According to some experts, eliminating signals can actually encourage considerate driving.
The most extreme example comes from Poynton, U.K. The intersection running through the middle of this historic 16,000-person village serves 26,000 vehicles per day, including a variety of business trucks.
Back in 2011, traffic was tearing Poynton apart. Pedestrians who attended get trapped within the middle of the four-lane highway avoided crossing it. Officials dubbed downtown a “traffic signal-controlled wasteland.”
City government, desirous to sew their quaint borough back together, sought help from Ben Hamilton-Baillie, a vanguard planner whose first suggestion was to require away the traffic lights. Rather than a conventional ‘X’ shaped intersection, Hamilton-Baillie suggested two disc-shaped ’roundels’ where the streets overlapped.
Locals were skeptical.
“I think it’s a nightmare if I dare to be honest,” said Kaye Loutit, a resident of Poynton interviewed during this video. “Two roundels at a massively busy junction? People aren’t visiting know what to try to.”
Ten months and $6 million later, however, Poynton has been successfully “regenerated.” In keeping with official monitoring, traffic now flows at the target speed of 16 to 17 mph (20 mph is that the maximum ideal speed for pedestrian safety). The streets are narrowed into single lanes and walk space has doubled. People simply wave once they want to cross and nobody waits at a stoplight.
These changes are accomplished without reducing the official 30 mph regulation.
What’s particularly striking, except for the dearth of traffic signals, is these roundels are completely flat. Even the sidewalks are leveled. The curb-free surface consists of varying colors of cobblestone:
As motorists approach the roundels, they taste tree-lined “gateways” displaying shiny metal “Poynton” signs. This announces the town ahead, beckoning drivers to cut down. the dearth of signals at the intersection forces drivers to seem around.
“People are alert to the ‘slow down, look, then go,’” Poynton resident, Carlo Benincasa, explains later within the video.
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This is the essence of ‘shared space’ or ‘second-generation traffic calming.’ Remove the instructions — the signs, lights, and solid yellow lines — and drivers depend on their own resources to gauge what’s and isn’t safe. In other words, they concentrate.
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Radical as Poynton could seem, shared space is historically how streets functioned, particularly in urban centers where trolleys, pedestrians, street performers, and roadside merchants coexisted with personal vehicles. It wasn’t until the event of the Interstate transportation system and therefore the resulting sprawl that we began to value traffic segregation and sought faster and faster cars.
Most of the developing world still travels in shared space and transportation experts are getting down to note the benefits. The Dutch concept of Woofner or “living yard,” where cyclists and pedestrians are prioritized, is fast becoming the prevailing wisdom for transportation in Holland and also the Netherlands.
With or without signals, unexpected visuals — just like the two-dimensional roundels — can play a serious role in establishing shared space. Reorienting drivers to their physical environment is critical, especially in pedestrian-heavy zones, and traffic officials are scrambling to work out how to do it to avoid accidents where towing San Jose road assistance is good in responding to. In Denmark they’ve taken this objective to an extreme, using offense to encourage the regulation.
In the U.S. shared space is essentially dismissed as too experimental. Even supporters are wary of blending road users where the predominant culture prizes individual opportunities over communal awareness. If you can’t get people to drive 55, how are you able to trust them to barter complex routes?
Disability advocates, furthermore, question a security strategy that relies on social cues claiming it threatens accessibility for the visually and hearing impaired. Cycling advocates argue that putting bikes and cars within the same space deters inexperienced cyclists. In fact, because the national advocacy group People for Bikes has demonstrated, ridership in U.S. cities tends to extend substantially when cyclists have segregated lanes.
It’s easy to determine how ripping out street lights would be disastrous for the bulk of U.S. roadways. But it’d be useful for a few, given the proper context. Urban centers, as an example, thrive on traffic but still want to produce some vehicle access. Likewise, family-friendly neighborhoods worry about children’s safety but don’t want to stay kids locked within the house. These goals are only attainable once drivers acknowledge pedestrians have the correct to be there.