Friday, January 28, 2005

Creative Chaos

Also from Gristmill, news on a new approach to addressing traffic congestion and pollution in parts of Europe: "remov[e] signs, lights, and guardrails to create open public spaces, where cars and pedestrians mix freely, ungoverned by any rules." And while one might think the result would be a huge mess, Dutch towns experimenting with this approach are finding quite different results:
Drivers start to behave in a very different way amid the new uncertainty, moving slowly, making eye contact with pedestrians, and becoming aware of much more than whether the lights have gone red. Or so the theory goes.

Evidence from Dutch towns is impressive. Safety records have improved, local officials report, and accidents, when they do happen are far less serious, because of the slow speeds.

Yet overall cross-town speeds are no slower than before, because intersections are far more fluid and snarl-ups are rare.

"We have fewer accidents and the accident which do happen are less severe," says Koop Kerkstra, a senior official in the northern Dutch town of Drachten. "We see a better flowing of traffic than when everything was regulated. With the new infrastructure, they can flow through Drachten in much less time."
As Dave Roberts notes, there's a lot of potential for environmental good here, too: " idling in traffic jams are a major source of smog, and cars driving too fast are a major source of CO2, and this kind of approach addresses both those issues."