September 13, 2007

Abolish road signs to improve traffic?

The title may sound absurd, but the scientists have put their trust on controlled chaos theory. According to Der Spiegel:
European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren -- by means of friendly gestures, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs.

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

They have tried this system in seven European cities and found that:
Unsafe is safe: the result is that drivers find themselves enclosed by a corset of prescriptions, so that they develop a kind of tunnel vision: They're constantly in search of their own advantage, and their good manners go out the window.

The new traffic model's advocates believe the only way out of this vicious circle is to give drivers more liberty and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves. They demand streets like those during the Middle Ages, when horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion. The new model's proponents envision today's drivers and pedestrians blending into a colorful and peaceful traffic stream.
So after the testing phase the German town of Bohmte in the Lower Saxony State is getting rid of its road signs in a bid to cut accidents.

I have seen in Germany that people expect that one will follow the rule like giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists while turning right. But cyclists often do not press the brakes even if it has enough time to avoid a car ignoring the priority. So I hope with this system these kind of laid down approach will be changed.

It would be interesting to test this model In Bangladesh where most of the traffic signs don't work anyway and people do adapt to this kind of controlled chaos only partially.


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