A magic roundabout - with the lights off!

PUBLISHED: 10:24 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 21:08 26 October 2009

The roundabout

The roundabout

Oldings Roundabout by junction four of the A1(M) and Comet Way in Hatfield is nowadays better known as the large Tesco s roundabout. But ever since the road layout was changed a couple of years ago, this has been a controversial interchange. Motorists are

Oldings Roundabout by junction four of the A1(M) and Comet Way in Hatfield is nowadays better known as the large Tesco's roundabout. But ever since the road layout was changed a couple of years ago, this has been a controversial interchange. Motorists are controlled by dozens of sets of traffic lights, some on top of huge poles stretching into the sky.

Readers may recall that this roundabout hit the headlines when those new traffic signals, complete with a bewildering array of freshly painted white lines, were first installed.

It's a complicated arrangement, but we locals eventually worked out how to negotiate our way around this super-sized junction - you can always spot an out-of-towner trying to navigate this rather confusing interchange.

Of course, the truth is that we've all adjusted to allowing an extra five or 10 minutes to our journeys or better still have concocted routes that avoid Oldings altogether in order to avoid the delays created by all those sets of traffic lights on one roundabout.

But the other month an extraordinary experiment took place. No-one planned it in advance and no warning was given. The results, however, really should make the designers of this road scheme stop and think.

On Wednesday, December 12, the traffic lights on Oldings roundabout simply packed up for the day.

But rather than mayhem and chaos with drivers battling with each other to make their way round, something remarkable happened. This large roundabout simply functioned as... well, a roundabout should.

Drivers were able to enter and leave the circle according to a normal set of driving rules that we're all accustomed on any of the other thousands of roundabouts in this country.

And far from the lack of traffic signals causing confusion, everything ran smoothly.

In fact commuters discovered that things were better than normal with the customary queues of traffic at each junction having all but disappeared.

Even the junction onto the roundabout from Comet Way was clear.

All this confirms something that I've long believed. Traffic lights aren't a magic solution to traffic management. They have a time and place, but during quiet off-peak times they more often keep traffic at a standstill, waiting for nothing in particular, when it could be flowing smoothly.

With this evidence in mind I've written to the County Highways Department to ask them to study whether part-time lights, only operating during peak times, would actually provide a more free-flowing method of managing traffic at this large interchange.

This impromptu 'no lights' experiment at Oldings roundabout demonstrated what many of us have long suspected; that we simply don't need full-time traffic lights at this roundabout.

I will, of course, report back on what the traffic experts have to say.

What do you think? Log on to www.whtimes24.co.uk or email whtimes@archant.co.uk

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