Comment 988

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2006 at 11:49:13

Jason wrote, "imagine if we decided that we didn't need sidewalks"

In fact, some cities are doing just that, following a philosophy alternately called "naked streets" or "shared space". It's counterintuitive, but the argument goes like this:

Right now, drivers are so preoccupied following all the regulations and instructions on the street - lane markings, signs, lights, and so on - that they have little cognitive bandwidth left over to pay attention to the conditions of the road itself.

The naked streets concept removes all regulatory ephemera from the road - sidewalks, lane markings, turn lanes, signs, lights, signals, etc. - and frees everyone up to pay attention to each other.

It's an effective form of traffic calming, because the street becomes a bazaar of activity rather than a military march of conformity.

Big surprise: the idea started in Europe, the brainchild of Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. It started in the Netherlands, and has been so successful that it's being tried in Germany and England as well.

Here are some links for further reading:

My favourite quote: "If you treat people like idiots they'll behave like idiots."

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