I’d like to try this idea in Elizabeth, New Jersey

How about cities without any traffic signs or lights?:

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…Ejby, in Denmark, is participating in the experiment, as are Ipswich in England and the Belgian town of Ostende.

The logic?

It may sound like chaos, but it’s only the lesson drawn from one of the
insights of traffic psychology:  Drivers will force the accelerator down
ruthlessly only in situations where everything has been fully
regulated.  Where the situation is unclear, they’re forced to drive more
carefully and cautiously.

Some towns are even looking to abolish the distinction between roads and sidewalks.  Here is the full story, can any of you report on these experiments?  And if you are looking for your "Germany fact of the day," the country has 648 different and valid traffic signs.

Thanks to John Durant for the pointer.  And here is Dan Klein on skating rinks.


As an american living in London I am quite experienced with the 'european' style of minimalist traffic control measures. Its amazing how few traffic lights are really needed when roundabouts (rotaries) are employed liberally. Stop signs are also rare, with the usual traffic control measures on side streets limited to so-called 'traffic calming' measures which include interesting street narrowing effects, speed bumps / plateaus, and islands. Generally the positive side is that the frustration of starting and stopping when it doesn't seem necessary is done away with completely. The other benefit is that you will often feel you are going faster than you really are by virtue of traffic calming measures. The general lack of traffic lights on roundabouts means you always have to pay attention to traffic (cannot drive along and passively wait for lights to instruct you). While London hasn't really implemented the 'free space' concept being discussed in this link I think my comments are broadly applicable to this as well since the amount of traffic control measures is so very low already (considering density).

I think it's an excellent trial for the more general idea that the more we restrict people with rules and regulations, the less likely they will be to think for themselves and instead rely on the authorities for direction (to AIL's point about having to pay attention to driving). Of course not having to think is easier and that's probably the Achilles Heal in this wonderful idea.

I can add that Monderman freely admits that his concept does not apply to large cities. He is talking about the sort of nearly-self-contained small towns which are still common in western Europe but now almost unknown in the U.S.

Roundabouts work fine up to a certain traffic volume, but when they hit a choke point, they stop working altogether. I used to live in Edmonton, which employed a lot of roundabouts that had to be taken out and replaced by lights when volume got above a certain point, and now I live in Abu Dhabi, which had roundabouts at every intersection when the road grid was built in the 1970s, but now only has a handful left at less busy intersections.

I think the transaction costs of interacting by "nods of the head and eye contact" would be high, except in high density, low speed traffic. And difficult in the dark.

I've been to Chennai, Dehli and Dakka enough times to know that system could never work.

Yeah it works :)

Here is how - http://youtube.com/watch?v=UmR9YpHOYEE
- now famous on Youtube, a street from an Indian City.

[ Havent really commented here before, hoping links in comments section are not disallowed ]

My hometown (approx. 100,000 individuals in Scandinavia - not so small for a Scandinavian city) has removed most of the pedestrian crossings in the city
centre based on the ideas mentioned in the article. The short-term effects were not so positive, with an increased number of accidents, however, I think that the really severe accidents decreased also in the short-term. Long-term effects, well, a bit too early to say, but it looks better. There is also plenty use of roundabouts, and in a city of this size, it is definitely, in my mind, to prefer over traffic lights.

I second Jody's comment but with a simple caveat from Peru. In places where traffic regulations are ignored and insurance is minimal, people act to protect their own (taxi, car, truck, moto). This means that I see (what seems like) relatively fewer fender-benders as compared to the number of pedestrian fatalities.

Just yesterday in my taxi we passed a man face down in a few gallons of his own blood on a busy city street where "lanes" are something of an abstract concept.

In Law's Order, I think it was, David Friedman illustrates a problem by positing a society in which people drive tanks and cars. I suggested that a real world experiment could be conducted in a society in which the vehicles consisted of buses and scooters: Italy. Since then, I would add Spain and now, apparently, India.

I remember reading an article a few years ago, WSJ I think, that described how lots of US cities had experimented with roundabouts, but the accident rate went *up* and they removed them.

I would add Cairo to the list of places without enforced traffic laws which suggest that such a strategy may not always be a good idea. Oh, why? The rate of traffic deaths in Egypt is something like ten times that in America. I don't know if that includes donkeys and camels or not.

The YouTube video posted by "Sharat" had my jaw on the floor. It is better than any written or orated argument against this sort of deregulation. Please watch it.

When I visited Ho Chi Minh City a few years ago I saw this in practice. I can't remember if there were street lights, but if there were, no one paid attention. Amazing amount of car, truck, bike and foot traffic in what seemed like chaos. But in reality it worked because everyone treated traffic like a "perpetually yellow light". Traffic moved cautiously and you have to pay attention at all times, but if you need to walk across the street you charge ahead and weave a bit. Go with confidence and drivers let you by...hesitate or wait and you screw them up.

I do not like the skating rink analogy. It appears to represent a completely distinct case. The skating rink probably works because the restrictions on flow (skating style) in space are replaced by restrictions on flow in time. People who wish to figure skate attend at some times, those who wish to play hockey at others, and so on. The self selection in time is reinforced by people safeguarding the rink by evicting those who do not abide by the rules appropriate for the time slot.

To apply the skating rink analogy to traffic would be to allow only pedestrins, bicycles and mopeds on residential streets. Cars would be allowed on larger urban streets, and trucks and SUVs (and probably sportscars) would only be allowed on the freeway and access roads, and relatively isolated highways. If someone made a mistake it would result in being banned from use of the vehicle for an extended period. Somehow this does not sound like a policy that is likely to gain many adherents.

I am amazed watching my 15-month old boy, who learned to walk two months ago, run around in a crowd of people (e.g. MOMA, the playground) - he can barely keep from falling but somehow never runs into anyone.

Intersection anecdote: In Belmont, MA, near my home and on my daily commute, there is a simply ghastly intersection (Google maps can give you a sense of the horror, but only a sense). In my morning direction, I enter from a side street needing to make a left turn and end up immediately on the rightmost side of the main road. I have limited visibility to my left as cars are emerging from a nearby underpass, and there's heavy traffic from the right. There is also traffic merging into the main road from the street directly opposite me. Once I make it into the rightmost lane, I go almost immediately under the underpass, at which point there are cars turning left, bearing right, and turning hard right. Traffic from the first of these, while generally turning right, is sometimes going straight through to one of the second two; traffic from the middle direction is typically turning left across my direction of travel. I don't know if that's all clear; the point is, it's ghastly. There is not a single light. I don't think there are any stop signs, except maybe for the first step of the process. This being Boston, lane markings are at best advisory and frequently nonexistent.

It's harrowing every time, yet I've never seen an accident in Belmont center. I've often thought of these traffic control theories as I try to negotiate that damn right turn.

Roundabouts: someone comments upthread that they have increased accidents when put in in the US. I think that's less a comment on roundabouts than it is on American drivers' complete failure to understand who has the right-of-way in them. Better near Boston -- where we call them rotaries and most people understand that traffic in them has right-of-way -- but there are always people who don't know this, and then they get problematic. Too bad, as they can be quite elegant.

Perry: outer lanes at least do need to be 12 feet wide if they're to allow for bicycle as well as motor traffic. In fact, they need to be rather wider. Consider that large vehicles (SUVs, cargo trucks, schoolbuses) can easily be 7 or 8 feet wide, and a bicycle is 2 feet; that's 10 feet right there. You need a couple feet of passing allowance between the motor vehicle and the bike (I'm an experienced bike commuter and I'm going to feel nervous given less than two feet), so that's 12 minimum. And then you need some space to the left of the car and the right of the bicycle for them both to operate in (my bike may be 2 feet wide, but I need 4 feet to allow me to avoid road hazards, and no one drives in a perfectly straight line all the time). So 14 feet is narrow by this standard, and 16 would be better. Now, that's just outermost lanes; sharing isn't a concern in other lanes so they can be thinner.

Frankly even if you don't plan to accomodate bikes, in a world with 7 and 8-foot-wide vehicles, you need 10 or 12 foot lanes to allow them space in which to operate (remember everyone needs room to swerve sometimes). But not planning to accomodate bikes is simply too callous to be considered :).

In rush hour, everyone seems so desperate. How to deal with it?

Hi !
it's a good site!!

Steve Irwin

[url=http://tiny.pl/9xq3 ]Steve Irwin[/url]

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