Getting Rid Of Traffic Lights And Traffic Signs To Make Everyone Safer

from the figure-that-one-out dept

It's been a while since we've talked about this topic, but it's one that fascinates me. Back in early 2004, we wrote about a movement under way to have cities remove traffic lights and traffic signs to make the roads safer. You also open up the roads not just to cars, but to bikers and pedestrians as well. It sounds completely counter-intuitive, since those things are supposed to make the roadways safer and more efficient -- but city planners have found the opposite to be true. When you remove all of the guidance, it makes people (and that includes the bikers and pedestrians as well) much more cautious and careful -- so they tend to make fewer dangerous moves. On top of that, it actually makes the traffic flow much more smoothly, allowing people to get where they're going much faster, even if they drive slower. Because they have fewer full stops and long waits to deal with, it's actually much more efficient. There was another article later that year that made the same point, but we haven't heard much about it recently. Jeff Nolan points us to a more recent article that examines the situation in a Dutch town (which was also profiled in the earlier articles), saying that it's been working great. The number of severe traffic accidents has dropped (no deaths since they removed the traffic lights) and people say they get places much faster. They admit that it's confusing for newcomers, but that helps remind everyone else to continue to drive/walk/bike carefully and safely. Jeff wonders if the same counter-intuitive logic might also apply to computer security -- but that might be trickier. With driving, at least everyone needs to pass some sort of licensing exam where they should at least learn the basics of safe driving. While some have suggested similar things for computer users, it's still not the case. Also, the "penalty" for unsafe driving is much more immediate and potentially much more serious and painful. So, the incentives are much stronger to remain safe. Either way, it remains a fascinating concept, though, it still hasn't caught on in that many places.

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  1. identicon
    Chris, 11 Nov 2006 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: profoundly retarded

    Mike,

    Please talk with a firefighter as I have. Or visit the site of a wreck where the drivers have ignored the signs (if there were any). In my neighborhood alone, there have been more than a dozen accidents at unsigned residential intersections in the last few years alone. Four people have died, and several injured, one of them an eight year old boy who will have epileptic seizures for the rest of his life because the other driver was on the phone and not driving “cautiously”. In addition, these are 25 mile an hour zones, I cannot imagine how bad it would be on the highways.

    This is not even counting the children who are hit on their bikes every year by drivers not paying attention.

    What would you suggest for railroad crossings? No gates? “Let’s see if we can beat the train today Billy.”

    I am not calling you names here, just presenting the facts. Let’s look at this scientifically. You have stated one town is doing this and it is working. Well then, let’s just convert the entire US traffic system based upon this one example. Oh, I forgot, there was that one study done, well that should solidify the masses opinions.

    I applaud your efforts to make a change, and be willing to voice them when they could be scrutinized. However, I do think a little more research should have been done on this topic.

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