Lights out?

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A RADICAL solution to tackling traffic problems in part of Sheffield is being suggested - turning off traffic lights and covering road signs.

Community representatives in Broomhill are promoting the idea in the light of evidence from Europe that it encourages drivers to pay more attention at junctions and other potential danger spots, making them safer.

Support has also emerged for the more traditional route of a 20 mph speed limit in and around the centre.

The council is coming under pressure from Broomhill Action Neighbourhood Group to explore the suggestions. “We’ll be pursuing it with the council and the Community Assembly to see if we can convince them,” said secretary Lee Kenny. “It requires thinking outside the box, but we think it’s time to get a bit radical.”

More neighbourhoods are in line for a 20 mph zone as a response to community demands for traffic to be slowed down. Councillors were expected this week to approve schemes for Shiregreen and Wisewood.

In Broomhill, support emerged during a conference to produce an action plan for the area, including a proposed reduction of the speed limit on the main A57. Backing also emerged for ways of encouraging parents and pupils to walk, cycle or use buses to get to school.

More radical is the proposal for the centre of the suburb to be used as a test ground for a UK version of the ‘Groningen experiment’, which saw a drop in road accidents in the Dutch town when traffic lights and road signs were not used. “It was found that in the absence of traffic management, people pay more attention at junctions and danger spots and are therefore safer,” says BANG’s latest newsletter. “If it goes ahead, it would be a high profile experiment that could affect national traffic management in urban areas.”

Dr Kenny, who stepped down on Tuesday after three years as the chair of BANG, switching to secretary, said it was found that traffic flowed more smoothly and safely.

“There is good evidence that this sort of thing could work in somewhere like Broomhill and could improve road safety and increase road capacity, which the council wants to do.”

In general, the community group wants to explore ways in which roads in and around the district shopping centre can be shared more efficiently, safely and environmentally attractively for the benefit of drivers, pedestrians and shopkeepers, pointing to experiments that are starting to emerge in other parts of the UK.

Students from the University of Sheffield’s architecture department are getting involved, and details will be presented to the council’s local Community Assembly to see whether there is sufficient support to take any of the ideas further.

John Bann, the council’s head of transport and highways, said: “As a council we are always looking to innovative traffic calming ideas. Traffic lights help to give pedestrians and motorists priority when needed as well as control side roads.

“In a district shopping area like Broomhill it is difficult to balance the needs of all road users, especially pedestrians.Whether or not something like this is trialled in Broomhill is a decision for the local Community Assembly.

“Through Community Assemblies we have given local people more choice about what happens in their area. If the Broomhill Action Group take their proposal to the Community Assembly, local people can discuss it further and make a decision which works for them.”