- Location - include as many details as you can e.g. road name, estate, near a shop, phone box etc.
- Type e.g. pedestrian crossing or traffic lights at junction or crossroads
- Nature of fault e.g. red light out, no lights at all, damaged, pole number
How traffic lights work
Traffic lights control traffic by stopping the vehicles from one direction to allow vehicles from another to pass. The lights work in a sequence to 'take turns' allowing traffic through. They help to reduce the speed of traffic and control the flow especially at busy crossroads, junctions and slip roads.
As traffic lights are key for road safety, they are usually powered from a stand-alone system with a junction controller in a nearby roadside cabinet. If this is damaged then the traffic lights may all stop working.
They can detect vehicles through inductive loops that are set into the road surface which detect vehicles, once the vehicle has passed over the loop the controller is then aware of traffic waiting at that set of traffic lights. The timing of the lights can be modified so the flow of traffic can be adapted to the traffic flows.
Problems with traffic lights
There are some common problems with traffic lights that cause them not to work properly. Many of the ones in MK are older models so getting replacement parts is difficult and some are not manufactured anymore so this can cause delays when repairing them.
- The lights sequencing is unusually long or short - repairs and maintenance can cause the sequencing to become reset to the original settings so the timings may seem longer or different. This can be rectified by a qualified engineer.
- Loops are not detecting traffic – surfacing works or nearby roadworks may affect the loops in the road surface. This may require longer repair works and they may need to be completely replaced if they are damaged.
- Damage - our traffic lights do get damaged by vehicles hitting them and can stop them working. A damaged roadside cabinet is an extensive repair job. We may carry out a repair if there aren't enough nearby signals to cover. The costs will be recovered from the driver's insurance wherever possible.
There are different types of pedestrian crossing in the UK are either controlled or uncontrolled. You can read more about them in the Highway Code but here's a brief description of each one and how and where we might use them:
These are Zebra Crossings and a crossing operated by a School Crossing Patroller.
A Zebra crossing has black and white painted strips across the road and flashing amber beacons. Drivers must stop and allow a pedestrian to cross over here. Pedestrians should wait until the vehicle stops completely before stepping onto the crossing. We use zebra crossings on roads with lower speed limits.
A School Crossing Patroller (lollipop person) wears a high visibility yellow jacket and has a 'lollipop' sign saying Stop. They help children to cross the road, usually near the entrance of a school or on a busy road close to the school. They are only on duty during term time at the start and end of the school day. You must stop if a school crossing patroller has stopped the traffic to allow children to cross and should only move away again once they are safely back on the pavement.
A controlled crossing is a crossing that is controlled by traffic lights. The main ones are called: Pelican, Toucan, Puffin and Pegasus (horse crossing).
The most common pedestrian crossings is the pelican crossing. This is controlled by a set of traffic lights, and pedestrians can press a button if they wish to cross and then wait for the green man to show it is safe for them to cross. A beeping sound will be heard too so that visibility impaired pedestrians know to cross. Drivers will see the red light when the green man is shown for pedestrians.
When the green man starts flashing the amber light will flash for drivers and they should not move if there are still pedestrians crossing the road. If there are no more pedestrians crossing when the amber light shows then drivers can move on.
Some pedestrian crossings have a central island in the middle and there may be two sets of lights. Pedestrians will need to wait on the island before crossing for a second time.
A puffin crossing also has a push button system but also has a sensor on top of the lights and in the pavement so they know when a person has finished crossing. This means the lights will only stay red as long as it takes for the person to cross and will go back to green once that person is across. The benefit of a puffin crossing is that they keep traffic moving and pedestrians as long as they need to cross which is better for those with mobility issues.
A toucan crossing is designed for cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists do not have to get off their bike if they wish to cross at this type of crossing. Toucan crossings have a green and red bike alongside the red and green man lights. There is a green cycle symbol alongside the green man. Toucan crossings also use sensors like a puffin crossing.
A Pegasus crossing or equestrian crossing is designed for horse riders. Similar to the toucan crossing, the green/red lights show when it is safe to cross but there is a lit 'horse' symbol instead of a bicycle. The push button is also higher up so a mounted rider can press it. This type of crossing is only used where riders would frequently be crossing a busy road.
Tactile paving, tiles with small, detectable bumps on them, will be used on the pavement as you approach these crossings, this is to let visibly impaired pedestrians know there is a crossing point.
Last Updated: 9 August 2021