What is traffic management? To most people it's the source of frustration and delays in getting to where they want to be, but it is much more important than most people think. The first priority of traffic management is to keep everyone safe. Site workers, pedestrians and road users alike! working in the highway can be dangerous, not only to the men and women working within the site, but drivers, cyclist and pedestrians too.
Believe it or not, the next most important aim is to cause as little disruptions as possible, but this is all dependant on the specifics of every site. It's a balance that can sometimes be difficult to find, but it's one we try to find with very job we plan.
This may seem surprising in itself to some people, but it got me thinking; There's a lot about traffic management that people don't know. Here are 5 things you may not know about traffic management.
1. Flashing your headlights doesn't make traffic lights change faster.
I'm sure we've all done this at some point. You're sat at a temporary traffic light and there's no traffic at the other end, but the light isn't changing to green. It's so frustrating! Needless to say you start flashing your headlights to let the traffic light know you're there. This doesn't actually do anything. If the light changed for you when you did this, it's pure coincidence. The sensors in traffic lights do not detect traffic based on light levels. They are based on proximity, so as you approach the light, you can rest assured that it will know you're there.
So why doesn't it change faster? Technically it does, but there is a pre set minimum time for all the lights to be red, regardless of what the sensor sees. This is designed to allow traffic to have fully cleared the work area before the next light turns to green. This is always set specifically for each site, so if it's a long site, expect to wait longer before your light turns green.
2. Pedestrian crossings take priority over zebra crossings.
This one can be confusing, but knowing this could help avoid an accident. As a pedestrian, if you encounter a temporary traffic management site that has a pedestrian crossing placed where an existing zebra crossing is, you should not expect traffic to stop at the zebra crossing like normal. The crossing is now controlled by a pedestrian light which has a push button. You should push the button and wait for the man to turn green. You won't be waiting long.
Drivers also become confused with this as it is not always possible to cover up the zebra crossing marks on the road. Some drivers will stop at the crossing to let people past, even though their traffic light is green. This can potentially cause accidents with traffic running in the back of the stopped car.
Unless someone has walked in to the road, you shouldn't stop at a zebra crossing when a pedestrian crossing has replaced it. You risk having an incident. Just think about it, if the temporary traffic management setup was actually a new permanent layout, you wouldn't stop at the crossing because a zebra crossing used to be there. You would follow the rules of the new lights etc. This is no different for temporary traffic management.
3. Pedestrians are traffic too.
You may not think it, but pedestrians are also classed as traffic. Just because they don't use the road doesn't mean they are any less important. All traffic management sites should provide pedestrians with passage either through or around the works without causing issues. You will mostly see this in a form of a barrier walkway around the site, or a diversion for pedestrians to follow.
Only on very rare occasions should you ever see a fully closed footway without any option for pedestrians. This will be in situations where the road doesn't allow enough width for a running lane and a walkway at the same time, or where diverting pedestrians is physically impossible. This will only ever be allowed if the local authority have approved it and it is down to pedestrians to find a safe way around on their own.
4. Footways aren't footpaths.
Speaking of pedestrians; Did you know that a footway and footpath are 2 separate things entirely?
The easiest way to remember which is which, is to think of the road. The technical term for road is a carriageway. If there is a pavement running alongside the carriageway directly, it is a footway. If there is a verge between the carriageway and the pavement, it is a footpath.
You can also think of it as if you were taking a walk along a public footpath in the countryside. The footpath carves its own path through the land, whereas a footway runs adjacent to the carriageway.
5. Signs are put in specific places for a reason.
This one may seem obvious, but we see this being ignored all the time. All traffic management setups have their own specific signage requirements. Whether it be signs with specific wording or the actual placement of the sign itself. It is always set up like that for a reason, so don't assume otherwise.
When you come to a temporary traffic light, it is very important that you stop at the 'WHEN RED LIGHT SHOWS WAIT HERE' sign. Do not stop at the front of the traffic light. Sometimes the sign will be right next to the light, but sometimes the signage will be before a junction, or a site entrance. It is important that traffic doesn't back up over these entrances as it will block site traffic, or even residential traffic coming from a quiet side street or cul de sac. You don't want to be that person stuck in the way if there's an emergency on site and an ambulance can't get through.
Oh and one last bonus tip: The 'WHEN RED LIGHT SHOWS WAIT HERE' sign is only for traffic on the carriageway. You don't need to wait for the light to change if you're walking home along with the footway. You wouldn't believe it, but that happens all the time too.
I hope that some of these have given you a bit more insight into the world of traffic management, and if you already knew all of this, good for you! I hope you found it and interesting read nonetheless.