Rethinking Road Design

...What was once a conventional road junction with traffic lights has been turned into something resembling a public square that mixes cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. About 5,000 cars pass through the square each day, with no serious accidents since the redesign in 1999. "To my mind, there is one crucial test of a design such as this," Monderman says. "Here, I will show you." With that, Monderman tucks his hands behind his back and begins to walk into the square - backward - straight into traffic, without being able to see oncoming vehicles. A stream of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians ease around him, instinctively yielding to a man with the courage of his convictions.

Tom McNichol’s new article in Wired piqued my curiosity. Apparently it’s tied into the practice of “Traffic Calming.” Rather than attempting to post more signs everywhere, jack around with speed limits, put more electronic monitoring devices on the road, etc… Traffic Calming puts emphasis on designing roads with safety and smooth day to day operations as an integral design consideration. It leads to counterintuitive results. On two-lane roads with no center line, for example, statistics indicate that drivers are more cautious and have considerably fewer accidents with no overal reduction in traffic flow.

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