Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Is Mikhail Bakunin smiling?
Posted by: McQ on Monday, December 04, 2006

Some interesting news from Europe concerning regulatory road signs. It seems that if you remove them traffic is safer and flows better. At least that's the case in a few smaller cities who've tried it. The concept?
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.
I live in Atlanta, which has become a commuting nightmare. Still, everyday that I drive here I watch someone (sometimes it is even me) wave someone else into traffic or a lane or out of a parking lot. Actually I watch it numerous times a day.

But even with the European concept and my libertarian leanings I have lingering doubts if such actions would take place at an intersection in this town, for instance, in the absence of a traffic light given my driving experiences over 40 years.

I have actually seen a light that is out treated like a 4-way stop, but, still, I wonder if the majority wouldn't just go with the flow of a particular set of cars which decided to ignore such niceties and simply follow the lead of the car in front of them. But there is an argument that says that regulation increases the impersonal nature of driving while less regulation (or a lack of it) might increase personal interaction and actually see traffic become self-regulating.
"The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior," says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman, one of the project's co-founders. "The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles."
The theory is we become more considerate of others when we're forced to take them into consideration because regulations don't restrict their movement (and they might hit us). And that consideration means we become more aware and more considerate of other drivers. Certainly, given you can't assume someone is going to stop (since there are no stop signs) you'd have to drive more carefully.
Psychologists have long revealed the senselessness of such exaggerated regulation. About 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. What's more, the glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow.

The result is that drivers find themselves enclosed by a corset of prescriptions, so that they develop a kind of tunnel vision: They're constantly in search of their own advantage, and their good manners go out the window.
Obviously my question is, given the dearth of regulation, why wouldn't those inclined to bad manners continue to display them?

The answer?

Self-interest.

If there is no yellow or red light, then it is the driver's responsibility to ensure he can proceed safely, isn't it? And, apparently, that fosters more of an air of cooperation than resentment (or displays of bad manners).

So while it may sound counter-intuitive, the psychology seems fairly sound:
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.
And careful and cautious becomes self-regulation born out of self-interest and cooperation, which in today's over-regulated world, would be a welcome change.
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
The other thing is that removing regulations means less painted instructions on the road. Rain soaked paint being slick-lines-of-death to cyclists this makes the road safer without any psychomological effects at all.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Ummm... Not so sure about the throughput if the world was all stop signs. Pretty sure lights allow higher traffic volumes.

How’d the traffic flow in a 6 lane intersection with the light out?
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
Small towns yes; big cities no. I have experienced ’no regulations’ in Washington, DC when all the stoplights were out due to power loss.

Intersections were a nightmare. A big intersection with three lanes on each side (plus a left turn lane and right turn lane) would have traffic streaming through without stopping for a dozen or so cars. Meanwhile, cars from the cross street would edge out slowly, getting their bumpers into the cross lanes as cars kept on blasting past. Finally, a cross street car would bluff out a car and move into one lane, only to repeat the process two more times. When all three lanes were blocked, the cross street traffic would start to flow (often with one or more lanes blocked). This would go on until the cars on the other street could push their way through. Left turns were practically impossible unless you had a very big and/or very beat up old car. There was NO cooperation.

Remember this was a city where a car accidentally cut off a bicycle during a turn, and when the driver got out to apologize (witnessed by multiple onlookers) the bicyclist pulled out a gun and killed him. More likely than cooperation would be everyone packing heat.
 
Written By: SteveSC
URL: http://
They are also moving to have more traffic circles in Canada as well.

Stop signs are far better than traffic lights. In Taiwan basically every intersection has a light and there are no stop signs...HORRIBLE.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Traffic lights and (some) signs convey reliable information for expectations quickly to anyone who keeps their eyes open. If you’re suddenly forced to deal with other people, everyone starts coming up with signals to other drivers, waving them through or around, honking, flipping the bird, holding your palm out to say stop, giving a thumbs-up or motioning "thank you" somehow. Some people think they can just say stuff out loud in the right direction and people will read their lips.

Anyway, the information flow jams up, at least initially. But the accidents people get in are much less likely to be fatal ones.
Well, except for those who pack guns and can’t cool their jets when someone does something so minor as cut you off. Get back on the bike and be glad you’re alive, jeez.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
My guess is the net effect will be slower traffic, which isn’t always bad, but in many cases, it won’t be good. Imgaine driving down a main drag where all the feeder streets don’t have stop lights or signs. Self-interest means you’ll approach each intersection more cautiously out of fear of being hit. That doesn’t make for a relaxing, or timely, commute.
 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
How’d the traffic flow in a 6 lane intersection with the light out?
Slow but everyone was patient and took their turn. It was pretty amazing to watch.

I’m not saying that removing all lights is the answer, but I’m sure we could do with fewer.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
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.

From what I’ve seen of living in a suburb, new traffic lights and such tend to arise on the initiative of local communities, after a run of popular complaints about a) congestion and b) a heavy rate of accidents.

I tend to hate it when a new light comes up myself, because they *feel* slower, but what I feel doesn’t neccesarily relate to whether traffic is in fact slower, overall, for everyone, or not.

What I’d like to see are lights that revert to stop signs or to optional during low-volume periods. Lights do indeed add a total slowdown when you’re the only one waiting on them.

Otherwise, I tend to believe that overall speeds would decline. Hey, maybe mass transit would make a comeback. I should get on board.

What a festival of neutral tones and moderately-framed opinions we’re having here. woohoo!

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
How well traffic deregulation would work is a probably function of social norms. In Seattle when the traffic lights fail everybody takes turns. It’s the triumph of cooperation. However, I was once stuck in Anchorage during a power failure and cooperation was the last thing on anyone’s mind. It was survival of the fittest with trucks and huge pickups intimidating each other. My little Honda didnn’t stand a chance. I had to suck up behind a truck and scuttle through the intersections in his wake.
The Irish economy has taken off and car ownership is an option for nearly everyone of driving age. They got some European Union money and paved all of their roads, even the one lane sheep trails. It’s the scariest damn place I have ever been. The typical Irish road is about two thirds the width of an American blue highway, has no shoulders at all, is lined on both sides with stone fences. People push baby buggies, walk, ride bikes and herd sheep on the road. They also drive trucks, cars, tractors, whatever. The roads are curvy and hilly. So what do you think the speed limit is? The kph equivalent of fifty, which the Irish routinely exceed. It’s insane. I suppose when the death rate gets high enough it will ocurr to people that they need to slow down (and drive on the left, not the middle) but right now they are early in the learning curve and the highway death toll is extraordinary. If I remember correctly County Kerry had around 125 deaths in the last five years. Each couunty posts its death toll at the county border. I’m not sure more rules will help. To me the scariest thing about driving in Ireland was that thhe Irish didn’t seem to think it was scarey.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
"I’m not saying that removing all lights is the answer, but I’m sure we could do with fewer."

Absolutely.

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
The problem with such a system, is that the ’rules’ will be replaced with ’etiquette’. It will be cues given by a nod, or a look, or pausing a certain time.

Which is not harmful in itself, but where the problem comes in will be that driving ’etiquette’ will be local. Someone from out of the area may read what is locally a polite pause at an intersection as ceding the right of way. *SMASH*.

It will actually because dangerous and a source of strife to travel to another city or state. This would actually impede travel and in a sense, the inverse global market of people moving to different places to try a different retaurant or vacation will be hampered.

It would be analogous to having a different system of weights and measures from city to city and the chaos that causes.

’Rules’ can really be read as ’Standardization’ in this circumstance. And Standardization (as long as it isn’t too draconian and can evolve) is actually an economic enabler usually.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
A very interesting phenomenon where I live is the opposition of wingnuts to traffic circles. Although they are very efficient, wingers oppose them because they are popular in Europe. Seriously.

Wingers don’t really have any meaningful critique of the traffic circle. Part of it is the novelty of the device; wingers are against change on principle, of course. But what really gets them going is the fact that Europeans use them.

Weird.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
I already interact with other drivers through the use of gestures, hand signals, and verbal directions.

But seriously, folks.

I believe the no traffic sign/signal experiment takes place every day in third world countries, in some of which I believe foreigners are either forbidden or urged not to drive.
It may work in Europe where obtaining and keeping a driving license is more difficult than it is here, and it may work here for the short term, but I think that given enough time, the reflexive, ingrained obedience to rules and regulations will wear off, and chaos will reign. "Lord of the Flies", "Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutishb, and short", and all that.

"From what I’ve seen of living in a suburb, new traffic lights and such tend to arise on the initiative of local communities, after a run of popular complaints about a) congestion and b) a heavy rate of accidents"

I notice that too. In several places I frequent, residents want more lights, signs, speed bumps, etc.

"The typical Irish road is about two thirds the width of an American blue highway, has no shoulders at all, is lined on both sides with stone fences."

I drove on an English road once, not far from Dorking(just had to get that in) that I think evolved by erosion over the centuries from a cattle path, like the Grand Canyon evolved. It was curvy, narrow(about 1 1/2 lanes), indifferently paved, and 20 feet or so below grade. You literally looked up at the roots of large trees. The sides were vertical; I do not know why they hadn’t collapsed over the years. It was like driving along the bottom of a trench. Quaint and picturesqe, no doubt, but it would never be allowed in the US.
I find driving a motor car in Europe to be quite stressful, although the fact that armed motorists are rare does relieve some of the tension. Particularly as some of my friendly gestures and facial expressions may be misinterpreted. Surprising, though, how many of them can get the gist of idiomatic English.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Here in ’Anything goes’ Nevada, the city of Las Vegas leads the country in per capita number of accidents due to people running red lights. I once sat at a just-turned green light to look both ways while the car next to me leapt ahead; in mid-intersection he was obliterated by a speeding cement truck running the red light.

In Reno, however, drivers will wave a courteous hand to other drivers, pedestrians are treated as if life is precious, and generally the entire city is a pleasure to drive in.

In my experience, it is the citizens of a community who agitate for stop lights and stop signs, usually after safety conditions have been ignored so long that predictable tragedy occurs.

There is a psychological phenonemon known popularly as ’road rage.’ It is a very real psychological state and quite common, usually as the result of the driver unconsciously adopting the shell of the auto as his ’inner space.’ It occurs in all manner of otherwise level-headed, mature and rational people. Stop lights are not government intrusion; stop lights are the least intrusive method of bringing rational discipline to lightening-quick, irrational emotional behavior.

’Be free.’

 
Written By: a Duoist
URL: http://www.duoism.org
Once again I must be the voice of disagreement. Our traffic laws in this country are designed to allow traffic to flow without any need of human courtesy.(provided everyone knows ans follows the rules) I would like to have a dime for every time I was inconvenienced because someone ahead of me allowed another car to pass, usually that one car becomes many and you end up missing your light. Or, you would have had time to make the light up ahead but the guy in front of you wanted to be a good Samaritan. I don’t believe in letting people cut in line.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Not so sure.

Perhaps these theorists shouod drive in Kabul or Kandahar for a couple of weeks.
 
Written By: RTO Trainer
URL: http://signaleer.blogspot.com
When I was in India, there might as well have been no traffic regulations as every intersection behaved as Steve described (but without the shooting or the apologizing) and traffic was REALLY slow.
 
Written By: Jody
URL: http://
Wingers don’t really have any meaningful critique of the traffic circle. Part of it is the novelty of the device; wingers are against change on principle, of course. But what really gets them going is the fact that Europeans use them.
Wow - Mk takes a post on traffic signals and comes up with ’wingers don’t like circles because euro’s use them’.

Wow...
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_circle

America had this idea early on as well...there is no need for wingers to hate it because it is European.

Also, lights, while effective in the USA can cause trouble in other countries...again, in Taiwan during rush hour I saw an intersection in complete lockdown when left turning cars couldn’t finish their turn and oncoming traffic promptly filled up the rest of the space in the intersection.

Luckily I was on a motorcycle...came back from work and hour later and it was still in lockdown as they tried to untangle the knot.

I like traffic circles in general.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
A very interesting phenomenon where I live is the opposition of wingnuts to traffic circles. Although they are very efficient, wingers oppose them because they are popular in Europe. Seriously.
LOL. I couldn’t parody this guy.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
Although they [traffic circles] are very efficient, wingers oppose them because they are popular in Europe. Seriously.

Wingers don’t really have any meaningful critique of the traffic circle.
Well, other than...
The experience with traffic circles in the US was almost entirely negative, characterized by high accident rates and congestion problems.
...from the Wikipedia article. Must have been written by a "winger".
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
My dislike of DuPont circle has nothing to do with it being European and more to with the idea of cramming as many lane changes and merging zones into as small a space as possible.

The 270 corridor has the right idea - walled off express and local lanes to separate merging traffic from other traffic. And while I criticized India’s traffic for chaos leading to slow travel, they are doing something I think is smart (though it isn’t that prevalent yet) - intersection flyovers where an intersection effectively has express and local lanes to separate out the flow through traffic from the turning traffic. (The circles in DC do some of this with "fly unders" but this is not that common and is not what circle advocates such as MK are referring to)
 
Written By: Jody
URL: http://
The good thing about discussions on very familiar topics like this one, is that everyone is an assh*le. Or is that everyone has an opinion, so everyone is an assho- …no, wait… is it my opinion you’re an assh*le?
Well…, anyway, however that saying goes, most of us have plenty of on hand experience to form an opinion.

I have driven through many small towns and villages throughout Western Europe, and my experience there is that no follows the rules anyway. They all seem to drive through the narrow thoroughfares with excited courteous navigation. Traffic laws are like more of a list of helpful guidelines. It makes perfect sociology for a small village in Western Europe to do away with most traffic regulation.

I’m not so sure about here in the States. Even in small towns.

The problem we have is that we’ve grown too accustom to the expectation of traffic laws. We know what to expect others to do, therefore we drive with a degree of auto-pilot. Which is why I believe that, unfortunately, round-a-bouts will not increase in popularity due to their unfamiliarity – even to non-wingers. Round-a-bouts are very efficient at intersections that are too busy for a four way stop, yet not enough traffic to warrant a light.

Most of us drive. And most of us have at least one or two “problem” lights that continuously plague are sanity. You know, there’s that one light that never works properly or always stops you for no good reason. And then there’s that one that is just waaaay too long and now you just sit there listening to that annoying jingle on the radio that drills holes into your brain and – hey!! How come he gets to go before me, I was here first goddammit… You know… just once, …just once, I’d like to run someone off the road just to know what it feels like….

Whew!
Where was I? Oh yeah, traffic lights.
What I’d like to see are lights that revert to stop signs or to optional during low-volume periods. Lights do indeed add a total slowdown when you’re the only one waiting on them.
That does sound reasonable, doesn’t it?
We have one like that here. It flashes red most of the day, but during peak times, it reverts to normal operation. It was recently installed to replace just flashing red lights. I wonder, as I have seen some confusion already at the inconsistent light, if an average driver of habit won’t have his/her/Arab/Chinese wits about one day and cause an accident.

Cheers.
And stay safe out there.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://ceilidhcowboy.typepad.com/
Although they [traffic circles] are very efficient, wingers oppose them because they are popular in Europe.
Look kids...Big Ben...Parliament
[repeat]
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Any traffic plan that relies on the courtesy, cooperation, and self restraint of drivers will never work in Massachusetts.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
There are a lot of elderly drivers in my area. It is extremely taxing to try and figure out what they are planning on doing with thier auto even with rules. Without the rules jeeze. They have to drive to take care of thier needs but they certainly need to have big lights to tell them when to go or not.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://
A very interesting phenomenon where I live is the opposition of wingnuts to traffic circles. Although they are very efficient, wingers oppose them because they are popular in Europe. Seriously.
Hey, MK - go experience the efficiency - drive north out of Logan airport along Route 1 (Tim, ya know where I’m talking about - Revere?). Entering a crowded circle at rush hour is like Peter Pan and fairies...all ya gotta do is believe.

If ya don’t believe ya get
- Look kids...Big Ben...Parliament
[repeat]
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
drive north out of Logan airport along Route 1
true - true - true. I like to call that part of the country ’Severe’. It’s a nightmare, but next time I’m driving through I’ll have a smile on my face thinking of Peter Pan. Drivers in MA wouldn’t know what to expect from someone who was smiling. And they SURE don’t know what to do if you show courtesy. Slow down and let someone out of a parking lot into the flow of traffic and you’ll get the single digit salute and horn blast in an instant from the guy/gal behind you.

We don’t call ’em Mass(holes) for nothing ;-0
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Meagain - primary rule - never make eye contact, pretend you don’t see them.
This applies in rotaries as well.

Rotary rule - avoid the inside lane, this allows you to interdict people trying to enter or exit the rotary. The object is to make them stop and interrupt the even flow of traffic into and out of the rotary. This is the fighter pilot equivalent of a kill.

Your primary mission is to inflict as much aggravation on other drivers as possible, letting them know, YOU are the master of the road in your vicinity (while you feign complete ignorance of their presence).

Extra points are awarded if you do this consistently without being involved in a fender bender. Mass drivers are well known for their ability to have collisions without fatalities.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
"Entering a crowded circle at rush hour is like Peter Pan and fairies...all ya gotta do is believe."

"Screw your courage to the sticking place"

Ah, yes. I remember it well. I lived in New Hampshire for a while, and went to Logan often. I must say though, that it is better than the drive from Worcester, where I also lived.

"Drivers in MA wouldn’t know what to expect from someone who was smiling."

True, but they would suspect the worst and perhaps make room for you.

I used to drive a beatup old Caddy when I lived in Mass, but the rest of the cars, even the little ones, had no hesitation about playing chicken. Yield to traffic and merge when entering a highway from an on ramp? Yeah, right.

I went to traffic court once, in Mass.(Expired registration, was stopped 50 ft. from my driveway, car was towed, new registration was in the mailbox, 50 feet away). Great entertainment if you don’t think about the fact that all those folks would soon be on the same road as you. At least, I say again at least, a third of the folks had no insurance, many had no license or registration.

This time of the year was especially fun. Soon we will have the first snowfall, and the motorists of Mass will once again exhibit their lack of long term memory. Watching the highways is a lot like watching figure skating, with all the cars twirling and sliding. Checking is not used only in hockey in Mass.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
More likely than cooperation would be everyone packing heat.
Hence, cooperation.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider