Sea of Noise

Tue, 29 Jun 2004

Second-Generation Traffic Calming

Linda Baker writes in Salon about second-generation traffic calming:

. . . a combination of traffic engineering and urban design that also draws heavily on the fields of behavioral psychology and -- of all subjects -- evolutionary biology. Rejecting the idea of separating people from vehicular traffic, it's a concept that privileges multiplicity over homogeneity, disorder over order, and intrigue over certainty. In practice, it's about dismantling barriers: between the road and the sidewalk, between cars, pedestrians and cyclists and, most controversially, between moving vehicles and children at play.

Removing pedestrians, cyclists, and kids at play from the street, in effect, makes streets unsafe for anyone but drivers; and when traffic is carefully-regulated, drivers stop paying attention. The new approach engages drivers rather than regulating them:

Subvert, don't attack, the dominant paradigm. Or, as David Engwicht, a shared-spaces proponent in Brisbane, Australia, has written: "Implicit in the whole notion of second-generation traffic calming is the idea that significant social change only happens when we amplify the paradoxical 'submerged voice' as opposed to tearing down the 'dominant voice.' Engwicht . . . argues that controlling a driver's natural propensity for speed is futile. A more effective approach is to engage the driver by emphasizing "uncertainty and intrigue" in the street environment -- for example, planting a tree in the middle of the street instead of putting up a stop sign.

More than that, the new approach benefits drivers, by changing the way they interact with one another and making intersections less of a bottleneck.

[via boingboing]

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