Transportation Policy

Reducing Accidents By Removing Street Signs

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Reader SPD points to a town in Germany that is taking a novel approach to reducing auto-related accidents: getting rid of all traffic signs.

The idea of removing signs to improve road safety, called "Shared Space," was developed by Dutch traffic specialist Hans Monderman, and is supported by the European Union.

The EU will cover half of the 1.2 million euros ($1.66 million) it will cost Bohmte to ditch its traffic lights.

Monderman's ideas have already been implemented in the town of Drachten in the north of the Netherlands, where all stop lights, traffic signs, pavements, and street markings have gone.

"It's been very successful there," Goedejohann said, adding that accidents in Drachten had been reduced significantly.

The area covered has about 13,500 car trips a day, plus pedestrians, etc. The theory apparently is that autos will need to be careful since they don't have the right of way. Or something. As a reflexive jaywalker, I applaud the experiment, even if it takes away the thrill of jaywalking.

More here.

NEXT: Could It Be that All Men Are a Bit Autistic?

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  1. Part of the trend of designing streets for people, not machines.

    Even the ones driving cars – they’re still people. This treats them as such, rather than as “operators” in a mechanistic system.

    A street is a place, which is put to different uses. It isn’t a machine for moving cars.

  2. I’ve ridden enough miles on motorcycles that I’ve learned not to trust anyone to not kill me on the road. I’m certainly not inclined to trust drivers to be safer when they don’t have a right of way.

    Still, if this works, then that’s fantastic.

  3. “Just because it worked in the Netherlands doesn’t mean it will work here,” said Werner Koeppe, a road specialist at Berlin’s Technical Traffic Institute.

    Someone sounds threatened.

  4. It does encourage people to be more careful. In the small town I’m living in, many of the intersections are unmarked. As long as there is not a tie to the intersection, the person ahead is given ROW. However, this slows down flow. Its fine for such a small city where no one is really in a hurry (as it takes max 10 minutes to cross the entire city, with stopping), but I can’t see it working where there is alot of traffic and a large area to cover.

  5. We conducted a similar experiment here in South Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma. Half the traffic lights were blown away, cops were manning the major intersections and the minor ones were left in seeming anarchy. The result was a tri-county area of clueless motorists who had long forgotten the rules of the road, yet things seemed to work out. Drivers who didn’t have to stop stopped anyway, and only a few blew the intersections like they were the only drivers on earth. We survived, but I prefer the old model, where about 10% of the drivers can be counted upon to run the red lights, and the others must maintain vigilance.

  6. As a reflexive jaywalker, I applaud the experiment, even if it takes away the thrill of jaywalking.

    A once got a jaywalking ticket at 0630 on a Sunday morning, in downtown San Diego, on my way to work. Not a moving car in sight, but I neglected to check for parked cops. This was in the ’70s, and the fine was only $5.00, but still…

  7. joe,

    Why shouldn’t a road be a machine for moving “cars?

  8. Might as well. The chuckleheads driving on the street where I live don’t pay any attention to the speed limit signs or any other sign for that matter.

    Half the traffic lights were blown away, cops were manning the major intersections and the minor ones were left in seeming anarchy. The result was a tri-county area of clueless motorists who had long forgotten the rules of the road, yet things seemed to work out.

    In Maryland the law is to treat dark traffic signals as if they are stop signs. I seem to be the only one who is aware of this rule. I stop, but I keep waiting to be rear-ended by some oblivious clown.

  9. Why shouldn’t a road be a machine for moving “cars?

    That’s what the sidewalk is for, silly.

  10. This reminds me of the mountain roads in CO that eschew guard rails for safety’s sake. It works, too. Counter-intuitive, but people are more courteous and careful when there’s no artificial insulation from your environment. Bring it on, I say.

  11. There shouldn’t be tickets for jaywalking, just tickets for stupidity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving in an urban area only to have a pedestrian talking on a cell phone just step out in front of me while I’m traveling at many mph.

  12. Also, I’d like to note that in Germany, it costs over $1000 and weeks of classroom training, along with a real test to get a drivers license. In the US, it costs like 50 pesos and the only requirement is that you have a face.

  13. After katrina in NO (and still to this day) many of the street lights and stop signs are gone. In the case of street lights, many of them simple show the wrong colors for no reason. I havn’t seen to many wrecks. People revert to the primary directive of driving-don’t hit anything.

    As an aside I would consider a unregulated intersection more “libertatrian” then one with a street light. Whatever works best is best.

  14. Ed,

    I don’t remember driving in the aftermath of Wilma quite so fondly. I think such a system can work fine in a small town with a homogeneous culture, but in a major metro area like So Fla, where thrid world driving standards mix with senile old farts and traditional anglo protestant rules of the road, such a plan is a recipie for disaster. Not that it isn’t a disaster anyway. But an interesting experiment perhaps for small towns in the heartland.

  15. Also, I’d like to note that in Germany, it costs over $1000 and weeks of classroom training, along with a real test to get a drivers license. In the US, it costs like 50 pesos and the only requirement is that you have a face.

    Thanks L_I_T. I was about to make the same point. It’s one thing to trust people who are skilled drivers to do this. It’s another thing to trust the average American driver to be more aware/less oblivious.

  16. –I mean would not rather the would.

    “As an aside I would consider a unregulated intersection more “libertatrian” then one with a street light. Whatever works best is best.”

  17. L. I. T.,

    It shouldn’t ONLY be a machine for moving cars.

    Otherwise, you are giving up on its other uses, such as pedestrian movement, or at least, degrading the safety, comfort, and efficacy of those other uses.

    Limited-access highways are one thing, but not the street system in the center of town.

  18. There shouldn’t be tickets for jaywalking, just tickets for stupidity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving in an urban area only to have a pedestrian talking on a cell phone just step out in front of me while I’m traveling at many mph.

    That happened to me the other day. As I was getting ready to turn onto a side street, I saw 2 women walking dogs, talking to each other. I could see what was coming, so I prepped myself.

    Just as I figured, one of the women, never bothering to look, stepped right out in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes and hit the horn, since the idiot wasn’t going to bother to look out for herself.

    They both looked at me like I was nuts. They’re pedestrians. They have the right of way!

  19. I should add they were standing still and up the street, not on the corner.

  20. “only to have a pedestrian talking on a cell phone just step out in front of me while I’m traveling at many mph.”

    I once got a ticket and went to one of those asinine “driving school” classes. The ‘teacher’, several times, pointed out that if someone steps out in front of you when you’re driving, and you hit them, it’s the pedestrian’s fault, not yours. Odd thing to point out, I thought. Dark secrets in the past, I think.

  21. On the application of this idea, it’s not practical for major urban areas, where traffic controls will be needed not for safety but to maintain flow and avoid gridlock. It’s also not practical for rural areas or sprawlly suburbs, where traffic and pedestrian volumes are so far below capacity (either because of very low volumes or because the road system is overbuilt, et, divided four lane roadways with 15′ lane widths) that there aren’t enough conflicts to force drivers to react to other users.

    The middle ground would seem to include the centers of towns or neighborhoods, and non-high-rise areas of cities.

  22. I’m confused joe. Are we talking about preexisting road usage or designing of roads to accomodate pedestrian traffic. The former just decreases the efficiency of moving cars and pedestrians. I would think that you’d rather design a center to do your best to segregate pedestrians and vehicles as best as possible to improve the efficiency of moving both.

  23. Also, I’d like to note that in Germany, it costs over $1000 and weeks of classroom training, along with a real test to get a drivers license.

    That’s all fine and well, but is there any evidence that this leads to better drivers or just more expensive training?

    Personally, I’d rather the insurance companies issue driver’s licenses, if we have to have such a thing. They at least have a vested interest in your skill level and accident avoidence ability. To the DMV, you’re just another body in line to deal with.

  24. Jaywalking tickets are another example of mechanistic street operations. There should only be tickets for impeding traffic or creating a hazard.

    If you’re in a city center that’s busy enough that there need to be dedicated phases to allow pedstrians to cross the street, then “jaywalking” means you are blocking cars that are trying to go during their turn. Crossing against the light in such a case should be assumed to be impeding traffic, legally.

    If volumes are low enough that there are periods when a pedestrian can cross outside of his dedicated phase, then doing so isn’t likely to impede traffic flow.

    There’s no need to make jaywalking per se an offense.

  25. As a personal preference, I like downtown areas that were design with pedestrians in mind, with fairly narrow streets and densely packed commercial areas. Many European cities fit that profile and it tends to make things easier to get around and more enjoyable to walk in. By contrast, I hate cities that have downtown centers with wide streets meant for multiple lanes of traffic. It tends to spread out point A to point B and leads to problems. Therefore, I loathe Manhatten.

  26. L.I.T.,

    Both. We should

    Segregating pedestrians and cars rarely works. You always end up with someone walking unsafely down the side of the road that you deliberately made unsafe for pedestrians, if that’s the straightest route.

    Sending pedestrians out of their way is inefficient

  27. What am I, Yoda.

    Both, we should. Grhmph.

  28. Unstated above, but perhaps obvious is that this will work only in areas where there is adequate “set back” of buildings/houses from corners, to allow sufficient visibilty for intersecting cars to speed up/slow down to avoid “conflict” at an intersection.

    With buildings separated from the street only by a sidewalk, a driver would have to stop at EVERY intersection and look “around” the buildings on the corner.

    Also interesting – it takes over a million and a half dollars to take down stuff!!?? WTF! Just turn the teenagers loose one weekend; tell ’em they can have any street signs, stop signs or traffic lights they want.

    CB

  29. On the application of this idea, it’s not practical for major urban areas, where traffic controls will be needed not for safety but to maintain flow and avoid gridlock. It’s also not practical for rural areas or sprawlly suburbs, where traffic and pedestrian volumes are so far below capacity (either because of very low volumes or because the road system is overbuilt, et, divided four lane roadways with 15′ lane widths) that there aren’t enough conflicts to force drivers to react to other users.

    The middle ground would seem to include the centers of towns or neighborhoods, and non-high-rise areas of cities.

    Spoken like a true urban planner. Got any research to back that up? I’d guess that in congested cities, traffic lights and signs are preferable. But in rural areas and “sprawley” suburbs, I suspect otherwise.

    Let’s do the testing and find out!

  30. New Orleans french quarter actually works pretty well from a pedestrian, driving way. I don’t feel the need to drive from place to place to get around and am willing to park outside the area and walk into it. By contrast, downtown Houston was designed by cars and I hate walking around it, even in light traffic. Everything is so spread out by 5 lane roads. Remove those lanes and you could fit the area in half the space.

  31. As a pedestrian, I routinely have to dodge cars turning right when I’m in the crosswalk. Or drivers who block the crosswalk or roll through the crosswalk, oblivious of me.

    As a driver I see pedestrians do stupid things as well.

  32. I don’t remember driving in the aftermath of Wilma quite so fondly….a major metro area like So Fla, where thrid world driving standards mix with senile old farts and traditional anglo protestant rules of the road…

    FDAS,

    Oh, I wasn’t “fond” of it, believe me. And your assessment of SF drivers is accurate if not indelicate. I prefer order over chaos.

  33. As a driver I see pedestrians do stupid rude, inconsiderate things as well.

  34. J sub D,

    I think I understand what joe is saying, but that doesn’t mean we need to put up stop signs on every dirt road. When you’re in a rural area, you won’t have alot of new people (which, to be honest, is the main point of traffic signs, to provide training for the visitors, not the locals) so there’s no reason to put a stop sign at a T intersection in the middle of corn country. The people that utilize that road know they need to yield to the major road before entering it.

  35. I prefer order over chaos.

    Go, Mussolini, go!

  36. I would think that you’d rather design a center to do your best to segregate pedestrians and vehicles as best as possible to improve the efficiency of moving both.

    Except this sort of design always benefits autos at the expense of pedestrians. Good for suburban shopping malls perhaps, but nowhere else.

  37. Traffic signs and signals have never been about traffic. They have always been about bureaucrats asserting that their existence has meaning.
    (It doesn’t.)

  38. Personally, I’d rather the insurance companies issue driver’s licenses, if we have to have such a thing. They at least have a vested interest in your skill level and accident avoidence ability. To the DMV, you’re just another body in line to deal with.

    True, but I’d rather road owners determine who could drive on their roads. Insurance companies would work too, I guess, if the road owners had a list of insurance companies licenses that they approved, but I’m just sayin ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. CB –
    RE: The teenagers.
    Awesome. Just awesome.

  40. Small, discrete neighborhoods of South Minneapolis used to have uncontrolled intersections.

    I was going to visit some friends of mine and didn’t know that this was true and just drove thru intersections because there were no lights or stop signs. Someone pulled out in front of me as if I was supposed to stop and that she had the right of way. I slammed on the brakes, took a few deep breaths, went on, and got to my friends’ house. I told the story how some idiot almost almost caused an accident and they told me the scoop on the lack of stop signs.

    This is not a good idea unless everyone knows the situation and I’m not sure how you clue everyone in including non-residents.

  41. Rhywun,

    What I want and what ends up happening ain’t always been similar.

  42. This is not a good idea unless everyone knows the situation and I’m not sure how you clue everyone in including non-residents.

    Perhaps a road sign that indicates that there you’re entering a zone of no traffic control? Or does that defeat the purpose? ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Reinmoose,

    Might as well have a gated city where theres a 5 minute video on how the traffic laws are structured at the gate before you enter. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Then that gate can be dually used as a checkpoint when the fascists take over. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. LIT:

    “What I want and what ends up happening ain’t always been similar.”

    That sounded like a line straight out of Al Swearingen’s mouth on Deadwood (minus the obligatory profanity). Fan?

  45. Bugsbunny,

    While I did like that show, the comment was a slight modification on a quote from the movie “Serenity” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  46. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

  47. Recently read a piece in the AAA mag about the problems inherent in parking lots that emphasized just how accident prone these places are. For people and cars. Reason: No traffic controls, just one big free for all. The only reason it isn’t worse is that nobody can get enough speed up as they zip across empty parking stalls to park next to Macy’s front door. Maybe that’s different than a normal street.

    Also noticed that this new rule only applies to downtown. That might work there but I can’t imagine how it would work in a small town like Sonora Ca where everything in the county is funneled through downtown on Hwy 49 and the daytime population goes up from 3k at daybreak to 25k by ten.

    And on a semi-related note: Why do Arizona drivers make right turns in front of oncoming traffic? You can make book on it. 50 mph, green light ahead, somebody is guaranteed to turn right from the opposing street in front of you.

  48. Cheer up TWC. If you lived in Pennsyltucky you’d have to write a book on inability to merge or comprehend using ramps to get up to (or even remotely near) highway speed.

    Nothing better than being stuck in the right lane with a large volume of quick moving traffic and have some jackass, who’s stopped at the end of the on-ramp, pull in front of you and only make it up to 25mph after 2 minutes… oh wait, I guess they are kinda the same thing, huh?

    But what about construction zones? Lanes merge, 5 miles ahead! That means “everyone get in the right lane, NOW, or we’ll flip you off!”

  49. de stijl

    I spent ten years of my childhood in a huge subdivision that had no stop signs except at major intersections where the residential streets opened onto the major, 4-lane roads. BUT, in Californicate, the law says that the speed limit is 25 in a residential area, that u turns are not permitted, and that the guy on the right has the right of way at uncontrolled intersections. In theory, that’s how people know how to behave in those situations, because they studied the driver license booklet. [Yeah, right]

    Now that Ca has a huge immigrant population from Asia and points south, I’m not sure how that’s working out, but in my old neighborhood there still are many uncontrolled intersections, although not as many as there once were.

    I wonder why Mn doesn’t have similar laws. Maybe because, as my grandfather used to say, Sorry, Officer, where I come from it’s every man for himself. My family is originally from St Paul. ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. I’m sorry, I mistyped that. Let me try again:

    But what about construction zones? Lanes merge, 5 miles ahead! That means “everyone get in the right lane, NOW! And I, the jackass Pennsylvanian, will get in the left lane, stopped, to make sure that people don’t jump this stopped for no reason 1 lane line that has a second lane that is (other than me) unobstructed for the next 5 miles, essentially creating the merge point that happens 5 miles ahead, but much much earlier

  51. Cobb Country Georgia (Metro Atlanta) is thinking of using traffic circles (round-abouts) to reduce traffic congestion.

    They better put a collision repair shop smack dab in the middle of it. Most people are just too stupid to drive.

  52. RM, [chuckles]

    In the old days it was VolksHoles. Chugging up the freeway onramp with all 1200cc’s working overtime, spewing noxious fumes out the mini tail pipes, finally at the end of the ramp with speeds approaching 35-40 mph ZIP TO THE FAST LANE!

    I nearly had a religious experience when VW announced they couldn’t meet the smog requirements and the Bug would be decommissioned. I hoist a glass every time one of them is hauled to the scrap yard.

  53. Cobb County needs to check in with Long Beach Ca on how well traffic circles work. Maybe Orange, too.

  54. Reinmoose-

    By far the worst roads I’ve ever been on are in Pennsylvania. I swear to God, as soon as you cross the state line from Maryland in some places the road instantly deteriorates into a maze of potholes and poorly maintained asphalt. Theres this one road that goes through Lancaster (Route 30 maybe?) that even makes me pray to whatever god exists for my life every time I drive on it.

  55. Disclaimer: I’m from NY, not PA, but have to drive through it everytime I want (have?) to visit my relatives.

  56. Traffic circles blow. Just try driving through downtown Washington sometime.

  57. I seem to recall a rule for dealing with unsigned intersection that everyone knew. It was Give Way to the Right. It was practically universal.

    In Central Florida when we had three hurricanes in a six week period in ’04 was to treat intersections with the signals out as four-way stops.

    That worked real well (test sarcasmometers at this point; if yours did not read at maximum it needs to go to the shop for calibration).

    It worked especially well at intersections of roads with four or more lanes. How anyone was supposed to keep track of who got there before him and who after I never figured out.

    Of course in the absence of any other rule it was certainly better than nothing.

    Fortunately the various responsible agencies were pretty good at getting things operating again.

  58. Traffic circles would make sense if people figured out how to use them.

  59. Cesar, ditto on the PA roads. Although, I once took a back road from the ‘Burgh to the Md state line that was in perfect condition and was as awesomely beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen. Lovely little towns with stone bridges and well kept homes and not a pothole in sight. The big surprise was at the beginning before we got onto the country road at a rest stop (may have been 376). The bathroom was tiled, it had real mirrors, and it was sparkling clean. I was shocked, every rest stop in California looks and smells like a porta potty in need of pumping (plus the floor is sticky)

  60. Just try driving through downtown Washington sometime.

    You could have left it at that

  61. TWC-

    I bet that road was in Bud Schuster’s district. Probably the fruits of his pork.

  62. On the application of this idea, it’s not practical for major urban areas, where traffic controls will be needed not for safety but to maintain flow and avoid gridlock.

    I’m not sure about that. Everytime I’ve ever been in Chicago or New York in heavy traffic, everyone just ignores the traffic lights. It’s like they’re not even there. I also know lots of Indians who say that their cities have virtually no signs or signaling, and pedestrians and cars share the same road, so people are constantly weaving through traffic. They don’t even have defined lanes. Do a youtube search for “Indian Intersection” to see what I mean.

    That said, anyone have any more information about the success of this experiment in the places it’s been done? I’m curious to see the full statistics of it, specifically it’s impact on number of accidents and the like.

  63. Re: Pennsyltucky, a pal used to regale me with tales of the “Pittsburgh Left”.

    I like the driving dictum “Don’t hit anything, moron.” It works reasonably well, and cheaply, too.

  64. My brief experience with Germany was that the drivers were much more disciplined than in the USA. Some of that might be due to their stricter licensing, but a lot more I suspect has to do with the German culture and its love of Ordnung. They do take their driving a lot more seriously there.

    As opposed to Italy, where the rules of the road appear to be optional, or at least to consist primarily of lots of swearing and vigorous hand gestures. Every other car seemed to have fender damage when I visited there many years ago.

  65. Haven’t browsed the whole article yet, but I can see a rationale for at least reducing the number of signs.

    Driving in an unfamiliar town can be a nightmare when there are literally dozens of signs for a zillion local ordinances plus directions to the train station, the zoo & every church while you are trying to spot the one which tells you where the through road makes a left turn.

  66. TWC,

    The difference between parking lots and roads like this is that the road system has just so many movements and directions of movement, while in a wide-open paved area, you never know where other cars could be coming from.

    Cesar, Washington’s rotaries don’t work because they are a bastardized hybrid of roundabouts, rotaries, and signalized intersections.

  67. A friend once suggested that the best way to have better drivers is to put a big, sharp spike in the middle of the steering wheel, aimed at the drivers head/chest.

  68. Traffic circles would make sense if people figured out how to use them.

    They work fine for low speeds and low volumes. At high speeds the circle has to be excessively large and it is cheaper and more efficient to use an interchange. The low speed version is generally called a “roundabout” to distinguish it from the now out of style circles>

    All thru the seventies and eighties I watched as traffic circles or rotaries were torn up and replaced with interchanges or signalized intersections. That was mostly in the Northeastern states and Canada which were the places they had gotten the most acceptance.

    Then in the mid nineties I went to Australia and saw they were using roundabouts and loving them. I though “How quaint”.

    When I got back to my office there was a bulletin from the FDOT instructing all design engineers to consider using these newfangled roundabouts where appropriate on state and local projects.

    I then had to read up on the things. apparently they’d become all the rage in England, OZ, Germany and France and were spreading like wildfire.

    I’ve only done one and it was an alternative design that nobody ended up liking. They picked my conventional intersection alternative instead.

  69. “Traffic circles would make sense if people figured out how to use them.”

    Traffic LIGHTS would make sense if people figured out how to use them.

    CB

  70. FYI,

    The difference between a roundabout and a rotary is in the type of approach. When you come to a roundable, it’s like approaching a T-intersection. You have to stop, or almost stop, to make the turn.

    When you come to a rotary, it’s like taking an exit ramp.

  71. joe – thanks for the explanation of the difference. I am fortunate to be able to drive a lot in the UK and the RoI. They refer to everything as a roundabout over there. The smaller ones (2 lanes intersecting with 2 lanes) are laid out as you describe a roundabout, but the “circle” in the middle is so small, there’s no real need to stop if no one’s coming; you can just continue through the roundabout. The bigger ones are constructed like the rotaries.

    The really hard part is… when I encounter either of them in Germany, Austria, and very occassionally, the US… deciding which way to go! Left or right??!!! Clockwise or counterclockwise! Let’s see… if the shifter’s in my left hand, I’m going left… if it’s in my right, I’m headed right… I think. And where’s the freaking blinker!!!

    CB

  72. wsdave,
    You know Steven Landsburg?

  73. No, but it sounds like something my freind would read. Is that where the idea comes from?

  74. CB

    The UK pioneered the modern roundabout.

    In 1966, the UK adopted a mandatory “give-way” rule at all circular intersections, which required entering traffic to give way, or yield to circulating traffic.

    (from Roundabouts: An Informational Guide – US Dept of Transportation – Federal highway Administration)

    This rule has now been adopted everywhere that has adopted the modern concept of roundabout design.

    Note that they say “all circular intersections”. In effect the UK was doing away with any notion that a all circular intersection could function in a high speed free flow condition.

    My own less than wellfounded opinion is that older American drivers have a problem with roundabouts because in giving way to circulating traffic they have to “give way to the left” instead of “giving way to the right”. This may also explain why British and Australian drivers like them.

    Of course, others will find, “No they’re just idiots” a more plausible explanation.

  75. In the USA, I’ve seen roundabouts touted as a way to SLOW traffic flow, not improve it, as a way of discouraging traffic on neighborhood streets. And D.C. does indeed have plenty of true “rotaries” that are mostly effective in causing accidents and consternation. Of course, the circles with the stoplights and multiple layers are even worse…

  76. And on a semi-related note: Why do Arizona drivers make right turns in front of oncoming traffic? You can make book on it. 50 mph, green light ahead, somebody is guaranteed to turn right from the opposing street in front of you.

    When I figure it out, I’ll let you know. It’s one of the holy trinity of Arizona driving rules.

    1) turn right in front of oncoming traffic (which includes oncoming traffic that is making a left on green)
    2) pass on the right when the left lane is completely open
    3) when making a turn, turn into the farthest lane possible

  77. I miss some of the old traditions in driving, like using signal lights before lane changes.

  78. I’ve never been to Arizona, but I’m pretty sure I can explain the dumb driving apparently prevalent there:

    Retirees.

  79. A thread several yrs. ago in alt.fan.cecil-adams explained that traffic circles were most efficient in moderate traffic volume — that they’re a waste in low volume, and choke in high volume.

    Here in the Bronx the controls on entering circles have been progressively tightened. “Merge” has become “yield” (which is the default and the reversal to the usual ROW), and “yield” has become “stop” or traffic light (which of course applies to traffic already in the circle too).

  80. By contrast, downtown Houston was designed by cars and I hate walking around it, even in light traffic. Everything is so spread out by 5 lane roads. Remove those lanes and you could fit the area in half the space.

    Actually, it was designed to allow wagons to turn around in. That’s why it’s so wide. And that’s also not why it’s unpleasant to walk around. When friends from the hottest parts of India are complaining, you know it’s hot. (Also, the tunnels aren’t all that useful to people not skating between courthouses.) Besides, if the roads were one lane each way, then there would be no room for pedestrians because the cars would be stacked and none would obey traffic signals.

  81. “Traffic signs and signals have never been about traffic. They have always been about bureaucrats asserting that their existence has meaning.
    (It doesn’t.)”

    Ruthless has been talking about doing away with street signs right here at Hit & Run for years!

    Ever since I heard him talking about it, I wondered how it work in practice. …score one for Ruthless!

    He was right again.

  82. Part of the trend of designing streets for people, not machines.

    Even the ones driving cars – they’re still people. This treats them as such, rather than as “operators” in a mechanistic system.

    A street is a place, which is put to different uses. It isn’t a machine for moving cars.

    Rubish.

    People won’t be driving cars in 15 years…machines will…and by doing so will make urbanscapes more pedestrian friendly.

  83. People won’t be driving cars in 15 years…machines will…and by doing so will make urbanscapes more pedestrian friendly.

    jc

    I hope you’re right, because I hate driving. I’d much rather read a book or watch the scenery.

    However, I have seen too many things that were supposed to happen in 10 – 20 – 30 years that didn’t to get my hopes up on this one.

    The computing problems with self-driving vehicles in the real world are immense.

    Even if you could build a program that could cope with all the problems in driving, it would still have glitches. It might eliminate 99% of all traffic injuries and fatalities, but the company that built the system would get their butts sued off by the 1% remainder. No one could afford the financial risks of building such a system.

  84. This idea of no signs/no traffic control really only works at a certain volume and certain speed. It also slows people down considerably.

    Example: if a traffic signal in your area gets knocked out by lightning and everyone defaults to the “instant stop signal” mode–check the difference in time it will take you to get through the intersection. At very low traffic density, it works better. At moderate to high traffic density, you will be waiting much, much longer and will be swearing up and down and why don’t they get the bloody light fixed already.

    In other words, we use traffic signals because they are more efficient at higher levels of traffic.

    (I used to work in ITS in Japan, so have a lot of stories about traffic control in Tokyo.)

  85. Oh, and speaking of roundabouts, has anyone ever run into that hellish invention called a “magic roundabout”?

    I’ve never been able to use one of those without going off hopelessly lost in the wrong direction.

  86. but the company that built the system would get their butts sued off by the 1% remainder. No one could afford the financial risks of building such a system.

    We live in a world of Open Source, money grubbing insurance companies and fanatical urban planners. Less people dying from car accidents is to cherry to be missed.

    The technical problems have already been over come. It is now just a matter of reducing costs…which are dropping fast.

    By the way I am not saying that in 15 years we can buy cars that can drive themselves…we will have that in 5…i am saying most if not all cars by that time will drive themselves.

  87. ChrisO,

    In the USA, I’ve seen roundabouts touted as a way to SLOW traffic flow, not improve it, as a way of discouraging traffic on neighborhood streets.

    They can do both, depending on how they’re designed and used.

    Also, improving the efficiency of an intersection and increasing the velocity of the vehicles travelling through it are two diffferent, often contradictory, goals.

  88. joshua,

    A road system that consists of very wide streets with high vehicular speeds is not pedestrian friendly, even if the robot-drivers screech to a halt with perfect dependability when someone approaches one of the strictly-designated crosswalks.

    We are softy, lumpy, organic creatures, with hard-wired instincts and senses that turn unpleasant quite easily.

    A house is not a machine for living; it is a place. A street is not a machine for moving; it is also a place.

  89. One shouldn’t assume that the elimination of road signs and markings will get rid of the rules of the road – especially in Germany. There are countless unmarked intersections here – just get off the main routes. The law is that, if there is no traffic light/stop/yield sign at an intersection, then you have to yield to any car coming from your right. It doesn’t matter who got to the intersection first. If your car car has a dent on its right side after the collision, then the polizei will write you a ticket. All in all, this works pretty well, and I prefer it greatly to the over-use of stop signs in the US.

  90. As a reflexive jaywalker, I applaud the experiment, even if it takes away the thrill of jaywalking.

    I crossed the DART tracks in Dallas against the light. I could see the train stopped a couple blocks down and knew it to be safe. A DART bicycle cop chased me down and wrote me a $250 ticket for the infraction. I wanted to fight the fine, but after a year’s worth of phone calls, nobody in the Dallas court system could even locate the ticket. I called another half dozen times during the second year and finally gave up.

    For all I know, there could be a warrant for my arrest in Dallas County.

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