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What City Had The First Traffic Signal?

(photo by Gavinwray@Flickr)

Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have any traffic laws or rules? No speed limit signs. No stop signs. No traffic lights. That’s pretty much what it was like in the early years after the car was invented. You had cars, bicycles, horses, trolleys and pedestrians all competing for right of way. As horse-drawn carriages gradually disappeared it helped the situation, but it was clear that a system of regulations was necessary to keep traffic moving and reduce the number of accidents on the roads.

Driving on the left side of a car became standard in 1908. The first painted center dividing line appeared in Michigan in 1911 and the first “No Left Turn” sign debuted right here in Buffalo in 1916.

How about the first traffic signal? On the side of some roads in London as early as 1868 there were poles with moveable arms. If the arm was horizontal it meant stop. If the arm was at a 45-degree angle it meant caution. If the arm was up it meant go.

But most historians agree it was a device that appeared at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio that’s recognized as the first electric traffic signal. It had red and green lights, mounted on a corner post. It was connected to a control booth where somebody pushed buttons to turn the signals from green to red.

That first traffic signal started controlling traffic in Cleveland in early August in 1914.


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