I was disturbed by Martin Cassini's report on Newsnight proposing the abolition of traffic lights, which surely don't deserve such a fate.
Being fascinated by many forms of technology and their place in their world, traffic lights are often one of the first things I have seen when I go on business trips around the world.
Although most other people will not have spotted it I am sure (or be remotely interested), there is actually quite a variation between countries, and the style of lights can maybe even indicate something about the self image of the parent country.
For example, Paris has those pointlessly tall, rather haughty and arrogant faux-gold painted posts (so tall indeed that they need little repeaters at driver level), largely ignored by everybody.
In Dublin, I have seen a huge variety of different types from that looked like they had been bought in job-lots from the US and UK when they had some money to spend – a bit like the apparel of a deranged and eccentric old maiden-aunt.
US lights are for the thrill-seekers amongst us who love that random moment when the red light flicks to green.
In Sweden, lights are very logical and have a green-amber phase instead of a plain amber to bring balance to the coruscating display.
In Switzerland, the lights are totally prescriptive, every red and amber filter light has a simulacram of the green arrow carved on it in black. No confusion there then, unlike the UK, where modern installations leave you wondering just which red light you should be watching (usually the wrong one).
Actually racking my brains, I cannot remember much about the traffic lights I encountered in Australia as I was negotiating the notorious “Melbourne hook turns “.
And to Nigeria, where the only traffic lights I saw there in the glittering capital of Abuja were switched off…