After reading an article in Gazet Van Antwerpen about the amount of time pedestrians have to wait before they get a green light to cross the street, I started thinking. After tests were conducted, it turned out pedestrians had to wait an average of 1 minute to get a green light at a crossroad, and in some cases even up to three minutes.
I'm not a traffic analist, nor do I know anything about how these things work, but I do participate in traffic on a daily base, just like most of us. I use both a car, my bike and I'm often a pedestrian too. Feedback on the following idea would be much appreciated, especially if you know why it would or would not work in real life.
Right now trafic lights default to a red light for pedestrians and a green light for cars. This means that cars have right of way in most cases and the traffic stream is only interrupted when a pedestrian requests it. While in some cases it does make sense (ie. high car traffic, very low pedestrians crossing), it doesn't make sense at all in the center of a city, where there are tons of pedestrians, mixed with an equally large (or even less) amount of cars. In that case, I'd suggest that the traffic light defaults to a green for pedestrians - giving them right of way - and let the cars make the request to interrupt the stream.
Yes, just turn it around! Why not? In a city speeds are limited anyway, there are tons of pedestrians and it would make a nice change. Have you ever stood in front of a traffic light for a minute while rain is pouring down, while people in their car, sitting dry and comfortable, race by? The pedestrian is the less protected against the elements here, so why not give them the benefits?
Don't get me wrong here, as I'm not against car traffic at all. There is a place and time for everything, and I drive a car myself as well. I do think though that in certain cases and situations, it would be better to shift the default around.
So, what do you think about it?