Who Needs Streets Signs Or Lanes -- Part II
from the making-things-better-by-making-them-worse dept
Earlier this year, we talked about an article in Salon.com about how a new theory on traffic engineering was gaining more adherents, suggesting that by removing almost all street signs and lane markings, it would actually make traffic flow much better and safer. The concept is, as you might imagine, controversial. The basic idea is that by making things worse, you make them better by making people much more careful. If there are no street signs or lane markers, and the road is shared with pedestrians and bicyclists, drivers have to be much more careful. They drive slower, they make eye contact, and they pay more attention. The end result, though, is that typical causes of congestion are removed and people actually reach their destinations faster -- and the roads are more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists. It appears that Wired Magazine has basically written a nearly identical article on this concept of psychological traffic calming, with a few more examples of places where it appears to be working. As mentioned last time, the whole concept reminds me of driving in Manhattan, where street signs really don't matter and lanes don't exist (even if there are some painted on the pavement). However, driving in Manhattan, while it requires more attention, always feels somewhat safer than driving elsewhere. Of course, you could take this to the opposite extreme. If making it seem more dangerous makes people drive better, why not remove seatbelts and airbags and replace the big steering column with a pointed stick facing the driver? That, certainly, would be more incentive to drive carefully, right? The trick is creating the right balance between efficiency and safety, where drivers are encouraged to drive safely -- but that the throughput of the overall system is maximized.