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We’ve been taking the Michael out of the Tesco traffic lights for quite some times now.

Mainly because we’ve had hours and hours of sitting at the Tesco traffic lights to think up Michael-taking stories for the Guide.

With complaints from both Greystones’ great unwashed and its fearless councillors about these largely unloved lights at the junction of Bellevue Road and Grattan Park, the town’s Municipal District Engineer, Ruairi O’Hanlon, reviewed the magic and mechanics of the system earlier this month, and has supplied GG with the following explanation of the new and improved lights

The junction of the R761, Kindlestown Lower Road with Bellevue Road and Grattan Park was upgraded in 2012.  This was part of an overall scheme to improve the cycling and pedestrian facilities in Greystones along the R761 from Killincarrig to Blacklion and forms part of an ongoing objective to improve facilities in the town, as well as other towns and villages, for non motorised road users to encourage a modal shift away from car use to alternative transport means.  This is in line with Government Policy which is detailed further on www.smartertravel.ie and I attach a copy of the policy document which is not a wholly uninteresting read and outlines the higher level reasons behind these local schemes.  Essentially if we keep relying on the car for all our travel the country will become grid locked and our already deteriorating national health will become worse; sedentary, less active lifestyles and poor diets leading to Ireland possibly becoming the most obese country in the EU by 2020!

This particular scheme went out on public display from April to June 2012 and Wicklow County Council sought comments from the public during that time frame.  At the end of the public consultation phase a detailed design was prepared by consultants and the scheme was constructed late 2012.  Some of the original issues being addressed by the scheme were the difficulties that vehicles had exiting Grattan Park onto the R761 due to both volume of traffic at certain periods and speed of traffic at other times.  There were similar issues at the top of Bellevue Road for traffic exiting at the top of Bellevue Road, which is quite steep, onto the R761.

The designers of the scheme sought to allow for a number of vehicular and pedestrian movements to try to allow for the maximum movements along the R761.  You may recall at the junction of Grattan Park with the R761, there were signals that had a red light but also a green straight ahead arrow.  What this allowed for was for traffic to travel straight ahead along the R761 in a north and south direction but not to be permitted to turn right or left into Grattan Park; the reason being there would have been a green pedestrian phase across the Grattan Park road.  This type of signalling arrangement is commonplace in large towns and cities, however, it did appear to cause a lot of confusion for motorists in Greystones.

Since I started in this office in August 2014 we received regular complaints from the public regarding these signals.  The local elected councillors also made representations individually from time to time and collectively at the monthly Greystones Municipal District meetings, the minutes of which are publically accessible, to look at the signalling at this junction as it was causing confusion and there had been several accidents at the overall junction as a result of the signals.  I undertook to review the signalling along with the signal providers/programmers and an alternative sequencing arrangement was devised.  The proposed new arrangement was put to the councillor at a Municipal District meeting and they all voted in favour to proceed with the change.

This change effectively saw the two separate T Junctions becoming a single staggered 4 way junction, i.e. the space on the R761 between the first set of lights to the north of Grattan park as far as the last set of lights to the south of Bellevue Rd is akin say the central area of a regular signalised cross roads such as at Redford park.  What this now allows for is as follows:

  1. No vehicle will be stopped twice at this junction.  Previously vehicles through the interchange could regularly be stopped at both the first and second set of traffic signals.  In reality this means shorter waiting times.  The perception is that waiting times are longer because drivers are stopped for longer at one set of lights than they were previously, however, as they are only stopped once the overall waiting time for the junction is reduced, i.e. stopping only once for longer than you used to have to at one set of lights is shorter overall than being stopped twice at two sets of lights even though the first set was originally shorter than it is now.  The recorded data supports this.
  2. Under the original sequencing a car exiting Grattan park and turning right onto the southbound lane of the R761 would have initially seen a green light ahead of them at the Bellevue Rd junction signals but this quickly turned to red.  This led to poor driver behaviour by drivers who learned that if they exited Grattan park and sped to the next lights they might make it through the yellow.  Other vehicles would break the red light not wanting to be stopped again.  So we had speeding and breaking of red lights.  Now the stopping only once scenario allows for drivers to exit Grattan Park and proceed through the Bellevue Rd junction at an appropriate speed and without unwanted dangerous driver behaviour to get there.  Admittedly should no cars exiting from Grattan Park travel in that direction it can seem to cars waiting at the red lights on Bellevue Rd and the Lower Kindlestwon Rd northbound that they are stopped for no reason.  Still the facility needs to be there.
  3. Reduced confusion at junctions.  There were originally scenarios where, for example the first car that was stopped at a red light on the R761 northbound outside Donnybrook Fair but waiting to turn left into Grattan Park would still have to wait under the red light as there was a pedestrian green phase across Grattan Park.  During this phase there would also have been a green straight ahead arrow for which all other traffic behind the stopped car could have proceeded were it not for the first car prevented from turning left into Grattan Park.  This led to aggressive and poor driver behaviour from many drivers behind the first stopped car, often with the result of either the first car breaking a red light due to the pressuer being exerted by drivers behind, or the drivers behind executing dangerous overtaking manoeuvres at the junction.
  4. The new sequencing keeps the section of road in front of Donnybrook Fair clear of stopped vehicles.  As mentioned previously the new sequencing treats the section of road between the two sets of lights as the middle of a junction and s is always kept clear of stopped vehicles.  The benefits to this are that vehicles exiting Grattan Park and Donnybrook Fair always have space to exit into.  Under the old sequence cars exiting Grattan park may well have had a green light to proceed but found the road blocked by a queue of vehicles from the next set of lights impeding their safe exit from Grattan park.  The increased car park size at Donnybrook Fair undoubtedly means more vehicular manoeuvres in an out of the car park.  This is made much easier by virtue of the road space being kept clear between sequences.

A downside to the new sequencing was that once a pedestrian phase was called for the entire junction must stop for an all pedestrian phase.  We tried separate pedestrian phases at either T Junction but it threw the whole sequence out so badly that it didn’t work.  We observed that often people would approach the Grattan Park crossing and hit the button to call for the pedestrian phase and simply walk across the road before the pedestrian phase.  This led to a scenario where drivers stopped at the red lights for a pedestrian phase would see no pedestrians and become frustrated.  To mitigate against this we have installed pedestrian call cancel sensors on the signals.  What these do is activate upon the pedestrian call button being pressed and they can detect the presence of the pedestrian at the waiting area.  Should the pedestrian walk off prior to the pedestrian phase of the signals being initiated it will cancel the call for the pedestrian phase and continue with the vehicular traffic sequence.

Whilst it is understood that signalised junctions introduce waiting times at those junctions that might not have been experienced before they are a necessity at certain junctions due to the ever increasing traffic volumes on the roads of Greystones due to the increasing population of the town.  The only new roads in this town since the 1980’s are the Farrankelly Dual Carriageway, the Charlesland Dual Carriageway and the recently opened Blacklion Bypass linking the Redford Junction with the Chapel Road.  Apart from those roads the existing road network of Greystones has had to cope with the ever increasing population.

I would not that upon the introduction of this signalised interchange there were a number of road traffic collisions reported to An Garda Síochána as well as attended to by the Fire Service.  To date since the new sequence has been installed I am not aware of any such road traffic collisions at this interchange being reported.

Recently I was stopped at this junction and I saw a man in a wheelchair making his way across the junction with his shopping and heading in the Applewood Heights direction on the western footpath of the R761.  I for one am more than happy to wait at red lights knowing that these lights allow other road users apart from car drivers the freedom, independence and ability to do such mundane day to day things as shopping that the rest of us take for granted.

Trusting this clarifies that;

  1. a) road user safety has been improved,
  2. b) facilities for road users other than car drivers have been improved, the roads are for everyone after all and not just cars
  3. c) waiting times are not actually longer than they were and reported waiting times are being grossly exaggerated.

Well, here’s hoping that cleared everything up. Ruairi also pointed out that new pedestrian call buttons had been installed, given that the previous units had been vandalised, and were constantly triggering the little green man, even when there was no one there. The new push buttons, Ruairi tells us, may not be immune to vandalism, but they “are somewhat more resistant to it”.

2 Comments

  1. Oisin says:

    I definitely find them much better now and no longer avoid that junction in favour of Church Road. Top notch rejigging! 😀

  2. Paula says:

    Vote for taken

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