Life without traffic lights – Lancaster’s ad hoc Monderman junctions

Since a number of traffic lights stopped working on Lancaster city centre’s one-way system, we’ve suddenly had to get used to the novelty of shared space and Monderman junctions. It’s interesting to see how well it is or isn’t working. Many drivers are very courteous; others race through as if to say “Don’t you dare stop me!”  As a pedestrian, I feel safer waiting for others before attempting to cross the road, but I’m learning to be more assertive with a smile and a mouthed “thank you”. But if we have the time to get used to it, will the courtesy spread?

What are other people’s experiences – from all sides of the windscreen?

Herds of pedestrians sweeping majestically over the new Monderman junction

Herds of pedestrians sweeping majestically across the “new Monderman junction”

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About lancasterdynamo

Dynamo is a cycling group, established in 1994, to work with official bodies, other cycling organisations and interested individuals to promote cycling as a safe, enjoyable and healthy means of transport.
This entry was posted in A6, city centre, lancaster, Transport Alternatives and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Life without traffic lights – Lancaster’s ad hoc Monderman junctions

  1. Sue H says:

    Seems to me that a little assertiveness is required, but once I set out into the road while making eye contact the drivers are courteous…

  2. Jim says:

    Fishergate in Preston is now “shared space” with a number of junctions off the main street. I was there yesterday. The road is 80% paved with a single one-way central lane surfaced differently to define it as a vehicle area. Vehicles tend to use only this lane and pedestrians avoid it. The car-to-car interface seems to work well, with drivers on what would have been the priority route giving way to traffic entering from side roads. Don’t know how well it works for cycles as the only cyclist I saw was cycling against the one-way flow on the paved area used by pedestrians!
    Although in theory pedestrians can cross the traffic lane anywhere with equal priority, they tend to do so only at certain points that have another different surface which suggests they are pedestrian crossings although without any of usual markings to confirm this. Vehicles do give way, but of course the pedestrian is no better off as they are still restricted to designated (albeit indistinctly) points. Where side roads enter Fishergate itself and where the pedestrian on the main route would legally have priority over turning traffic anyway you still have to be “brave” or at least “confident” to claim your right of way. I saw numbers of pedestrians waiting patiently for gaps in traffic in such locations.

    So, it seems to work for drivers and pedestrians as long as you are confident enough to assert your rights, but as there was only the one cyclist I couldn’t see how it would work for others. I do think though that less confident and more vulnerable road users would prefer the certainties of a more regulated system.

  3. FROM HILARY: It is great for me. I went south Lancaster to Morecambe yesterday morning at 8 am, no problem, then north to south through Lancaster last night at 10 pm, and it was free flowing and very quick. Have just cycled down into town with no problems, people seem to be behaving considerately and carefully. Perhaps we should get rid of them permanently… but not sure how it would be crossing roads or trying to turn right out of side roads.

    FROM MIKE: As a pedestrian, I find it terrifying at Boot & Shoe, Penny Street and Dalton Square. Where are the police to control traffic when pedestrians (and cyclists for that matter) need them? I saw 3 police at Greyhound bridge, controlling the non existent traffic (apart from the occasional ambulance) when it was closed.

    As a cyclist, I find it typical that buses use the cycle lane on Queen Sq. as a waiting space – their convenience more important than our safety.

    As a cyclist, the shortage of traffic lights doesn’t scare me so much,as I’m in the traffic already. It’s much more difficult to enter 4 streams of traffic as a pedestrian.

  4. Dick says:

    Not everyone worked out how to behave. Outside Waterstones on Friday morning: cars were slowing down to let a group of pedestrians cross when a motorist in a Mini overtook all the other cars and accelerated over the crossing – almost taking out a family with a pushchair. Just one incident and perhaps not typical, but it suggests there’s still some way to go.

  5. F Patel says:

    I feel there needed to be a better share of the roads and at times pavements pre the no traffic lights. As such with no traffic control in place at some junctions, I feel the need to be more assertive and looking at drivers’ faces when pulling out in front of vehicles, but still, no complacency for my own safety. It’s a bit of a chicken run to get across the roads to get to the other side at cycle crossings, pushing the bike promptly across the road, that itself can be hazardous…

  6. lancasterdynamo says:

    ANOTHER COMMENT: Good that you’re pursuing this. The Poynton experience is so heartening. I’m a pedestrian & a driver. I found that driving was mostly better than usual with people being careful & actually looking at other traffic! The occasional lunacy wasn’t any different from usual – & if the junctions were planned & people were given time to learn about them, things would be even better.
    My experience as a pedestrian was also good, all kinds of vehicles slowed & let pedestrians cross. Except for the homicidal woman on Greaves Road who actually accelerated & gave me the finger as I attempted to cross while indicating that the lights weren’t working. Oh well.
    Keep up the good work.

  7. ANOTHER COMMENT: Traffic in Carnforth seemed to be flowing more smoothly than usual on Friday, with no-more-than-usual traffic jams. Don’t know what it was like for pedestrians trying to cross, though.

  8. Noel says:

    The cars seemed to be flowing quite smoothly, but as a pedestrian it was less than clear how the new ‘system’ was supposed to operate! Were we supposed to wait for a courteous driver? Crossing the A6 this meant waiting for 2 to magically appear at the same time – statistically unlikely. I ended up heading into the road as soon as it was safe to do so, and hoping that the second lane of traffic would take this as a hint to stop. I didn’t notice what happened with older/disabled people. Did cars stop in anticipation? Did people ‘help them across the road’? I suppose if such a system was to become more ‘normal’ then there would be well-known and understood ‘norms’ and rules about what happens, but what about people just travelling through who don’t know them? In the Netherlands, is there a stricter hierarchy of right of way? As a cyclist, my main experience was crossing the A6 at Piccadilly/Boot and Shoe to get to work. I had forgotten about the lights until I got there! Luckily every time I went through this junction it was off-peak and not too busy or congested, meaning I could get across with lots of eye-contact and some signalling and boldness, but I would not like to try in rush hour.

  9. Noel says:

    p.s. I have sent this link to a couple of transport research forums…

  10. andy says:

    As a driver, cyclist and pedestrian who has battled the lancaster-morecambe chaos for 25 years, i have to say that i have had fantasies of doing a direct action and putting hoods on all the traffic lights throughout lancaster one way system and lancaster-morecambe road: what happened recently was my dream come true!
    Every year, in feb/mar, the highways head bean counter looks at the budget and if there’s underspend, another quick rash of unnecessary traffic lights appear so their sacred budget will be preserved next year – ah the joys of hierarchical bullshit and isolationism. Remember the A683/M6 junction before it had any traffic lights? traffic flowed freely. Another good example is the lights on the A6 near galgate where the south end of uni campus gets out to the main road…every blue moon.
    My observations from the chaos – yes, drivers overall became more courteous and more observant; traffic flowed better everywhere i went that weekend (lancaster rat runs; lune valley; carnforth) but there were a lot fewer vehicles on the road. As soon as the town centre was open but without traffic lights, traffic flowed better than i can remember, and there weren’t crowds of pedestrians unable to get across the road that i saw.
    Ban all traffic lights; 20mph advisory limit; no road markings; one copper on a pushbike during “rush hour” whose only job is preventing antisocial pulling-in by vans and taxis; signs at merging points emphasising TAKING TURNS; roundabouts at the lancaster ends of greyhound and skerton bridge with 2 way traffic between them and sainsbury’s having it’s own slip road; turn off the streetlights after 9pm – save money and let us see the stars…there’s a few to be going on with!

  11. Pamela White says:

    Was surprised that traffic generally seemed to be flowing sufficiently slowly for it to be possible just to step out into the road and go for it. Eye contact with courteously responding drivers was obviously essential. But overall, an empowering if slightly unnerving experience – and had I been driving, I suspect I’d have found it unnerving, as well!

    Pamela, (pedestrian)

  12. Mr D Pilchard says:

    I can only speak as a pedestrian, as I neither drive nor cycle.
    I found road crossing under these conditions stressful and dangerous.
    It brought to light the different attitudes, methods and understanding of the traffic system among drivers, making predictions, regarding their behaviour, much harder to make.
    The lack of designated safe and predictable crossing areas for children seemed like the recipe for more frequent accidents.

  13. Oliver F says:

    I didn’t cycle at all for various reasons, but as a pedestrian it was nearly very nice, at least during daylight hours (I guess expecting perfect safety for unlit pedestrians in pitch darkness is a bit optimistic). Catching friendly and cautious motorists’ eyes (and there were a lot of them) was positively heartwarming – well, almost. I also thought the 20mph limit got quite a good workout for once. There were certainly problems at some crossings – Dalton Square seemed worse than Waterstones – and there were of course a couple of the usual macho/stupid cycling louts to complement the loutish drivers. I wondered if there were fewer cyclists than usual, with some put off by potential hazard, but in cold wet dark December it’s hard to be sure.

    As a pedestrian I was reminded of the pleasure of crossing streets in [Northern – Los Angeles is something else] California where the law is amazingly helpful and clear. To quote: ‘The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection… The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian… Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard… The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.’ In practice, combined with a 25 mph speed limit which is widely respected, this means a remarkably calm and safe space except on big roads with traffic lights. I wish… Mind you, in legal terms California is not particularly cycle-friendly – so far as I can see their highway code mainly treats cyclists as annoyingly slow vehicles with no special rights.

  14. Andy says:

    I drove, walked and cycled into and through town while the lights were out and progressively coming back on. From what I saw it worked really well, people on all sides taking a bit more care and paying a bit more attention to what was going on with other people rather than just relying on the lights. I did notice when driving that other drivers seemed reluctant to stop to allow pedestrians to cross when I would have done. But when I was walking I never felt that I had to wait particularly long before it was safe to cross. Traffic seemed to be flowing more smoothly, slower but steady and probably faster overall. But then, there was probably less traffic in town.

  15. FROM JULES: I thought traffic through the junctions was going surprisingly well – everyone was remaining calm and courteous. Don’t know if this was part of cheerfulness-in-the-face-of-adversity, in which case it may not have lasted too long.

    The biggest problem I found was crossing the A6 at the bottom of meeting house lane – would have been extremely scary without the presence of a policewoman. I was glad the other pedestrian crossing were working.

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