On Traffic Safety

SHARON LAROCQUE : Does anyone notice the manner in which drivers approach a traffic circle? It’s full speed ahead and never mind who is in the circle already.

Anyone have an answer?

Read this article about REMOVING traffic signs to make things safer: http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/article.cfm?aid=12…

I’m sorry to pull a 123 here but the quote is worth reading because of the astonishing results and conclusions:

And Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name. At the town center, in a crowded four-way intersection called the Laweiplein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.

As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.

A year after the change, the results of this “extreme makeover” were striking: Not only had congestion decreased in the intersection—buses spent less time waiting to get through, for example—but there were half as many accidents, even though total car traffic was up by a third. Students from a local engineering college who studied the intersection reported that both drivers and, unusually, cyclists were using signals—of the electronic or hand variety—more often. They also found, in surveys, that residents, despite the measurable increase in safety, perceived the place to be more dangerous. This was music to Monderman’s ears. If they had not felt less secure, he said, he “would have changed it immediately.”

This is libertarianism at its heart. Increase perceived risk (you’re on your own, folks) and everyone looks after their own tushie and safety goes up and traffic flows more smoothly.

Is the system perfect? Of course not. There are still accidents. But there are 50% fewer accidents according to this article (but see below) and the world is a better and more organic place.

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For those of you into traffic studies, you can find the traffic study here: http://www.cyclox.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/…

I refer you to page 26. Truly remarkable. Accidents seem to have dropped about 90%.

There may be no libertarian utopia anywhere in this world but this example shows what can (and in my experience what usually does happen) when regulations and controls are relaxed and people are allowed to “do their own thing.”

Ralph Shnelvar
Chair
Libertarian Party of Boulder County www.lp.org www.lpcolorado.org www.lpboulder.org

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