Sunday, July 31, 2005

Trust the force, Luke

Take away the signs, curbs, and guard rails, and drivers watch out for pedestrians and drive less recklessly. Remove the cribs sheets and canned pitch from customer service reps, and they become more friendly and observant. A village in the U.K. erased the white lines from its roads, and accidents dropped by 5%. Removing the safety net of warning signs and signals, forces drivers to take responsibility for themselves.

Tom McNichol, writing in the December 2004 issue of Wired magazine...

Hans Monderman is a traffic engineer who hates traffic signs. Oh, he can put up with the well-placed speed limit placard or a dangerous curve warning on a major highway, but Monderman considers most signs to be not only annoying but downright dangerous. To him, they are an admission of failure, a sign - literally - that a road designer somewhere hasn't done his job. "The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there's a problem with a road, they always try to add something," Monderman says. "To my mind, it's much better to remove things."

See for photos.

"All those signs are saying to cars, 'This is your space, and we have organized your behavior so that as long as you behave this way, nothing can happen to you,' " Mr. Monderman said. "That is the wrong story."

In 1989, an earthquake cut off all the power in San Francisco. I wandered around downtown, wishing I had a camera to record the surreal landscape. Every stoplight was out of commission, but drivers were extremely courteous to one another; the normal aggressive stance gave way to a feeling of "We're all in this together."

Let it be.

Hans slide show

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