Invention Geek – First Traffic Light?

Question from Josie K.:
When was the first traffic light installed?

Hello Josie.

The first traffic light was built in front of the British House of Parliament in 1868. Even though there were not yet cars on the road, the horses and pedestrians caused chaos on the streets of London. The light was proposed by John Peake Knight, a railroad engineer. He modeled the traffic control after the system used by the British railroad. An arm was moved up or down by policeman to signal whether traffic should stop or go. The arms could not be seen at night so the signal was changed to using red and green gas lamps.

The traffic light was an instant success, helping to relieve congestion problems on Bridge Street in London. Knight foresaw more of these lights being built on intersections throughout the city. Instead, the use of the first light was ended after an accident. A leaking gas main caused one of the gas lamps to explode. The police officer operating the device was badly burnt. Traffic lights would not be used again until fifty years later in the United States.