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Fleetsbridge Traffic lights – conclusion

Martin Baker kindly offered to communicate with me on this, unfortunately, it has resulted in the conclusion that on this occasion, Poole Council have indeed spent valuable money on something of no value which only causes unnecessary congestion, when these lights were originally installed in 1993 and AGAIN when they were recently replaced.

How many times has this happened, how much of the substantial ongoing interfering that we are seeing is completely unnecessary and only damaging? What about the Canford Bottom traffic lights project? It seems like nothing is properly thought through. Speed bumps, ever reducing speed limits? Spend on Dorset Road Safe, who have been unable to answer getting on for 100 articles demonstrating that their only apparent interest is preserving their jobs, even if it means making the roads more dangerous? 

How many proper traffic cops looking for dangerous driving could all this pay for, and how many lives would this have saved?

My communications with Martin Baker are copied below. The main points to make are (and you will see justification for this if you read the full text – read from the bottom up to read in order):

  1. Other than the initial ridiculous, exaggerated (twice rounded up) and totally unscientific claims of accident reduction due to the lights of 4.3 per year from Steve Tite, my questions about what the actual reductions are and reasoning for this have been totally dodged – the only reduction being claimed seems to be now from part time to the second full time transition – which looks bigger because accidents increased substantially during part time operation.
  2. It seems as though the council spent on the refit without even thinking about it – and only started thinking about it when forced into it when the public started complaining – and then realised they couldn’t justify it. 
  3. There is considerable lack of confidence in the council’s position. They are concerned with being “discredited”, “backed into corners”, “threatened” etc. These things are not possible to competent / professional individuals / organisations acting in the public’s best interests.
  4. The decisions will be made by “members” and not Mr Baker or me or anyone else. But how to access these “members” is a mystery. I’m sure if they had competent etc. reasons for their decisions these “members” would be open and they would be delighted to explain their excellent work.

The main point is that there has been a spectacular failure to properly answer the question “how much have accidents been reduced by the presence of the lights compared to absence of the lights (nothing to do with part time) and how have you calculated this”. For a council to proceed with spend apparently WITHOUT EVEN ASKING THIS THEMSELVES is unacceptable, and I therefore suggest that (in the light of many other apparently very poor decisions) those making road safety / efficiency decisions in Poole Council (whoever these "members" are) are unfit for their positions. I feel sorry for Martin Baker for having to do their dirty work (talking to the public) for them. 

I will be presenting this as a formal complaint to Poole Council.

Ian Belchamber


From: Martin Baker
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2011 10:18 AM
Subject: FW: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Belchamber

Thank you for your two further emails on the above subject.

I am unable to add much more to my previous responses to you.

I would reiterate that the need for the signals at Fleetsbridge was established in 1993. They were installed by Dorset County Council as Highway Authority at that time, as part of a major linked scheme including the Tesco access and removal of the small roundabout at the Waterloo Road/Cabot Lane junction. The need was established using traffic modelling and transport planning techniques at the time by Dorset. When the Borough became the Highway Authority in 1997 the junction was already well established as a signalised roundabout, albeit working part-time.

I believe that I have already given comprehensive, reasonable and considered responses to your previous emails. It is evident from your latest reply that you neither accept these responses or the explanation contained therein and you will, I suspect, come back with further very similar queries which will again not add anything further to the debate.

I cannot really see any benefit in carrying on this discussion further. I have spent significant public money on dealing with your continued requests on this subject and in this respect there is indeed a limit. I do not have the time to keep responding to such requests just to satisfy your curiosity, or to serve your personal campaigning, when I have repeatedly said that the decision on future operation will be made by Members and not you.

It is clear from your last comment of the 9 December email that you threaten to circulate previous (or any further responses) in order to discredit both the organisation and me. I therefore have no further comments to make on this and I will not respond to any further emails from you on this particular topic.

Kind regards

Martin Baker
Senior Engineer (Road Safety and Urban Traffic Control)
T:  01202 262073 F:  01202 262091
E: m.baker@poole.gov.uk

W: www.boroughofpoole.com

Transportation Services, Borough of Poole, St Johns House, Serpentine Road, Poole BH15 2DX

Dorset RoadSafe logo small



From: Ian Belchamber (gmail) [mailto:ianbelchamber@gmail.com]
Sent: 12 December 2011 08:10
To: Martin Baker
Subject: Re: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Baker,

There's one more important point to add:

9. Dorset Road Safe (and previously DSCP) have made bold claims about reducing accidents and casualties in Dorset over the years. By claiming that any reduction at Fleetsbridge is ONLY due to the traffic lights, and not due to anything else including DRS, are you effectively agreeing with me that their claims are bogus?

Regards, Ian Belchamber

Sent: Friday, December 09, 2011 2:55 PM

Subject: Re: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Baker,

Many thanks again for another proper response, I too (although it might not seem like it) have limited time.

So I'll be as brief as possible with some new points and I'd ask for at least one more response on this:

1. There were 2 "roundings", one of yours and a smaller one "for publication" resulting in inflation of a number from £266,448 to £300,000. Rounding is appropriate for clarity but this is pushing it. I also pointed out that the remaining figure was being vastly inflated (about another £100,000) by the erroneous "cost of death". If there was a proper analysis / justification done in advance, why was this not already available (perhaps on the council web site) to refer people to in the Echo item?

2. Your whole statistical analysis seems to be comparing part time with full time. As I said it does seem that part time lights increased accidents and maybe there's something that can be learned from this but it is irrelevant to this discussion. We want to see why we have lights at all, compared to no lights. (Obviously, part time lights would cost the same as full time lights).

3. I don't see what "response time" has got to do with it. The council should have had a properly thought out proposal / justification (available for the public to respond to) before the work was done or even planned.

4. If proper reasoning "backs anyone into a corner" then those that it disadvantages have not done enough of it.

5. "The need for the signals had already been well established". No it has not. That is what this is about.

6. "The figures quoted were attributable to the success the signals had demonstrably achieved in reducing and maintaining lower accident levels" I say again, please can you detail what you believe the accident reduction to be, no lights to full time lights, and how you have come to this value. This cannot ignore the factors I'll list below. This has NOT been demonstrated yet, other than the simplistic comparison of 7 (actually 6.6) accidents a year 1987 to 1993 and and average of 2.7 from 2000 to 2011, which is not scientifically credible for at least the following reasons which I repeat:

- in the direct period after full time lights were installed (a better period for comparison but shorter) accidents went UP from 6.6 to 8.8

- 2000 to 2011 shows downwards trend which could not have been due to the lights but helps to make the "full time" average number smaller.

- changes in reporting, road markings, long term trends, etc. have not been considered

- there is 7 years between these periods when all kinds of other things have shifted

- if you "idiot proof" one section of road many of the accidents that would have happened there will probably just happen somewhere else, they are not reduced

- the counts 1987 to 1993 are very variable and do not allow the norm to be estimated with high confidence

- no value has been placed on increasing congestion, pollution, cost, journey times, stress and frustration (and therefore danger) to thousands of drivers every day who are unnecessarily delayed by lights, here (and elsewhere, Mountbatten, etc).

7. The lights should never have been installed in 1993. When they came to the end of their life, this should have been obvious and they should have been simply removed, and the money better spent on something else (perhaps a proper traffic cop for a year). I'm quite certain a proper traffic cop could save many lives a year, not just less than a handful of minor scrapes, and just for clarity, a jobsworth sitting in a van with a speed camera (or in an office sending out fines) is NOT a proper traffic cop. 

8. If what I have expressed is clear and stands up to reasoning, then if it conflicts with what has been done, it should not be ignored by you, the appropriate committee or anyone else. I have no powers either but when I see something wrong I will try to do something about it.

Therefore, I expect the points I have made to be properly answered. If my interest in this results in greater care being taken and better decisions in the future, I will be very pleased. Most would expect that there has in fact been a diligent and proper process, in which case answers to my concerns will already be available in which case please let me know. If I am wrong on any then I will be happy to accept it, but there must be CREDIBLE and complete answers. If you can't answer these points I will seek answers from the usual list (and maybe others).

Regards, Ian Belchamber


From: Martin Baker

Sent: Friday, December 09, 2011 12:25 PM

Subject: RE: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Belchamber

Thank you for your email and also to agreeing to my request to only direct your replies to me.

As I have mentioned in previous emails my resources are very limited and so it is not possible to respond to all the points you have raised, however I would (as briefly as time permits) reply as follows:

I note what you have said about the Echo article, but we have no control over what the Echo finally print when it goes to press. Certainly this is one occasion where I was asked to supply background information but only a much-edited version was eventually printed. The rounding up or down of certain figures is not something I am keen on but it makes it easier for the casual lay reader to digest – certainly there were a lot of subsequent posts on the website asking how there can possibly be 2.6 accidents a year but as you are fully aware this is a consequence of calculating averages.

 With regards to demonstrating statistical significance I would suggest that you use the chart supplied by TMS consultancy. TMS do all the road safety engineering training on behalf of RoSPA. Please download the following spreadsheet:


 Once open look up the ‘All Purpose Poisson Test’ tab along the bottom. If you then enter accident numbers for whole years into the boxes provided – you can enter up to ten years maximum – it runs a significance/confidence test. You are of course free to enter any of the data I have previously supplied you in any combination, but if you add in the 5 years before and after full time signals using the following numbers as an example you will see how I remain confident about their effectiveness in accident reduction terms.









Part Time Signals











Full Time Signals






I disagree that we had to ‘create a case’ in response to an Echo query but would repeat that because response times are very tight due to publication deadlines things can get lost in translation at times.

I can see why you may be continuing with your request for more detail but I do feel that you may be trying to back us into a particular corner with your reasoning. The decision to turn on the signals back on full time was agreed back in 1999/2000. The need for the signals had already been well established. The recent refurbishment of the junction is purely related to the need to replace poles that were beginning to structurally fail and were becoming unsafe. The refurbishment scheme is a revenue replacement and is not a road safety scheme in its own right. The figures quoted were attributable to the success the signals had demonstrably achieved in reducing and maintaining lower accident levels and were not intended to justify the refurbishment scheme.

Whenever we refurbish signals (be it junctions, puffins, toucans etc.) we do so ultimately because they have reached the end of their design life. The need for the facility is usually well established, whether it be a safe crossing point for pedestrians, as part of a safety scheme and/or to balance traffic flows and assist vulnerable road users. We have removed signals in the past but this has primarily been due to changes in road layouts etc.

I can see that you have fully and very clearly expressed your opinion on the need or otherwise for the signals, however as I said in my previous reply this need will ultimately be decided by Members and not in any email forum between the two of us.

I certainly have no powers to remove or change things here without prior authority from the appropriate Committee.

Kind regards

Martin Baker
Senior Engineer (Road Safety and Urban Traffic Control)
T:  01202 262073 F:  01202 262091
E: m.baker@poole.gov.uk

W: www.boroughofpoole.com

Transportation Services, Borough of Poole, St Johns House, Serpentine Road, Poole BH15 2DX

Dorset RoadSafe logo small



From: Ian Belchamber (gmail) [mailto:ianbelchamber@gmail.com]
Sent: 07 December 2011 20:56
To: Martin Baker
Subject: Re: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Baker,

(If you received any earlier responses please discard them, I may have sent in error before complete). 

Thank you so much for preparing a proper response. One of the greatest problems about this (and indeed many things the council does) is the poor level of communication. I think you can understand that the response given by Steve Tite at the time (an average of 7 before and 2.6 in a period 7 years later, therefore a £300,000 saving per year) was totally inadequate and did indeed indicate a lack of care and knowledge. Even now I get the impression that a proper case has had to be created after the work, rather than before the work when it should have been done anyway to properly establish need, and would have been available to put to anyone concerned as soon as required.

I'd like to answer your points:

1. Based on the analysis you have done, can you detail what you now believe the reduction due to the lights to be, and how you arrive at this result? In the 5 years before, the variation (8) exceeds the average (6.6), there is too much variability from these 5 points to deduce anything. We would have to see data going back perhaps 10 years to know where the average is. The 10 years after 2001 do appear to have a lower average, but with a downward trend - clearly the lights could not be responsible for the downward trend. So it would be more realistic to use an average as it would have been for around 2001 for the "after" value, which would be about 4 per year. "It is possible to deduce from the figures previously supplied to you that the reduction achieved is statistically significant" - yes I'm sure, but the point is, achieved by what?? We don't know what caused the numbers or the differences between them, or even if the first set of numbers are typical. Please detail why you believe the entire reduction to be due to the lights 

2. It is not always the case that increasing traffic increases risk. Once traffic reaches saturation, and reduces to a crawl, (as it often does at the Fleetbridge with lights) few significant accidents will happen at all. But creating artificial traffic jams would not be my way to reduce accidents, and what about the possibility that you've just moved them to somewhere else?. We cannot assume that Tescos will have increased the accident rate. In any case, what was different to the 3 years full time after installation, and the years from 2001 when full time was restored, in terms of contribution of safety of the lights? 

3. There is no error in the blue curve I added to the chart - it only illustrates what "might have happened". It has to be a curve, not a straight line, as it cannot cross the X axis. I did not offer it as proof of anything.

4. I drive through this roundabout at least once a day, and using different entries / exits. While the lights were off, sometimes a short stop before entering was all I noticed, and then I could flow around it and exit without stopping. Now I have to frequently stop in a queue to enter, then stop (quite often twice) as I go round. This seems to be the experience of the vast majority as seen in online news items. There is no danger if you look and give way if necessary. As I say, if a driver needs lights to help them to do this, they're more than likely just going to have that accident up the road instead. We can't idiot proof every inch of every road (but we should be doing something about idiot drivers) .

5. I'm sure speeds did increase without the lights, that is what everyone is saying, and why they don't want the lights! But if you think that speed is a problem here, this needs to be dealt with by limits / enforcements, not by making traffic stop every few yards. And in any case, a speed up to the limit (30) is entirely reasonable. It's a very safe junction with ped / cycle underpasses and barriers. It wouldn't surprise me if there was an accident due to someone forgetting the lights had been deactivated, as you say, it needs time for changes to settle. I'd like to see the evidence that traffic reduced and by how much. Anyone not confident enough to use this roundabout without lights is a danger and would benefit far more from some (re)training than the thousands sent on courses for doing less than 40 on perfectly good, non residential dual carriageways etc.

6. By "overall experiment" I include the apparently significant increase that seemed to occur when the lights were part time.

7. It is interesting that the rates increased during part time operation. It would be good to try to understand this, it might reveal something about what causes / prevents accidents.

8. Who determines if 3,4,5,6,7,8 accidents a year at such a junction is or is not safe and how? It is impossible to imagine any traffic lights system that would maintain a similar flow to that without lights, at a roundabout, which has highly effective, efficient, natural prioritized flow.

As you see I am not comforted and would welcome further responses on this. The main point I would like to make is that the best money that can be spent would be on improving driving standards which are simply appalling, and easily recognized, and would bring benefits on ALL roads, junctions and roundabouts. This is what is so unsatisfactory about our current road policing.


Regards, Ian Belchamber

From: Martin Baker

Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2011 3:59 PM

Subject: FW: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents -POOLE COUNCIL PLEASE RESPOND

Dear Mr Belchamber


Thank you for your emails dated 29 November and 1 December concerning the above.


Our aim is to respond within 10 working days of receipt of emails of this type and this response is well within that target for your original email.


As discussed on 15th April 2011 you offered to direct all emails which relate to road safety issues within Poole directly to me. Please can you keep to this arrangement when using emails to enable me to continue to assist you as I am unable to respond to further emails which are not directed to me alone or do not relate to Poole.


In response to your specific points raised:


1.    Prior to the traffic lights being put in place at the junction there was a significant accident record, which rose even higher when there was a trial period of part-time operation in the late 1990’s. I have carried out a statistical analysis of the 5-year period before and after full-time signals were operated by checking All Purpose Poisson Probabilities (Single factor Values) based on the long term average accident rates for these two 5-year periods. It is possible to deduce from the figures previously supplied to you that the reduction achieved is statistically significant and that there is a high to very high confidence of a decrease below the long term average following the switch to full time operation.


2.    The increases experienced around 1993-4 can be explained by the nearby Tesco store opening which generated significant changes in traffic volumes into and out of the roundabout. The signals were indeed installed to anticipate and manage these flows and to enable better linking with the (then) new Tesco signals on Waterloo Road.


3.    Looking at the chart compiled by you (presumably based on the data we supplied under your FOI request) it is basically correct except for one noticeable error – you have not explained how you have arrived at your light blue ‘curve’ line, but it is presumably simply a version of the trend line as shown in my chart recreation below (reproduced with the exception of serious accidents – there has only been one since 2000 when the signals went full time).


I have also included in the chart the equivalent annual fluctuations for Poole as a whole over the same period (the additional green line on the chart). Basically a trendline is a only a line made to fit for the data points given and is a best fit mathematical equation for the chart. It should not be used to prove or disprove that  accidents would have dropped to this level anyway without signals operating.




4.    In situations such as those encountered at this roundabout, signal priority will inevitably be given to the major through routes. Therefore if you are entering the roundabout from one of the minor roads, eg Fleets Lane, to exit onto Wimborne Road,  then progression around the roundabout will not be as continuous as if you were going from say Waterloo Road to Wimborne Road. Having said this signals will benefit drivers entering from arms of the roundabout with lower traffic flows which cannot be safely be achieved by other means.


5.    Without signals in place during the recent maintenance works speeds on the junction were increasing, with a likelihood of increased casualty severity due to higher speeds. We have records of at least one injury collision occurred here shortly after the signals were switched off on the 31st October. In addition we have evidence that traffic flows reduced significantly at the junction as drivers, particularly those less confident, were taking alternative routes to avoid the area during the roadworks. Just under 16,000 fewer vehicles a week were using the three main arms of the junction – Waterloo Road, Upton Road and Wimborne Road. The current changes being made to the operation of the signals will result in significant savings in both energy and communications costs. We are moving over to Extra Low Voltage and Broadband, as well as a more efficient method of signal operation at off-peak times. Traffic volumes are now returning to normal.


6.    I do not agree with your conclusion here because I believe your assumption is incorrect for the reasons highlighted in 3 above. The current traffic control system is still bedding in as the Siemens traffic signal engineers need time to fine tune the system based on actual site observations at various times of the day and night. This is the case with all signal junctions following “switch on”. If you use the roundabout now I think you will find the situation improved compared with the period when they were first switched back on again. I can of course understand the requests for changes to the current system, but because of the potential safety implications any decision should not be taken lightly. In this respect the operation of the roundabout will be monitored and a report prepared for consideration early in the New Year.


7.    The decision to trial part time operation was something that was reached before I started in my current role, but it is not something that is recommended by DfT, due to the very fact that an increase in accidents is likely (as you have indeed observed). As I mentioned in 5 above a final and binding decision on operation will be made by Members in the New Year.


8.    I would repeat my response to your similar question raised at 4 above. Traffic signals will benefit drivers entering from arms of very busy roundabouts with lower traffic flows which cannot be safely be achieved by other means.


9 & 10. I refer to the response given at 5. above.


Martin Baker
Senior Engineer (Road Safety and Urban Traffic Control)
T:  01202 262073 F:  01202 262091
E: m.baker@poole.gov.uk

W: www.boroughofpoole.com

Transportation Services, Borough of Poole, St Johns House, Serpentine Road, Poole BH15 2DX

Dorset RoadSafe logo small



From: Ian Belchamber (gmail) [mailto:ianbelchamber@gmail.com]
Sent: 01 December 2011 08:20
Importance: High

Mr Baker, Mr Tite, Poole Council,

I genuinely hope that I'm wrong about this. The implications go far beyond just one roundabout, if Poole have got this wrong, what about all of the other things it has done, speed limit reductions, speed humps, other engineering "improvements". What about it's funding of Dorset Road Safe? Is the logic Poole has used to do these things equally as flawed? What about all the money wasted, the deaths not reduced?

If Poole Council believes it is right, why has there not been a swift and credible response? 

Please now respond to this. If there is no adequate response I will of course be raising complaints about this.

Regards, Ian Belchamber

From: Ian Belchamber (gmail)

Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 1:42 PM

Subject: Re: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents

Sorry, point 1 should obviously be FROM 7 to 2.68, not BY 7 to 2.68. The remaining text is unaffected. I have made some other minor improvements in the online version


From: Ian Belchamber (gmail)

Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 7:34 AM

Subject: Fleetsbridge Roundabout Traffic lights - a proper analysis - traffic lights probably INCREASED accidents


  1. There is not enough information to be certain about anything, other than one thing: to claim that the lights have reduced accidents by 7 to 2.68 (which seems to be the ONLY justification from Poole Council) is clearly complete nonsense:

-         Event rates are low, random variations high

-         Important factors such as traffic volumes / distributions, general trends, changes in reporting, have not been considered

-         Other changes at the roundabout (road markings, effects on journeys by changes at the many nearby large stores), etc have not been considered

  1. However, if we are to believe that the accident counts have been influenced predominantly by the traffic lights, one thing (only) sticks out like a sore thumb: if you include the few years of data PRIOR to the original installation of the lights, the original installation (full time) in June 93 saw an INCREASE and when the lights were switched to part time in Nov 95 accident counts increased again significantly.
  2. When the lights were switched back to full time from Nov 2000, accidents did fall significantly – but ONLY back to levels that might have been expected anyway if the lights has never been there (as illustrated by the curve). And you can reduce accident counts in one area by reducing flow, but those accidents will probably just happen somewhere else.
  3. The minimal reductions seen could probably be achieved just by reducing flow by some other means, reducing number of  / widening lanes, etc, a bit of paint instead of expensive traffic lights that cost drivers and the environment 24 hours a day. This would not reduce flow at all when traffic is light and would limit flow, vehicle density, make it easier to join leave the roundabout etc thus reducing collisions when busy. 
  4. There are other ways to reduce accidents: proper policing would be the most effective way. Even if the lights have reduced accidents, it does not mean it is the most cost effective and efficient way of doing it. All options should be properly considered.
  5. So a proper analysis using all available data and looking at the wider picture can only conclude that the overall “experiment” to install traffic lights on this roundabout has caused more accidents than it has prevented, not to mention all of the congestion, pollution, wasted time and fuel for thousands of drivers every day.
  6. Even despite the uncertainties mentioned in 1 above, the accident increase during part time operation looks undeniable. This surprises even me, perhaps there is an explanation for this, maybe the presence of lights gives drivers a false sense of security, without the control if they are switched off. Perhaps speed limits / humps / loads of road signs etc. have the same effect. Perhaps it is better to allow drivers to think a bit more about their driving rather than blindly following increasing numbers of rules and control that seem to have no reason (but can of course generate revenue).
  7.  So, reassuringly, a proper analysis supports common sense: it’s a roundabout, it does not need traffic lights to improve safety OR help with traffic flow.
  8. It is truly worrying that our “experts” can get things so completely wrong, and draw the conclusions it wants, to do what it wants, by such naïve and simplistic interpretation of data. And these are the same “experts” presumably who are deciding on new town bridges, road safety, speed limit reductions, other road “improvements”, etc. No wonder we’re in such a mess. When are things going to change in Poole / Bournemouth / Dorset?
  9. The best course of action now at Fleetsbridge is to simply remove the new traffic lights and sell them for scrap, and to learn from the failure and to not repeat it. Please can Poole Council do this or provide a proper scientific justification for the lights.