Where the Streets Have No Traffic Rules
Design concept called shared space,” where urban planners drastically lessen the presence of traffic lights, signs, and barriers, encouraging all forms of transportation to share the road. There’s evidence that drivers often totally ignore“s road signs, so the heightened risk forces commuters to remain on high alert as they pass through an intersection, in theory leading to safer travel.
Drachten, a small city in the Netherlands with around 50,000 residents has removed almost all of its traffic lights. Major intersections have been converted to roundabouts, smaller intersections just let drivers work make decisions on their own. Basically, it’s anarchy. Anarchy that has completely eliminated dangerous crashes and road fatalities and created a surge in bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
When the traffic lights at a busy local junction fail, the traffic flows much better. When the police come in to direct proceedings at the same junction, the traffic backs up again. Generally the motorist can be trusted to figure things out for himself. Most traffic lights, apart from pedestrian, cause more problems than they solve.
Crashes still happen, but they have all been fender benders. The architect of the project, Dr Hans Monderman explained, “We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt.” Instead of relying on a set of hard rules, drivers are asked to take their safety, and the safety of others, into their own hands. The result is that people are more aware, more careful and drive slower, but are far less frustrated while driving. Bikes and walkers now rule the roads and can pretty much travel non-stop around townThe Telegraph recently reported that residents are very pleased with the program. Tony Ooorstward, a resident, says, “everybody is learning. I am a walker and now you are the boss at the crossroads, everyone waits for you. But at the same time pedestrians wait until there are a number wanting to cross at the same time.”
The anarchy in Drachten is being expanded. Their last three traffic lights will be removed in the next two years, and, in some places, road paint is being removed as well.
Anarchy seems to breed courtesy, in Holland at least, and at the very least, it increases awareness. Maybe this is the first step toward an actual blended transportation system, where bikes pedestrians and cars treat each other with appropriate respect. An act as simple as removing an object that everyone hates anyway could be a solution to a lot of our problems.