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    How did the traffic light system we know today come about? We look back on 150 years of change in road signals. You'll be surprised!

    Red, green, yellow… three-color traffic lights are now a daily part of every person’s life. But it wasn’t always like that. While their presence in city centers is now being questioned, they still fulfill an essential function by regulating the competing flows of traffic at an intersection. Let’s take a look at a hundred and fifty years of history!

    The First (Disastrous) Trial in England

    December 10, 1868: the official birth date of the world’s first traffic light. It was installed at Parliament Square in London. The system was composed of two mobile signs attached to pivoting arms that were manipulated by a lever. The post was topped with a gas-lit semaphore to ensure visibility. But it was short-lived. Less than two months later, the traffic light exploded, killing the police officer who worked the signs.

    The world had to wait 46 years until electricity use became widespread before the first dual-colored traffic light, using this new energy, was installed in Cleveland in the United States. Detroit and New York added yellow between red and green in 1920. The traffic lights that we now know were born and became the norm throughout the world.

    1920-1930: Traffic Lights Up Europe 

    In 1923, the first mechanical traffic light using electricity was installed in Paris at the intersection of Boulevard de Strasbourg and Grands Boulevards. Most of Europe’s largest cities soon followed suit: Berlin in 1924, Milan in 1925, Rome in 1926, London in 1927, Prague in 1928, Barcelona in 1930… And the system was exported to Tokyo in 1931.

    Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Century of Change: read our last article!

    Standardization and Regulation in the 1930s

    The first Convention on the Unification of Road Signals was signed in Geneva on March 30, 1931. Its goal was to increase road traffic safety and facilitate international movement by road through a uniform system of road signals. The majority of signs that we recognize today were defined through this treaty. Traffic lights with three colors (red, yellow, green) became the standard.

    Specific Lights for Pedestrians 

    Pedestrian signals quickly appeared after the tri-colored traffic lights. At the start, they took various forms but matched the colors used by vehicles: red and green. Round, square or rectangular, they often gave the instruction “Wait” in red and “Walk” in green. In 1974, regulations introduced the figures that we know today, brought in because of a concern for foreign speakers and international standardization. However, the installation of pedestrian signals was initially overlooked due to their cost and their disputed usefulness. In Paris at least, since 1955, they have been systematically installed at the city’s intersections.

    Systematic Use of Traffic Lights Since 1950

    Road traffic rose dramatically between 1950 and 1980, creating a need for an increasingly stricter regulation of traffic and the near ubiquitous use of traffic lights. In 2011, the largest French cities had an average of one traffic light-controlled intersection for every 1,000 inhabitants.

    While they have long been considered the best solution for managing competing traffic flows, traffic lights are today suspected of fostering accident-prone behavior. This is the reason why many cities are reconsidering the systematic use of traffic lights and are preferring other methods for reducing the speed of vehicles. At the same time, they want to offer better circulation conditions for non-motorised mobility and public transportation. Out of this desire have emerged new light signals for giving these methods right of way. The issue today is to ensure that the most vulnerable road users remain safe and maintain their independence to travel in an environment whose points of reference are in flux.


    The world’s first traffic light (…) was short-lived. Less than two months later, the traffic light exploded, killing the police officer who worked the signs.


    Lise Wagner

    Accessibility Expert


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    Source : www.inclusivecitymaker.com

    Traffic light

    Traffic light

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    This article is about lights used for signalling. "Stoplight" redirects here. For other uses, see Traffic light (disambiguation) and Stoplight (disambiguation).


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    An LED 50 watts traffic light in Portsmouth, UK

    A traffic light in Jakarta, Indonesia with its count-down timer. A pedestrian crossing is also shown.

    Traffic lights, traffic signals or stoplights – also known as robots in South Africa[1][2] – are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings, and other locations to control flows of traffic.[3]

    Traffic lights normally consist of three signals, transmitting meaning to drivers and riders through colours and symbols including arrows and bicycles. The regular traffic light colours are red, yellow and green, arranged vertically or horizontally in that order. Although this is internationally standardised,[4] variations exist on national and local scales as to traffic light sequences and laws.[5]

    Traffic lights were first introduced in December 1868 on Parliament Square in London to reduce the need for police officers to control traffic.[6] Since then, electricity and computerised control has advanced traffic light technology and increased intersection capacity.[7]

    Traffic lights are also used for other purposes, such as to control pedestrian movements, variable lane control (such as tidal flow systems or smart motorways) and railway level crossings.


    1 History 2 Vehicular signals

    2.1 Meanings of signals

    2.2 Traffic signal cycles

    2.3 Variations

    2.4 Use of traffic signals in waterways, on railroads for rail traffic

    3 Pedestrian signals

    3.1 Mid-block crossings

    3.2 Pedestrian facilities at signalised junctions

    3.3 Pedestrian countdown timers

    3.4 Variations on pedestrian sequences

    3.5 Auditory and tactile signals for impaired people

    4 Cycle signals

    5 Public transport signals

    5.1 By region 5.1.1 North America 5.1.2 Europe 5.1.3 Asia Pacific

    5.2 Preemption and priority

    6 Turning vehicles 6.1 Turn on red 6.2 Green arrow 6.3 Flashing yellow 6.4 Yellow trap 6.5 Hook turn

    7 Variable lane control

    8 Inactive lights 9 Technology

    9.1 Optics and lighting

    9.2 Programmable visibility signals

    9.3 Conventional lighting systems

    9.4 Light design

    9.5 Technological advancements

    9.6 Control and coordination

    9.7 Detection 10 Mounting 11 Effects 11.1 Traffic flow 11.2 Pollution 11.3 Accidents 12 Justification 12.1 United States 13 Legal issues

    13.1 Blocking a traffic light junction

    13.2 Red light running

    13.2.1 Reasons and impacts

    13.2.2 Mitigations

    13.2.3 Red light cameras

    13.3 Yellow lights

    13.4 Confirmation lights

    14 Light timing length

    15 In other contexts

    15.1 Racing

    15.2 As a rating mechanism

    16 Gallery 17 In Unicode 18 See also 19 Notes 20 References 21 Citations 22 External links


    Main article: History of traffic lights

    The first traffic signals were installed to replace police officer control of vehicular traffic outside the Houses of Parliament in London on 9 December 1868.[8] In the first two decades of the 20th century, semaphore traffic signals like the one in London were in use all over the United States with each state having its own design of the device. In many cases, it was controlled by a traffic officer who would blow a whistle before changing the commands on this signal to help alert travellers of the change.[9]

    In 1912, the first electric traffic light was developed in 1912 by Lester Wire, a policeman in Salt Lake City, Utah.[10] It was installed by the American Traffic Signal Company on the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.[11][12][13] The first four-way, three-colour traffic light was created by police officer William Potts in Detroit, Michigan in 1920.[14] He was concerned about how police officers at four different lights signals could not change their lights all at the same time. The answer was a third light that was coloured yellow, which was the same colour used on the railroad.[15] In 1922 traffic towers were beginning to be controlled by automatic timers. The main advantage for the use of the timer was that it saved cities money by replacing traffic officers. The city of New York was able to reassign all but 500 of its 6,000 officers working on the traffic squad; this saved the city $12,500,000.[16]

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    First electric traffic signal installed

    The world’s first electric traffic signal is put into place on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5, 1914. In the

    Year 1914 Month Day August 05

    First electric traffic signal installed

    The world’s first electric traffic signal is put into place on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5, 1914.

    In the earliest days of the automobile, navigating America’s roads was a chaotic experience, with pedestrians, bicycles, horses and streetcars all competing with motor vehicles for right of way. The problem was alleviated somewhat with the gradual disappearance of horse-drawn carriages, but even before World War I it had become clear that a system of regulations was necessary to keep traffic moving and reduce the number of accidents on the roads. As Christopher Finch writes in his “Highways to Heaven: The AUTO Biography of America” (1992), the first traffic island was put into use in San Francisco, California in 1907; left-hand drive became standard in American cars in 1908; the first center painted dividing line appeared in 1911, in Michigan; and the first “No Left Turn” sign would debut in Buffalo, New York, in 1916.

    Various competing claims exist as to who was responsible for the world’s first traffic signal. A device installed in London in 1868 featured two semaphore arms that extended horizontally to signal “stop” and at a 45-degree angle to signal “caution.” In 1912, a Salt Lake City, Utah, police officer named Lester Wire mounted a handmade wooden box with colored red and green lights on a pole, with the wires attached to overhead trolley and light wires. Most prominently, the inventor Garrett Morgan has been given credit for having invented the traffic signal based on his T-shaped design, patented in 1923 and later reportedly sold to General Electric.

    Despite Morgan’s greater visibility, the system installed in Cleveland on August 5, 1914, is widely regarded as the first electric traffic signal. Based on a design by James Hoge, who received U.S. patent 1,251,666 for his “Municipal Traffic Control System” in 1918, it consisted of four pairs of red and green lights that served as stop-go indicators, each mounted on a corner post. Wired to a manually operated switch inside a control booth, the system was configured so that conflicting signals were impossible. According to an article in The Motorist, published by the Cleveland Automobile Club in August 1914: “This system is, perhaps, destined to revolutionize the handling of traffic in congested city streets and should be seriously considered by traffic committees for general adoption.”

    Source : www.history.com

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