would be eliminated by a flashing red-amber combination at low-traffic-volume times. This is seldom done in Backward Columbia.

It is very busy. You are at an intersection wanting to make a left turn. The traffic light is solid green for those going straight through. There is a solid red arrow preventing you from legally turning left when there is no oncoming traffic.

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In many progressive municipalities, the arrow would be flashing amber, allowing for a left turn with no threatening oncoming traffic. This allowance keeps the traffic moving and helps relieve congestion at intersections. Unheard of in Backward Columbia.

But there is hope. At some intersections in progressive municipalities, there is a real attempt to get traffic around a right turn on the beginning cycle of the solid green light, by holding the pedestrian parallel traffic back for several seconds, before displaying the Walk signal.

Victoria is slowly developing this behaviour at some busy downtown intersections. Perhaps the trend will continue. Congrats regardless.

U-turns should be permitted at intersections wide enough to accommodate such an action, particularly at multi-lane large intersections.

It is nothing new for several North American jurisdictions. Traffic lights hold all other vehicle and pedestrian movement while this efficient manner of retreating from whence one came is executed. Going back is also addressed by diverters, circles and roundabouts. They should be the norm, not the exception.

Why are governing bodies so reluctant to embrace them? These designs keep the traffic moving in the same direction, eliminate the treacherous left-turn option and unnecessary stops. Where land is available, they should be the norm, not the exception. What better way to avoid a T-bone or head-on collision?

Reflective painted lines were once the norm on our roadways. Environmental necessity gave way to a different, more Earth-friendly paint. The problem of a lack of staying power and an unanticipated dull reflection was a testament to the dimwits who authorized the product with seemingly little long-term testing.

A pig in a poke comes to mind. The fact that the old leftover dark images remain in a more prominent fashion than the newly painted lines is a testament to the five-P reality: Poor planning precedes poor performance!

Reflective paint on our roads saves lives. This should be the primary focus of traffic engineers, not experimentation with a new product.

All passenger vehicles should be equipped with external beepers. This simple warning system could prevent rear-end collisions, which make up about 30 per cent of collisions in B.C. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to this kind of mishap.

Misjudging the forward motion of a motor vehicle is a common problem facing pedestrians, especially at intersections. Pedestrians would be much more comfortable in knowing a driver was braking while approaching an intersection if they could see a blue light illuminated in the front grille of the vehicle. This recent proposal seems to have fallen off the agenda of our friends south of the border.

People look at traffic lights. Why not have unique limited advertising opportunities for private and public enterprise on the actual traffic light standards? People have nothing better to do than look at the light or sign. Look at the bright side: Maybe it would get their heads out of the phones.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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