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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Ruro, 20 Dec 2006 @ 11:31am

    Traffic Signs

    Don't know if this post is still active, but it intrigues me. I grew up in Boston, and learned to drive there. I still live next door in Cambridge. It is a tough place to drive, and much different from other parts of the US, but if you can drive well here, you can drive anywhere. It is tougher than NYC also. We don't have a nice tidy grid to get around; streets are narrow and twisty and sometimes even change direction midway. (I am also, like everyone living here, often a pedestrian.) Streets are crowded, and pedestrians walk out in front of cars all the time. Most drivers do not get angry, they know this will happen and look at the PEOPLE for signals. That is the important thing: they have to meet the eyes of the pedestrian/cyclist, and they have to meet the eyes of the drivers. It truly does slow you down. There is no room for putting on makeup, etc. You have to focus or you will kill someone else or yourself. Meeting the driver's eyes is how we were taught when we were young when learning to cross a street. To be safe you must keep the human connection. When this is taken away is when the arrogance of being in the all-powerful car comes into play.

    I think this idea of reducing signs could work. In residential areas slowing down is crucial. I also think some other things would help: If people stop driving huge cars. If everyone drove smaller cars, there would certainly be accidents, but fewer fatalities. Talking on cell phones in a moving car should just be banned; there is no other option.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.