Traffic controls: a sign of failure…

A friend posted this video on Facebook. I’m a fan of shared space concepts (in context), so I followed it to the homepage of FiTRoads. Traffic lights seem to be the primary focus there. I use traffic lights to my advantage in the current system, so I feel more friendly toward them than, say, stop signs or certain white paint. But there’s some intriguing stuff on the link trail.

From Equality Streets:

Most instructional road signs are badges of failure; failure to forge a culture that stimulates empathy, and failure to design roads in a way that stimulates considerate conduct. Official fixation with control = official neglect of civilised solutions based on equality and context.

Here’s another FiTRoads video.

What do you think?

6 replies
  1. NE2
    NE2 says:

    I’m going to use this opportunity to ramble about speed limits in the hope that it will be relevant. There are really four different types of things that can be called speed limits:
    *1. A standard limit defined by law, such as 30 on all paved roads unless otherwise posted.
    *2. A posted limit.
    *3. The maximum speed at which the roadway can be driven (and at which a driver can stop in time), given the present weather conditions.
    *3a. The maximum speed at which the roadway can be driven without flying off the road in ideal conditions.
    *4. An advisory limit, such as on a curve, showing what the government engineers have determined to be a safe speed at that particular hazard in ideal conditions.

    In Florida, I believe you have to follow both 2 and 3, as well as 1 if 2 is not applicable. In other states, 3 can override both 1 and 2 in certain cases (exceeding the speed limit is prima facie evidence of going too fast, but if you can prove you were going at a safe speed you were operating legally). 4 is never, strictly speaking, a speed limit, though it may similarly be evidence of driving too fast for conditions. And drivers in any state will follow either 2 or 3a on roads they’re familiar with, not caring about the difference between 3 and 3a (hence pedestrian crashes and major pileups in fog).

    Herein lies the theory behind removing speed limit signs from roads where conditions may change from intersection to intersection: often 2 is treated as a goal for any condition rather than a boundary beyond which it’s easier to write a ticket. Speed traps reinforce this view: as long as you’re under the limit, you don’t contribute to the snooty small town’s coffers. I’m not sure whether removing speed limit signs from certain streets and enforcing 3 would work.

    For the record, I try to follow 3 when I drive, sometimes exceeding 2 by a bit. But I find that on residential streets I actually drive a bit slower than the posted speed, since I’m watching in all directions for any possible conflicts and making sure I can stop in time.

  2. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Were there any cyclists using the roads shown? I didn’t see any, but maybe I missed one.

    My experience with these schemes is that they will work if cycle mode share is at least 25%. Any lower bicycle mode share tends to result in cars driving too fast and bullying cyclists out of their way.

  3. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    “Changing culture from priority to equality”. A wonderful piece of language.

    Cultural changes are probably the most difficult thing to bring about.

  4. Ed W
    Ed W says:

    I wondered about the long-term consequences of this, but that was addressed toward the end when they said there were only 2 ‘shunts’ (Brit-speak for crashes) and 2 pedestrian injuries over an 8 month period. So in that sense, it appears to be successful in reducing congestion, delays, and very likely air pollution. However, you could see the difficulties that remain when it was said that blind pedestrians avoided the intersection, and you could see why. In the absence of traffic signals, pedestrians had mixed results when trying to communicate and cooperate with motorists. In fact, it appeared that the pedestrians were relegated to second-class status, crossing the street only when there was a gap in traffic. I saw no cyclists in this piece, and frankly had to wonder how they’d fare in all that crossing traffic at the junction. Would they be more successful at communicating and cooperating than the pedestrians, or would they too be second-class road users?

  5. waco
    waco says:

    I love it. First because it challenges convention and makes me think. Second because it requires attention, thought, and communication from road users which it would seem, leads to greater awareness and consideration. The notion of equality of treatment as a guiding principle is an attractive one. It not divisive system based on classification, prioritization and control. I’d be curious to know more about the context, specifically notions of fault and consequences in the event of crashes and what sort of incentives or externalities are in place.

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