please empty your brain below

I've seen these in Washington DC - they're a great idea.

I have to admit to being a cyclist who uses the countdown period to get a headstart at Holborn - though usually to avoid having taxis tailgating me as I head for the right turn onto New Oxford Street.

Any figures for accidents and injuries?

look at how that map highlights Boris's focus on his precious outer boroughs!

There are plenty of figures on accidents and injuries, indeed the report has an entire chapter on Interactions and Conflicts. Mixed outcomes, but "the absence of any increase in higher level conflict types suggests that the PCaTS package does not introduce any serious risks to safety".

We have one in my city, near the Jr High school and it is an excellent idea, especially where they car is king and they don't give pedestrians a second thought, ie will happily turn behind/infront of you while you har still crossing!

No survey of pedestrian idiocy levels though. I witnessed a young woman start the full diagonal at Oxford Circus one day this week, after the red man had appeared. Of course, the idiot found herself caught mid-junction in the advancing traffic. Some folk should not be allowed out.

Look, seriously, why has nobody even considered that what pedestrians really want to know is not how long the delay between the green man disappearing and the red man appearing is, but how long they're going to have to wait at the red man for? Installing all those countdown displays and then leaving them completely idle during exactly the phase when the most pedestrians would dearly love to see the numbers ticking away is an act of breathtaking idiocy.

At least, since the displays have to be installed anyway, it doesn't rule out the possibility of reducing the length of time they are left pointlessly blank at a later stage. The traffic controllers know exactly how long the lights are timed to be red for, whether this is set in stone at a junction or a fixed delay after the button was last pressed. Why must this be such a jealously guarded secret from pedestrians?

I saw these in San Francisco and I hate them. Cars revving and creeping forward into the crossing when the countdown is at 5 seconds.. Pedestrians frequently running without thinking about it and running into each other.

Drivers very aggressive if you are still on the crossing after your allotted time.

I hate the attitude of seeing just how long pedestrians have to scurry across the road.

I like the one at Oxford Circus, well it's the only one I've seen so far.


If the light is a crossroads, all the pedestrian needs to do is to watch the number count down for the street parallel to them. Here in Ontario they're everywhere.

Countdowns for traffic on both red and green are quite common in China.
Large enough to be readable from 100 m.
Most seemed to start at 60secs, but in heavy traffic urban areas up to 120+.
I wasn't driving, but is seemed to me to lower drivers stress in both green and red phase.
Waiting was much easier if you could see when the green was going to come.

with or without countdowns, crossings are almost impossible in Central London for the elderly or unfit. when my mother. then in her 80s, arrived from Euston mainline station, we had to walk quite a long way west to find a pedestrian underpass to cross Euston Road, she realised she wouldn't walk fast enough to cross above ground in the time allowed.

I never take notice of green/red lights, if there is a gap then i will make a dash for it and the countdown thing at holborn is useless, sometimes it does not start straight away and there are people who actually wait till the timer starts when they have time before that to get across

Countdowns are fun for boys crossing with their mothers. Usually ending with 'Blast off'.

First encountered these in Dublin and my first impulse was "Only 30 seconds! ARGH! MUST HURRY!"

I then proceeded to get across the crossing in about 8secs and realised how bonkers my perception of time was on that day.

But Swirlything is right - I'd much rather know how long I have to wait than how long I have to cross. And we need drivers who actually obey crossings too...

in Cuba - they have them for the traffic - both how long till green - then how long till red...

the drivers love them - but if you're caught speeding or running a red light you lose your car and go straight to jail - so the drivers are pretty well behaved!!!

@ quin : that doesn't work here, pedestrians and traffic get green at different times so the crossings are all red at the same time then get green at the same time. (At least, at this type of urban crossroads)

@ swirlything : that would indeed be much more helpful, and I remember this being promised here by the Mayor's advisors, presumably before it was explained why it's not very easy. You say the signal controller knows how long it will be before the green man comes back, but actually they generally don't.

The junctions in London are generally operating with variable timings each cycle; there are sensors in the roads counting vehicle flows and the signals tweak the timings to best manage traffic flows (search for SCOOT or MOVA if you want to be bored with details). Also, London buses are all fitted with transponders which communicate with the signals, and these can prioritise buses by extending a green light if it's approaching on green and they were about to change, or hurry the next green if it arrives on a red. (It can do this by shortening other traffic greens, but not the pedestrian times)

@ SELondoner: I don't believe your point about London Buses being able to communicate with traffic signals is correct. It has been talked about in parts of the capital, but it doesn't happen now (unless you can prove otherwise). It does happen in Holland, giving priority to buses, and their bus services are much more reliable.

@ Don, have a look at the leaflet on bus priority at signalled junctions produced by TfL in 2006: which states that as of 2006, 1450 junctions in London had bus detection installed and providing priority, and the number will have climbed since then.

Is there a training course available for pedestrians

Good question, George!

Having searched the TfL website - I can't find any recent evidence that TfL have implemented bus priority schemes at traffic lights. I'd be interested to know if anyone can name a set of traffic signals which the bus communicates with.

Even traditional bus gates are run on a detection loop in the ground.

@ Anonymous, see the link three posts above for a link to a leaflet on TfL's website.

2 seconds typing into Google produces other results including this one, citing the spread of bus priority at signals since the first widespread trial in 1987:

Page on TfL's site with links to reports on bus priority at signals in London:

This paper notes the move from bus-mounted transponders which connect to detection loops to the more complex GPS-based iBus at 3,200 London signal junctions:

"Bus priority in London was developed by the use of selective vehicle detection to give buses priority extensions and recalls at traffic signals. Previous systems have used transponders fitted to the buses linked to antennas buried in the carriageway (‘bus loops’) and roadside beacons communicating with on-bus transponders via a short microwave link. Currently, 45% of the 3200 signalled junctions are fitted with one or other of these types of equipment."

The countdowns are starting to show up in the States, and the biggest drawback is also cited in your footnotes: Vehicle operators start using it as a "drag race" countdown. There needs to be a sufficient gap between the end of the countdown and the red/amber. The amber already adds a "launch tension;" the countdown now compounds it.

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