Traffic Signal Planning for People

Photo of a child's chalk drawing showing a traffic signal and zebra crossing in Schonborn Park Vienna.

Even children understand the importance of traffic signals and walking!      Photo: Nash, Schonborn Park Chalk Drawing, 2020.

The Falter.Morgen quoted me in today’s article on traffic signal planning … here’s my quote in English …

I know it sounds crazy, but we need to accept and even specifically plan to delay vehicles at traffic signals – in cases where it can provide a benefit to OV, cyclists and/or pedestrians.

One of the main problems for sustainable transport is our unwillingness to examine hidden priorities behind many transport “givens” such as priority for moving vehicles in traffic signal planning.

And one reason this priority is ‘hidden’ is because traffic signal timing is very complicated. The Falter’s traffic signal series does an excellent job explaining just how complicated.

Last year I a proposal to study how traffic signals could be used to actively support sustainable transport. Part of our approach was helping residents better understand traffic signal planning so they could suggest and support traffic signal changes to make transport more sustainable. (Unfortunately, the research wasn’t funded! Contact me if you’d like a copy of the proposal, maybe you will have better luck?)

I think about traffic signals a lot as I walk around (making my wife crazy). Here are some ideas for improving traffic signals in Vienna.

Professor David Levinson sums it up, “And the better we make transport systems for people using cars, the worse it is for everyone else. For instance, traffic signal timings benefit cars at the expense of pedestrians in many cities.” Here’s a lecture he gave on the fundamentals of accessibility, traffic signal engineering and using traffic signals to support walking for Walk Sidney (July 2018).

Finally, thinking about my Falter quote, I suddenly realised how strange it is that even I – a professional planner committed to sustainable transport – would consider allowing traffic signals to delay vehicle traffic crazy? That’s how ingrained our belief in unlimited driving has become.

Andy Nash

February 1, 2022


  1. Franz Hofer

    Very interesting stuff. And timely, given that a handful of us in our small town here in Oklahoma are trying to convince the City to install traffic lights favourable to cyclists at certain dangerous intersections.

    • Andrew Nash

      Thanks for the comment. You probably already know about the organisation people for bikes ( they have some resources for cycling in rural areas and small towns. Cheers!


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