January 11, 2021

Life is Good With Traffic Lights

The red traffic light is the simplest of instruction in our life. As soon as you see it, the body reacts automatically. There are many types of traffic lights to guide cars and pedestrians on the road. But can you find such signals within you to guide you through the journey of life? It's a feel-good article.

I was speeding towards a crossing trying to beat the green traffic light. But the lights changed and the red light stared at my face. I slammed the breaks and stopped the car. A fast car sped from left to right. If I had not stopped, I would have surely been hit by that car. My heart raced. Fortunately there was no other car at the back to hit me from behind as I came abruptly to a halt. As I regained my composure, I reflected on the event. I thanked the red light for stopping me just in time.

What would the World be like without the red light? It would be in complete chaos. The simple invention has brought so much order and safety to the civilized World! I decided to probe the internet for the origin and history of the humble traffic light.

I found that the traffic lights were an invention of a Railway engineer JP Knight who first fitted his red/green gas-light Slim Body Orange Solid PVC Traffic Cones signal at the top of Parliament Square in London as far back as in 1868! In the US of A, William Potts, a police officer in Detroit put up the first electric traffic lights in 1920! And it was 12 years later in 1932 that London got its first set of modern traffic lights.

The traffic lights were meant to allow right of way to the vehicular traffic alternately to different directions. The simple system gave a cue to the drivers when to stop and when to proceed. But in places where the traffic was heavy, the pedestrians found it difficult to cross. The crossing paths across road junctions were painted in black and white stripes for the pedestrians to walk. On this strip, called the Zebra Crossing, the vehicles had to stop to give right of way to the walkers. But where the pedestrians were numerous they had a time slot of their own with "Walk" / "Don't Walk" lights at pedestrian crossings.