Traffic signal is 100 years old this month

Traffic signal is 100 years old this month

In the early days of the automobile, life on the road was chaotic. Cars competed with horses, bicyclists and pedestrians for the right of way, and for several years the roads did not even have lane markings. The horses eventually disappeared, and the roads got some painted lanes.

Crossroads were still a problem. A device used in London in 1868 acted the part of police officer, with two wooden arms held horizontally for –stop” and at a 45-degree angle for –caution.” In 1912, a Salt Lake City policeman created a vertical pole with a box that had a red and green light, attached to trolley and light wires overhead.

But historians generally recognize the start of the electric traffic signal as we know it today with a system installed in Cleveland on August 4, 1914. It had four sets of red and green lights wired to a manually operated switch and set so the signals would not conflict.

An article in The Motorist, published by the Cleveland Automobile Club in August 1914, said –This system is, perhaps, destined to revolutionize the handling of traffic in congested city streets and should be seriously considered by traffic committees for general adoption.”

Looks like the writer got his wish. The information in this article was provided by

Download Bulletin PDF