Friday, October 26, 2012

Shared Space: Road Signs Are For Idiot Drivers

A few months ago, I had no idea there was a movement going to get rid of road signs. And pavement markings. And traffic lights. It sounded counter-intuitive at first ... like collisions and congestion would increase. It's called Shared Space and in the real world, cities that removed their traffic control devices have shown us that it can be done with positive results. The more I learn, the more I like it.

The very idea that we hide behind signs or justify our driving behavior because of them intrigues me. Do I alter my behavior because of a sign? Unfortunately, I believe the answer is yes. If the light is green , I usually go through it without a second thought. What I should be doing is scanning the intersection for safety.

A similar case can be made for red light and school zone cameras. Instead of focusing on where the children are in a school zone, I go through ours looking on my speedometer and making sure I'm going under 20 mph. If I was a mile or two above then I check the rear view mirror to make sure the camera's flash didn't go off. After all, I don't want a ticket. Have I lost sight of what's most important? Yes, noticing unpredictable young children going to school is more important than not getting a ticket.

In the UK, they have integrated a Shared Space concept for traffic control. Segregation vs integration. Watch this 2 minute video for a short introduction on it. Notice how they use road surface materials and the camber of the road to affect the driver behavior and alert the senses.

Perspectives of Germans in Bohmte where traffic control devices were removed. I like that motorists think for themselves and communicate more with others.  

When I was in Belgium last month, we sought out the town Oostende, which has a Shared Space area. We found it, but it was early on a Sunday morning and we didn't see much traffic, nor need for traffic control. A man with his dog walked by and we asked him about the project. He'd never heard of it. Hmmmm, I think we would have better observed Shared Space in Bohmte. We did observe some signs and roadway markings, but the intersections in this neighborhood were uncontrolled.

And we saw some fantastic road users and great advertisements. 

I would love a follow up on how Shared Space is working now. Google can only find articles from 2008. There ought to be more information now that it's 2012. So if you are from Bristol, Bohmte, Oostende or another Shared Space city, please update us in the comments! 

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