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Want Less Car Accidents? Remove Traffic Signals and Road Signs
Hans Monderman believed that societies could make roads safer by making drivers more uncertain, and therefore alert.
“When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.”
That was the philosophy of Hans Monderman, the Dutch traffic engineer who became famous not for what he added to road design and urban planning, but for what he removed: curbs, traffic signals, signs. He believed drivers become more alert and cautious when there's more uncertainty on the road.
“The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there's a problem with a road, they always try to add something,” Monderman said to Wired. “To my mind, it's much better to remove things.”
According to the anthropologist James C. Scott, Monderman began with the observation that:
when an electrical failure incapacitated traffic lights, the result was improved flow rather than congestion. As an experiment, he replaced the busiest traffic-light intersection in Drachten, handling 22,000 cars a day, with a traffic circle, an extended cycle path, and a pedestrian area. In the two years following . . . the number of accidents plummeted to only two, compared with thirty-six crashes in the four years prior. Traffic moves more briskly through the intersection when all drivers know they must be alert and use their common sense, while backups and the road rage associated with them have virtually disappeared. Monderman likened it to skaters in a crowded ice rink who manage successfully to tailor their movements to those of the other skaters. He also believed that an excess of signage led drivers to take their eyes off the road, and actually contributed to making junctions less safe.
(The Drachten intersection.)
Monderman’s philosophy, popularly called “shared space,” as coined by the English urban designer Ben Hamilton-Baillie, has been implemented in cities around the world. It seems to be working. Instead of causing chaos and collisions, the “red-light-removal schemes” almost always result in improved sociability and traffic flow, and fewer accidents in some cases. A study of center-line removal in Wiltshire, U.K., for instance, found that people drove more safely without the markings and the number of accidents decreased by 35 percent.
The key to his philosophy isn’t mere anarchy, but rather an understanding of the behaviors that result from the implied context of a road within its community.
(Monderman standing next to a traffic circle, via Jerry Michalski)
In the mid 1980s, Monderman, then a regional safety inspector, was sent to the small village of Oudehaske to see what could be done about vehicle speeds – weeks earlier a car had fatally struck two children. While conventional options at the time might have included speed bumps or more signage – both known in the industry as “traffic calming” – Monderman ultimately suggested making Oudehaske more “village-like.”
It was an intervention based on aesthetics, as Tom Vanderbilt writes:
“The interventions were subtle. Signs were removed, curbs torn out, and the asphalt replaced with red paving brick, with two gray “gutters” on either side that were slightly curved but usable by cars. As Monderman noted, the road looked only five meters wide, “but had all the possibilities of six.” The results were striking. Without bumps or flashing warning signs, drivers slowed, so much so that Monderman’s radar gun couldn’t even register their speeds. Rather than clarity and segregation, he had created confusion and ambiguity. Unsure of what space belonged to them, drivers became more accommodating. Rather than give drivers a simple behavioral mandate—say, a speed limit sign or a speed bump—he had, through the new road design, subtly suggested the proper course of action.”
“Shared space” has been, in effect, the default traffic mode in parts of the world where standardized traffic systems were never implemented. Here's an example from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
...and Delhi, India.
As Hamilton-Baillie writes in an article for The Guardian:
“The thing about the signals being removed is that the driver is no longer being given a green light. And what the green light does is to communicate to the driver that you’ve got priority here – you should be going ahead and you should be angry if grandma is on the road in front of you.”
Still, the road-death rate per motor vehicle is significantly higher than the U.K. and U.S. in all three of these countries. This, Hamilton-Baillie argues, can be attributed to the relatively recent motorization of the countries, not the danger of Monderman's ideas.
The extent to which urban planners plan to use shared space in the U.S. remains unclear. Some cities have already begun to experiment with it, like Seattle's Bell Park. Implementing these ideas on a larger scale could require a fundamental shift in the way we think about cities, and the role individuals play within them.
“Essentially, what it means is a transfer of power and responsibility from the state to the individual and the community,” Monderman said.
For those wanting to follow in Monderman's footsteps, consider this following guide, courtesy of Wired:
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER INTERSECTION: CHAOS = COOPERATION
1. Remove signs: The architecture of the road – not signs and signals – dictates traffic flow.
2. Install art: The height of the fountain indicates how congested the intersection is.
3. Share the spotlight: Lights illuminate not only the roadbed, but also the pedestrian areas.
4. Do it in the road: Cafes extend to the edge of the street, further emphasizing the idea of shared space.
5. See eye to eye: Right-of-way is negotiated by human interaction, rather than commonly ignored signs.
6. Eliminate curbs: Instead of a raised curb, sidewalks are denoted by texture and color.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.