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Tory London mayoral candidate plans to end Sadiq Khan’s “attack on drivers” by switching off red lights

The Conservative hopeful also said he’ll put an end to segregated bike lanes, 20mph speed limits, ULEZ, and closed streets

Dan Korski, one of the candidates for the London mayor elections from the Conservative Party, has vowed to end Sadiq Khan’s “attack on drivers” by unveiling a milieu of radical traffic changes, such as switching off red lights and ending segregated bike lanes, 20mph speed limits, ULEZ and low traffic neighbourhoods.

With motorists and other people criticising Khan’s divisive policies to prioritise dealing with the capital’s deteriorating air quality and climate change, the Tory hopeful has announced a radical shake-up of London’s roads should he be elected in next year’s mayoral elections in May.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Korski said that he would explore switching off red lights between 10pm and 7am. Instead, amber flashing lights managed by sensors would “ease the flow of traffic”, and make sure that drivers are not forced to wait at deserted junctions.

The former No.10 aide also said that he would allow motorists and cyclists to share lanes on routes where bike segregation has caused annoying congestion, as well as scrapping 20mph limits where there's no obvious reason for the restriction.

The mayoral hopeful also wants to dramatically reduce traffic control measures including no right turns and closed streets, where they don't command local support.

> TfL to address safety concerns over drivers ignoring red lights at Bow Roundabout

Korski told The Sun: “Sadiq Khan's transport policies, to London voters, appear irrational. Above all, it's hard to see how they help the environment.

“They're driving motorists around the bend and, most counterintuitively, turning some people against environmentalism. All my changes will be made with community input.”

Korski, along with some other frontrunners from the Conservative party, has already sworn to put an end to Khan’s ULEZ expansion due in August. Another candidate, Paul Scully, said that that he will “turn off all those new cameras” on his first day, if he were to get elected.

> Suella Braverman criticised by cycling campaign group for “avoiding public scrutiny” over speeding offence

Amsterdam’s traffic light experiments

Although Korski’s plan sounds outlandish and stems out of aiding drivers cutting down their journey times as much as possible, the cycling-friendly Netherlands tried switching off red lights — not just to help drivers, but cyclists.

Until 2016, one of the Dutch capital’s busiest intersections at Sarphatistraat-Alexanderplein was controlled by traffic lights, with cyclists, the predominant users in Amsterdam as in a lot of Dutch cities, had longer wait times.

01 Afternoon traffic in Amsterdam (Photo credit- Copenhagenize Design Co)
Afternoon traffic in Amsterdam (Photo credit- Copenhagenize Design Co)

However in that case, the test was part of a larger mobility strategy across the city to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians, meaning limiting access and space for private vehicles. The new setup forced people to engage with their surroundings: Instead of relying on traffic lights, they now relied on their own abilities and the cues of others.

Over the period of a year, it was seen that cyclists had become more aware of their surroundings and of other road users. In less than two weeks, the evolution was already observed on Alexanderplein.

> Cyclists in Paris allowed to ignore red traffic lights

Delay times were reduced and safety remained unaffected, showing that regulation can lead to responsible and alert road users. It was so successful that the pilot was extended and a few months later the lights were completely removed, and even led to the junction’s redesign.

However, in February this year, Amsterdam cyclists were greeted with traffic signs asking them to not jump red lights by showing a counter of how many cyclists waited at the red light and nudging them to do the same.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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105 comments

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Nagai74 | 9 months ago
5 likes

Not sure if it's still the case, but the last time I drove in Amsterdam, many traffic lights flashed amber during the evening/night-time, and it seemed to work well. What is the point of stopping and waiting at a red light at 2am if there's no other traffic around? But then I think they have a much better standard of driving over there than we have in the UK.

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Sriracha replied to Nagai74 | 9 months ago
2 likes

If there really is "no other traffic", why do the control systems not change the lights in favour of the solitary approaching car? There are enough sensor loops buried in the road.

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Rich_cb replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
1 like

Most newer ones will but a lot of the older lights just cycle through a set routine.

Setting those to flash amber (where appropriate) would probably be a lot easier than installing all the sensors etc

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 9 months ago
1 like

If your problem is "lights are not smart" the answer may not be "no lights" - even though this is a lot cheaper...

The not very smart lights were there not just ensure a fair go at priority for each direction, but because it turns out that a proportion of licenced drivers do not apply the expected care when driving and where traffic crosses this leads to collisions.

A reduced volume of traffic may make collisions less frequent but it seems that even adding darkness doesn't prompt an improvement in the quality of care in observation.

If "something must be done" AND "mustn't cost very much" (often the source of more problems) perhaps shortening some of the cycle times - adjusted for expected main traffic flow etc?

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wycombewheeler replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
3 likes
Sriracha wrote:

If there really is "no other traffic", why do the control systems not change the lights in favour of the solitary approaching car? There are enough sensor loops buried in the road.

God please don't advocate for this, in my experience they have a lot of difficulty installing any type of sensor which reliably detects cyclists, I don't think I need to be accompanied by a motorist to safely negotiate a junction. if anything being made to wait until a car turns up so we can go through together makes things less safe.

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chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 9 months ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
Sriracha wrote:

If there really is "no other traffic", why do the control systems not change the lights in favour of the solitary approaching car? There are enough sensor loops buried in the road.

God please don't advocate for this, in my experience they have a lot of difficulty installing any type of sensor which reliably detects cyclists, I don't think I need to be accompanied by a motorist to safely negotiate a junction. if anything being made to wait until a car turns up so we can go through together makes things less safe.

Well if drivers are only looking for other drivers maybe that would help SMIDSY... Perhaps a "red car act" where every cyclist needs to be preceeded by a red car?  3

If the problem is detectors which don't detect bikes surely the answer is detectors which do? The Dutch seem to manage it...

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chrisonabike replied to Nagai74 | 9 months ago
1 like

You're also much less likely to meet a cyclist on the road and even a bit less at a junction which might have lights - right turns generally don't involve the cyclist entering the road at all where there is a cycle track (or even needing to stop).

I think the standard of driving (e.g. adhering to the rules, looking where you're going) probably isn't *much* different.  Humans, see - and there are still people are being killed and injured on the roads and it seems (various stats here and here, / analysis here in Dutch) that the proportion of cyclists killed by drivers is going up.

Apparently it's better than the UK for pedestrians though.

I would expect the average speed to be lower and motorists to be much more aware of a) what speed they should be going and b) where they are likely to interact with vulnerable road users.  That is mostly down to engineering, though there's a good training system in place.

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Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
8 likes

Im not sure this is really a story.  There are 7 Tory candidates - a mixed bag of SPADs and Assembly members and 1 MP.  All of who are happy to spout trash as they know the 2024 Mayoral election is a long shot bar Khan digging up the Queen.

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Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
13 likes

I don't like running down the denizens of my beloved hometown, but anyone who's seen the absolute snarling shitshow that almost instantly arises in London as soon as a set of traffic lights fails would not have much faith that turning off the reds and relying on drivers' (and cyclists') good faith and common sense is really a good shout.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
3 likes

It is for certain times of day though - not all day. I have lived in cities where the lights flash amber during the night and it didn't seem a problem. I don't have any statistics for collisions etc - but it seemed perfectly easy to slow down, check all was clear and go through the amber light. 

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HoldingOn | 9 months ago
5 likes

Is anyone else old enough to remember when this would be considered a joke?

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HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
5 likes

And a Cones Hotline. You know it's Common Sense.

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HarrogateSpa replied to HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
8 likes

Let's have no rules for drivers, and give them all the space and priority.

Cos that's worked really well for the last 7 decades, and ensured there is no pollution. And that's how the Dutch enabled mass cycling.

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ktache replied to HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
1 like

Donyou remember Pickles saying double yellows could be ignored "for a few minutes", think of the congestion...

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chrisonabike | 9 months ago
0 likes

Well not much point commenting on the "reverse what the last incumbent did" populism initially discussed.   (Just trust people to drive sensibly, let them get on with it - that'd sort the pollution too!)

There's some troubling mention of "shared space" ideas.  Like L-shaped cranks and odd-shaped chainrings the good idea fairy keeps hitting people with this one.  Unfortunately it only "works" under two conditions:
a) where the different users are rather similar - particularly in terms of vulnerability - and
b) there are few people using the space anyway.  If the weaker mode dominates the numbers it will feel safer for them - but be very inefficient for the other modes.

If motor vehicles are involved they quickly make it unpleasant for the rest - the "shared" part goes out of the window and we've just got a less formal road (why did we have marking and traffic lights originally?  Ah).  Apparently such spaces are particularly risky for those with visual impairments.

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