Traffic engineering ANARCHY!

A traffic engineer in the Netherlands is trying to get towns to take away all their signalization. The reasons are much more interesting than you’d think. Basically, the theory is that clear signage makes people drive on automatic (so to speak), and the lack of signage makes people more cautious, rewiring our attention from “traffic” mode to “social” mode.

Rather than clarity and segregation, he had created confusion and ambiguity. Unsure of what space belonged to them, drivers became more accommodating. Rather than give drivers a simple behavioral mandate—say, a speed limit sign or a speed bump—he had, through the new road design, subtly suggested the proper course of action. And he did something else. He used context to change behavior. He had made the main road look like a narrow lane in a village, not simply a traffic-way through some anonymous town…

Monderman envisioned a dual universe. There was the “traffic world” of the highway, standardized, homogenous, made legible by simple instructions to be read at high speed. And there was the “social world,” where people lived and interacted using human signals, at human speeds. The reason he didn’t want traffic infrastructure in the center of Drachten or any number of other places was simple: “I don’t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.” The social world had its limits; at some intersections in Drachten, Monderman said, he “wouldn’t trust this solution.” The removal of signs and other visual markings could only be done after careful study of conditions such as traffic volume, the geometry of the intersection, and the mix of cyclists and cars…

Despite Monderman’s successes in places such as Makkinga and Drachten, skeptics have objected that while these arrangements are fine for small villages, they could never work in cities with heavy traffic. A project in London, undertaken a few years ago independently of Monderman, suggests otherwise. On Kensington High Street, a busy thoroughfare for pedestrians, bikes, and cars, local planners decided to spruce up the street and make it more attractive to shoppers by removing the metal railings that had been erected between the street and the sidewalk, as well as “street clutter,” everything from signs to hatched marks on the roadway. None of these measures complied with Department for Transport standards. And yet, since the makeover there have been fewer accidents than before. Though more pedestrians now cross outside crosswalks, car speeds (the fundamental cause of traffic danger) have been reduced, precisely because the area now feels like it must be navigated carefully.

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14 thoughts on “Traffic engineering ANARCHY!

    • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 13:27 Reply

      Hummm, I just remember than I read about this on Gender Trender.

    • Francois Tremblay March 1 2013 at 13:30 Reply

      Well I self-identify as a barracuda, so they should put me in an aquarium.

      • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 13:38 Reply

        Great analogy!

        • Francois Tremblay March 1 2013 at 13:42 Reply

          It’s so unfair that I’m stuck on land when I am clearly a barracuda. This is barracudaphobia. I demand that my rights be recognized.

          • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:04

            There is no species essentialism! ;)

  1. David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:08 Reply

    I have another link concerning “the cotton ceiling”.

    • Francois Tremblay March 1 2013 at 14:13 Reply

      I think I’ve already talked sufficiently about the cotton ceiling. I think we should talk more about the aquarium tank ceiling that I am being subjected to. My feelings are more important.

      • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:19 Reply

        Other barracudas should fuck with youuuuuuu. ;)

        • Francois Tremblay March 1 2013 at 14:20 Reply

          Why, oh why, do busty women refuse to have sex with barracudas
          I call discrimination

          • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:29

            Those women barracudasogynists!

          • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:32

            In fact, women can refuse to fuck with real barracudas, but they SHOULD fuck with trans-barracudas!

        • Francois Tremblay March 1 2013 at 14:35 Reply

          Well, women shouldn’t be able to decide who they want to have sex with anyway, right? Since they’re, you know, women. We don’t care who they want to have sex with, as long as they want to have sex with US.

          • David Gendron March 1 2013 at 14:39

            Yeah, please fuck with meeeeeee.

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