London is testing out traffic lights that prioritize humans over cars

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing humans to structure their entire societies and transportation systems around two-ton motor vehicles that run on fossil fuels, while also being expensive to buy and maintain. But that's been the way of the last century or so in many places, where automobiles are given more consideration and priority on infrastructure choices that most lowly humans.

The public transportation department in London, UK is looking to shift this approach with one small change. Instead of humans having to push a button at a crosswalk in order to reclaim the traffic signal from the cars, they've replaced 18 pedestrian crossings throughout the city with default walk signs. Or, as The MIT Technology Review explains, "The light changes to red only when the sensor detects an approaching vehicle."

This "pedestrian priority" approach is a first in the UK, and after a trial of nine months, the data is encouraging: there is virtually no impact on traffic, and pedestrians save a total of 1.3 hours a day at the average crossing and are 13% more likely to comply with traffic signals. 

It's a small shift to go from "default car" to "default human." But it could also make a significant difference, and ultimately save a lot of lives — in addition to re-centering our social structures around people again, which would be a nice little bonus, too.

London is experimenting with traffic lights that put pedestrians first [Rachael Revesz / MIT Technology Review]

Image: B137 / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)