Have you ever noticed the little grey boxes that are perched on top of traffic lights? They look like cameras, though they are actually sensors.

My understanding – though I could be completely wrong – is that they work on the same principle as security lighting. It detects your vehicle and changes the traffic light to green. The fancy name is demand-actuated traffic signals.

Great idea. Keeps the traffic moving, saves on fuel, let’s everybody get on their way. Because, let’s face it, there are few things more frustrating than being parked in a line of vehicles with every traffic light at red and nothing coming the other way. Anybody who has sat in a queue for twenty minutes at the Kirknewton junction of the main-route A71 with every light on red at that ridiculous forest of traffic signals knows what I mean.

As far as I can see, almost every set of traffic lights in rural West Lothian has a sensor, yet only a tiny percentage of them actually work. The sensors at the nasty junction on the Blackburn Road from West Calder is one of very few that function perfectly. When you approach the lights they turn green. Great!

Unfortunately, that is the exception rather than the rule.

Now, while making the journey for motorists easier is a good thing, it’s not the main reason for complaint.

I wonder what the cost of each of these hundreds of sensors might be? And how many are there throughout West Lothian? It all adds up to a pretty penny, I’ll wager. And if they are not actually working – if they are faulty – then what a mammoth waste of money THAT is.

And another thing: if they are faulty, then surely the company that installed them is responsible for repairing them. I mean, if I bought a dozen security lights and found that 11 of them gave up the ghost I would at the very least be demanding a refund.

It’s just one more thing Oor Cooncil needs to sort out. It may not be much, but it is indicative of Oor Cooncil’s attitude towards just about everything: If it ain’t working, just ignore it. Of course, fixing all these niggling little problems would mean actually organising a repair programme, which in turn would require decisions and meetings and committees and so on.

Too much like hard work.

So I have an idea. We could drill a coin-sized hole in the metal casing of each sensor. They’re the perfect size to make into bird boxes! At least then they would be of some use.

Drew McAdam


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