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Life Without Traffic Signs 604

Posted by kdawson
from the sign-language dept.
zuikaku writes, "Der Spiegel has an article titled European Cities Do Away with Traffic Signs reporting that seven cities and regions in Europe are doing away with traffic signs, signals, painted lines, and even sidewalks. With the motto 'Unsafe is Safe,' the idea is that, when faced with an uncertain, unregulated situation, drivers will be naturally cautious and courteous. Then again, they may end up with streets jammed with pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars like some places in India and China." I can't see this idea getting traction in the U.S.
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Life Without Traffic Signs

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  • by iamacat (583406) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:54PM (#16906512)
    Yeah right, traffic signs and such were developed exactly because streets became (more) unsafe when horse carriages were replaced by automobiles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      If you notice, the roads have been replaced (once again) by cobbles.
      This in itself limits the safe speed any car can travel.
      I think in town centres it can and will work.
    • by Salvance (1014001) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:02PM (#16906622) Homepage Journal
      Exactly.

      All of the cities listed in the story are small towns, the largest boasts of reducing their traffic signals from 18 to 2. Imagine trying to eliminate traffic signals and signs in a city like New York City, where there are over 11,000 signals [nyc.gov], and almost 3,000 in Manhattan alone. If you've ever ridden in a cab at 5:00am, you have seen the chaos that ensues when there are no signals (since cabbies completely ignore all lights at that time). It's certainly not safer.

      If we rely on courtesy to dictate our traffic patterns, we'll be victim to those who have no qualms with putting others lives and vehicles at risk. The U.S. has far too many people that fall into this category for the strategy to be effective.
      • by grcumb (781340) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:12PM (#16906736) Homepage Journal
        Imagine trying to eliminate traffic signals and signs in a city like New York City....

        Wouldn't work, because it's designed on a grid system, which requires arbitration at each junction as soon as traffic flow rises above a trivial level.

        But in my town of about 40,000 people, there are few if any traffic signs, no lights and two stop signs that I know of. Everything is designed with flow in mind, and it works just fine. Traffic slows down at peak times, but it almost never stops flowing. Almost every accident that I've seen here has involved a single vehicle driven badly, rather than multiple vehicles colliding through misunderstanding or aggression.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Yartrebo (690383)
          What is the alternative you're suggesting? I live in NYC and the grid system is far better than what is done in the suburbs (cul-de-sacs mostly). Congestion is pretty rare outside of highways despite a very high population density (whereas some suburban roads can be backed up for hours, despite having nothing denser than box stores). There are drawbacks, but in terms of residents per sq. ft. of asphalt, the grid seems to work very well.

          PS: Our grid system would work without lights in most intersections. Whe
          • by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:34PM (#16908026)
            We have some pretty nasty bottlenecks in NYC. Getting out of Manhattan during rush hour can be a substantial task. 2nd Avenue is an absolute horror. Going crosstown can be quite the adventure because of the bottlenecks at the Central Park crossings.

            But yes, the grid is generally pretty nice compared to the suburban way. The main drawback to removing lights from a grid is that traffic can move really fast unless there are obstructions in the intersections. You would need to put in circles or something to keep speeds down. Circle have one huge disadvantage compared to traffic lights: if one cross street is backed up, the circle backs up and then prevents the other cross street from moving.

            Interestingly enough, at rush hour (especially near the Holland Tunnel) the stoplights are pretty much ignored - you just sort of find a spot and go. Pedestrians just cross wherever - traffic is practically at a standstill anyway. I've never seen an accident in this tight driving situation, but I suppose that minor accidents must happen. However, even a "reckless" driver can't do too much damage because there is really nowhere to go.
            • by bored_engineer (951004) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:11AM (#16910182)
              Circle have one huge disadvantage compared to traffic lights: if one cross street is backed up, the circle backs up and then prevents the other cross street from moving.
              One of the benefits of roundabouts is that entry into the roundabout is limited by the vehicles already in the roundabout, so that the intersection isn't as choked by a high volume roadway; a roundabout tends to be more "egalitarian" in terms of access. The major trouble, though, is that the high volume 'way can be more severely limited by a roundabout than by a conventional intersection controlled by modern ITS, such as ATCS or ATSAC.

              Please note that I said roundabout, not "traffic circle." A modern roundabout is a subtly different beast than a traffic circle of old.

              If you're interested in roundabouts, a good reference is here [tfhrc.gov].

              p.s. I'm not a highway geek, I'm a traffic engineer.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by lga (172042)
                p.s. I'm not a highway geek, I'm a traffic engineer.

                What's the difference?
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by hey! (33014)

                  p.s. I'm not a highway geek, I'm a traffic engineer.

                  What's the difference?

                  It's rather complex to explain, but there is a simple test to tell if you are an "X Geek" or simply somebody who does "X" for a living. If you are placed in a social situation with somebody who doesn't do "X", do you end up talking about the exact same kinds of things that you do when you get together with people who do "X"? If you do, you are either a geek or an extreme anti-geek.

            • $20 per day per vehicle on the street

              Residents don't pay when their car spends the whole day in a parking spot they *own*.
              • I actually don't much care about the traffic in Manhattan... I don't have a car :)

                The only time traffic impacts me is when the buses are slowed down, and that could be solved by putting in REAL bus lanes. Today, it means taking the subway if you are going in the same direction as everyone else. Bicycling is a little bit suicidal... I've tried it a few times since moving here, and I just don't have the stomach for it. Even the buses try to run you off of the road!

                I really don't care if it becomes easier or h
        • by Skreems (598317)
          The article mentions that replacing stop lights with roundabouts allows the natural flow to take over, as opposed to external regulation.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "If you've ever ridden in a cab at 5:00am, you have seen the chaos that ensues when there are no signals (since cabbies completely ignore all lights at that time). It's certainly not safer. "

        Hehehehe....that sounds like New Orleans almost ALL the time. There's one of the old jokes that has a line in it that starts with "You know you're from New Orleans if..."

        You know you're from New Orleans if....as you're cussing out the tourists and bus drivers, you're the 3rd person to run the red light.

        Personally,

      • by dircha (893383) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:35PM (#16906974)
        "If we rely on courtesy to dictate our traffic patterns, we'll be victim to those who have no qualms with putting others lives and vehicles at risk. The U.S. has far too many people that fall into this category for the strategy to be effective."

        Although I imagine reckless driving would still be reckless driving. If I were to cut across another car's line through an intersection after it had already entered the intersection, my driving would still be reckless according to any definition of reckless driving I have seen. And it would be reckless independent of any traffic markings or signals present.

        And we already are victim to those who "have no qualms with putting others lives and vehicles at risk." This is the definition of reckless driving (for certain degrees of "risk"). Because they ignore traffic markings and signals right now, the elimination of traffic markings does not affect the risk they pose.

        For anyone who has to sit at red lights at empty intersections for fear of cops hiding in the bushes or in a parking lot, this would be most welcome.

        The only issue I see is with busy roads to which access is controlled by stop signs and signals without on ramps. In these cases a driver attempting to safely enter the road could conceivably wait the better part of an hour or more before being able to safely enter.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lawpoop (604919)
          "And we already are victim to those who "have no qualms with putting others lives and vehicles at risk." This is the definition of reckless driving (for certain degrees of "risk"). Because they ignore traffic markings and signals right now, the elimination of traffic markings does not affect the risk they pose."

          You are correct -- proper traffic signage doesn't eliminate reckless driving. However, the lack of visible and unambiguous signage prevents the public, via the police and the courts, from prosecutin
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ronanbear (924575)
        That's interesting because a 4 way stop sign is an example of a junction which in Europe would have traffic lights or a roundabout. There's no equivalent and in Europe and anytime I drive in the US it always strikes me how disciplined and courteous drivers are at 4 way stop signs.

        I've heard about the idea of removing footpaths etc in many small towns for years and to be honest I'm not a fan. It works ok on certain forms of street (especially narrow lanes with very little through traffic).

        At other times it's
        • by linuxci (3530) *
          That's interesting because a 4 way stop sign is an example of a junction which in Europe would have traffic lights or a roundabout. There's no equivalent and in Europe and anytime I drive in the US it always strikes me how disciplined and courteous drivers are at 4 way stop signs

          Actually, I've seen a 4 way give way crossroads junction in Nottingham on a rather minor road, seemed very, very odd that none of the roads had right of way. The road was quiet enough that lights or a roundabout would be an overk

  • by linuxci (3530) * on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:55PM (#16906520)
    Sounds like a joke article, but would it work? On a recent visit to Napoli in Italy I decided to hire a car [travellersclub.eu], I booked this before arriving so never seen what the roads were like there.

    OK there were road signs, traffic lights and the occaisional road marking, but most of the signs seemed to be twisted around so if you followed them you'd be going in the wrong direction, the traffic lights were largely ignored and road markings came and gone. However, despite it being a scary process for me it did seem to work, I never seen an accident there (although I was in constant fear that I'd cause one at first), traffic seemed to move well enough and the locals crossed the road with confidence (if you walked across the road confidently traffic would stop for you, but if you looked hesitant and waiting for traffic to slow down they'd just go right past you).

    However, the article states that removing the rules creates an atmosphere or courtesy, certainly not in Napoli, they'd sound their horn if they thought you were being too hesitant at junctions or even if you were going a bit too slow.

    • Works in India. Sure, we have traffic signs and stuff, but nobody follows them. <a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=Fg9f93gpfbo">Here 's an example</a>. Try imagine yourself driving there. Here's the basic rule : Assume everyone else is mad and drive. You end up making no assumptions and being a lot more cautious. On the other hand, determining whose fault it is when there is an accident (and there are many) becomes a nightmare.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think you'll find Italy as a whole has a much higher level of road deaths than some of the more "safety concious" EU nations. Have a look at page 2 of http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/pls/portal/docs/PAG E/PGP_PRD_CAT_PREREL/PGE_CAT_PREREL_YEAR_2006/PGE_ CAT_PREREL_YEAR_2006_MONTH_09/7-19092006-EN-AP.PDF [eu.int]

      Italy has 97 road deaths per million people, the UK has 56, Germany 71, Sweeden 53.

      I spent a couple of years in Naples and saw a fair number of road accidents, although was always surprised there wasn't mor
    • You realize that good old Italy is renowned for having insane drivers and almost no sense of driving law.. right?

      In Rome there were plenty of signs and signals everywhere (it was basically an american city for about a decade after WWII) but the locals don't pay much attention to the rules. The polizia are not allowed to pull drivers over, they can note your license and then send you a ticket.. but try to catch my plate number at 105kph.

      Unike you, I saw a number of accidents last year in Italy (spent about

  • Noes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:55PM (#16906524)
    They already drive on the wrong side of the road. Now, this?!
  • by IAmTheDave (746256) <[basenamedave-sd] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:55PM (#16906526) Homepage Journal
    It's long been said that traffic, if devoid of speed limits, can self-regulate itself. It's why two four-lane highways, one with a 55 mph speed limit and one with a 65 mph speed limit will both see the same basic average speed of travel.
    • by technoextreme (885694) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:03PM (#16906638)
      It's long been said that traffic, if devoid of speed limits, can self-regulate itself. It's why two four-lane highways, one with a 55 mph speed limit and one with a 65 mph speed limit will both see the same basic average speed of travel.

      It's a four lane highway. That's why you get some pretty decent order. Now try comparing that to a situation where you four way intersection with two lanes on each side. It's going to be a disaster without some form of order and rules because everyone isn't pshyic and that's why some rules like right of way exist.
      • by Frogbert (589961)
        You could, you know, put a round-about in there.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      It's why two four-lane highways, one with a 55 mph speed limit and one with a 65 mph speed limit will both see the same basic average speed of travel.

      Actually, it has much more to do with driver behavior than anything else.

      To go fast, a driver needs a certain interval between them and the driver in front of them. As traffic density increases, the interval gets smaller & even fast drivers will naturally slow down, because that's just how driver psychology works.

  • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:56PM (#16906542)
    In other news today, the UN has praised Europe for its recent decline in population growth rates. While many regions have had near-balanced birth/death rates, the latest figures show a sharp increase in the death rate, putting most of Europe in a population decline. Our over-populated world thanks you!
  • by thejuggler (610249) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:57PM (#16906548) Homepage Journal
    I can get into this. No speed limits and no more one way streets. Sweet! Of course I'll have to start driving and armored car or a tank to stay alive.
    • That's what I was thinking. Perhaps the success of this is because it is limited to several areas.

      Most drivers know the rules of the road from all the other places and keep them in mind when encountering such a situation as these towns. But what happens when these become the norm and the protocols aren't there, and there is only so much "unsafe driving" I can take before I start to feel comfortable and hit the pedal.

      Protocal is there for a reason.

      Don't get me wrong, I would love to have them do away with
  • Cyclists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by laurensv (601085) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:57PM (#16906552) Homepage
    Some have adopted the same strategy with respect to cyclists sharing the roads of inner cities with cars so cars would slow down instead of speeding when they've the whole road for themself. Cyclists as myself aklthough often feel -and I believe are- much safer on seperate bike lanes.
    • by Knuckles (8964)
      Cyclists as myself aklthough often feel -and I believe are- much safer on seperate bike lanes.

      Depends on the quality of the bike lane. Here in Germany and Austria the bike lanes are often so stupidly set up (on the sidewalk behind the parked cars, since it is cheaper to create a bike lane by simply painting a line on the sidewalk) that whenever there is an intersection it is a gamble with death. Many people therefore prefer to stay on the road where they are at least visible, even though the law says you mu
      • Bike Lanes (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tcgroat (666085) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:56PM (#16907726)
        I'm with you on this! Most bike lanes seem to be designed by folks who think all bikes have training wheels and move slower than the average jogger. These glorified sidewalks have many dangerous "features":


        -Limited or no visibility at driveways and alleys, where buildings and parked cars obstruct sight lines for both drivers and cyclists

        -Narrow lanes that leave no room for steering errors, or to avoid litter, broken glass, and other obstacles

        -Speed limits on straight, level pavement that require using a mountain-climbing "granny gear"

        -Pedestrians, dogs, roller skaters and other unpredicable living things [eatgoodstuff.com] (all legal at this California web-cam location, but risky never the less)

        -Cyclists must pass to the inside of turning traffic, going from the driver's blind spot straight into the car's path

        -Utility poles, garbage cans, decorative planters, news rack, mail boxes, and other fixed objects to collide with (all banished to the sidewalk because they would endanger drivers surrounded by a ton of steel!)

        -Maintenance? What maintenance?


        It's ironic that in most US cities bicycles are forbidden on sidewalks. But overnight, the city council can order a painted stripe and some "bikeway" signs forcing cyclists onto the same dangerous strip of concrete they were banned from the day before. It's a meaningless political gesture ("See what a bike-friendly city we are!") that wastes money while doing nothing for cycling safety. Unless, perhaps, discouraging cyclists is the goal of the safety program.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Knuckles (8964)
          I totally agree to each and every point (although I find the speed limit thing very funny - never seen one here and nobody would care anyway) and would like to add another one: unneeded and therefore completely unpredictable turns.

          In Vienna (Austria) there is the Ringstraße, a beautiful boulevard around the inner city with a sidewalk that is several meters wide. The bike strip they painted there bends and turns every 100 meters without any need and usually with a radius that requires you to slow to wal
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:58PM (#16906576) Homepage Journal
    I actually think the German system is safer. There are a lot more rules to learn(but the drivers ed requirements are also a lot more stringent) but everything is very cut and dry once you learn them. There is no "yielding the right of way", either you have it or you don't. Unlike say in Pennsylvania where the law actually states that "nobody has the right away".

    Germany also has roughly half the number of traffic fatalities per capita as the US, take that for what it is worth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Deadstick (535032)
      Best German rule of all: no expressions of road rage. Flip somebody off and you'll see the inside of the Gefängnis.

      rj

    • by russellh (547685)

      I actually think the German system is safer. There are a lot more rules to learn(but the drivers ed requirements are also a lot more stringent) but everything is very cut and dry once you learn them. There is no "yielding the right of way", either you have it or you don't. Unlike say in Pennsylvania where the law actually states that "nobody has the right away".

      Do you live in PA? it's an obligation to yield rather than the right of way. Sounds Quakerish, doesn't it? well suited to all the one lane bridges

    • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:26PM (#16906890)
      Germany also has roughly half the number of traffic fatalities per capita as the US, take that for what it is worth.

      If you're trying to compare the safety of the traffic systems, then a per capita figure is useless, since Americans spend a lot more time in cars than Europeans. You'd want to look at the number of accidents per unit of time spent on the road, or number of accidents per number of cars, or something like that.
    • by Duncan3 (10537) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:45PM (#16907084) Homepage
      That's because in Europe, driving drunk isn't as cool. Which accounts for most all of our accidents in the US.

      That you have to actually take a class to drive may help also, here in California a large fraction of drivers can't even read the signs, since they aren't in Spanish. Every trip to work is a thrill ride tho!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by StikyPad (445176)
        Yeah, because Mexican signs [dot.gov] look nothing like their American counterparts, and Americans who can't speak Spanish usually crash within 1 mile after crossing into Mexico. Granted, some signs don't look identical, but almost all of the important ones do, and it's a bit racist to assume they wouldn't attempt to learn what the others mean, just like you'd want to know what the signs meant in any foreign country you went to.

        Also DUIs account for less than half [ama-cycle.org] of fatal accidents in the US, and 7% of total accide [dot.gov]
    • by Yokaze (70883)
      > There is no "yielding the right of way", either you have it or you don't.

      Um, contrary to the UK and Ireland, there is a right of way [wikipedia.org] in Continental Europe.
  • Not in the USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerGeist (956018) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:00PM (#16906596)
    Not in societies where personal gain is elevated to a godlike stature and is the sole purpose of individual existence. European societies tend to focus more on manners and personal responsibility, so this clearly wouldn't work in the US. ;)

    Seriously though, I think that the most worry is caused where drivers are unsure of what to do. That's the whole point -- at a traffic light, you (supposedly) know what the other drivers are going to do. Stop at red, go at green, etc. No worrying about someone cutting you off, no need to make a dangerous left turn through six lanes of unregulated traffic, and so on.

    In the US, I see much more risk-taking in these situations -- people cutting each other off, etc. The road rage and anger (and occasional killings) not only point to a deep-seated inner hatred of everyone but oneself, but also show the ubiquitous "me-first" attitude manifesting itself. Given this psychological state, could a plan like this ever work? I think not.

    But I'm probably just as biased and cynical. :)

    • by getling (114602)
      at a traffic light, you (supposedly) know what the other drivers are going to do

      While you raise some very good points, I think the argument the article was making (and on some level it is quite convincing) is that when you believe you know what someone is going to do, you lose courtesy when they don't react as expected as well as can go on auto-pilot and cause an accident because someone didn't do what you expected them to do.

      However when you take away the rules and therefore no one knows what the oth
    • by bcat24 (914105)

      But I'm probably just as biased and cynical. :)

      Not at all. As a new driver (I turned 16 in October, and started driver's ed about a year before that), I think this would cause a lot of problems. Like you said, lights make things easy for people. I know I have the most trouble with things like unsigned intersections, merging, etc. Heck, right of way at a four-way stop is hard enough. :) And my experience is in the Chicago suburbs. I don't even want to think of a major downtown with less traffic control.

    • Re:Not in the USA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Reality Master 101 (179095) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .101retsaMytilaeR.> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:56PM (#16907178) Homepage Journal

      European societies tend to focus more on manners and personal responsibility, so this clearly wouldn't work in the US. ;)

      What??? You have to be joking. Two real-life stories for you:

      My visit to Venice: I was waiting politely in line for a water-taxi ticket. Just before my turn, a local steps in front of me and buys a ticket. I'm so shocked and stunned, I can only stare. Another one steps in front of me! Finally, I'm jarred and figure out the "system". That behavior was so -- alien -- here in the US as to be beyond comprehension.

      Another story. My German uncle comes over to visit from Germany and goes to the bank (this is about, oh, 1970 or so). He is absolutely amazed and astounded watching people politely stand in line, no pushing, no shoving. My uncle gets back home and is telling my father the story. My father's classic answer (in a very dry, serious voice), "Well, of course. We carry guns." :D

      And I KNOW that you're making a fall-down-in-hysterics joke to talk about Europe and Personal Responsibility. If they cared about the latter, they wouldn't embrace Socialism. The US is sadly lacking compared to how it used to be, but we're still the home for people who want to make it on their own with a minimum of nannyism.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:09PM (#16906688) Homepage

    Notice the "everything will be covered in cobblestones" part. Bumpy roads as traffic control - that's a brutal solution to the problem. Coming up next, artificial potholes.

    • by Reziac (43301) *
      Will be interesting when it rains. Cobblestones offer very little traction, and tend to collect runoff that freezes at night.

      Some intersections in SoCal have cobblestone marker strips, and they are VERY slick when wet, sufficient that any attempt to brake causes the vehicle to slide til it reaches the asphalt on the other side. Even better, your car's nose is now in the pedestrian crosswalk. Remember, 10 extra points if you don't get blood on your car!!

      Back to the nominal topic.. lack of signs works just fi
  • ORLY? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Yetihehe (971185) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:10PM (#16906698)
    I can't see this idea getting traction in the U.S.
    Certainly, it needs more traction control.
  • Before : when I am on bicycle, people ignore the stop on their own street, and despite me comming from their right, they speed up and nearly kill me nearing me on the 5 inches up to 1 yard (it happenned often on a specific intersection on my way that I go thru every day). After : what the hell will it change ? They were already breaking the law (the stop sign), breaking my right of passage (I am coming from the right). If they were "brethen" on the street they would respect my right of passage today. With s
  • by payndz (589033) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:10PM (#16906706)
    "You go first."
    "No, you go first."
    "No, you go first."
    [Thinks] "Oh, he's letting me go."
    [Thinks] "Oh, he's letting me go."
    CRUNCH!

    Or:

    [Thinks] "I'm first to the junction, I have right of way. I'll pull out before that guy in the Vauxhall Vectra who's talking on his phone reaches it."
    "'Old on, I'm at a junction, lemme just burn through-" CRUNCH! "Oh, fackin' 'ell! Some fackin' cahnt just pulled out right in front of me!"
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:14PM (#16906760) Homepage Journal
    What about just getting rid of those damn noisy, smelly dangerous cars that ruin life in city centers? That's guaranteed to be safer than either alternative in this article.
  • Even Carmageddon had road markings...
  • Wired magazine had an article a couple years ago saying this exact same thing. I remember thinking at the time, "I hope this doesn't ever actually happen." Who'd've (I just invented a new contraction!) guessed it would?

    Ah, found the article. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.h tml [wired.com]
  • When faced with uncertainty, people do not become more courteous: they become upset. As in, "Will I be late by 20 minutes or 1:45 because of these other idiots on the roads that fail to realize they should all be driving exactly as I do?" A more uncertain driving environment will increase transit times and with that comes a bevy of negatives: more fuel consumed, more pollution, more stressed people sitting in traffic, larger chunks of peoples life lost behind a wheel (we already have little enough time
  • Letting yourself go (Score:4, Interesting)

    by syousef (465911) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:41PM (#16907032) Journal
    This is the equivalent of having a weight problem and letting yourself go completely in the hope that it will all work out eventually. A very very bad idea.

    What you need is simple and clear rules.

    Here in NSW, Australia you have to travel at 40km/hr in a school zone but only during certain times. Our main highways even have school zones. It's a joke. If you're doing 41km/hr at 3:29pm you're speeding and can lose a quarter of your license, but at 3:31pm you're fine. (We have a demerit system. You have 12 points. Points you lose are lost for 3 years. If you reach zero you lose your licence. Speeding, even 1km/hr over the limit loses you 3 points). It's getting even more ridiculous. We have one speed zone being trialed that's 90km/hr in the wet and 100km/hr in the dry. There's a speed camera and the variable limit is posted only where the camera can nab you. Talk about a bunch of revenue raising horse shit. So now the driver has to know exactly what time of day it is (to the minute) and judge the weather before they know what their speed limit is. What's worse is that everyone speeds - except at the known speed cameras - and if you stick to the limit you make everyone around you angry (which isn't safe!!!)
  • Getting rid of traffic signs is a start (even though all those commuters whose driveways are now blocked by parking cars may disagree).

    However, the truly free market approach to safer traffic is to get rid of air bags and safety belts and, instead, install a sharp metal spike in the center of every steering wheel.
  • by heli0 (659560) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:47PM (#16907104)
    As Cars Collide, Belgian Motorists Refuse to Yield [wsj.com](Subscription Required).

    -------

    As Cars Collide, Belgian Motorists Refuse to Yield
    A Shortage of Stop Signs And Quirky Driving Rules Create Culture of Crashes
    By MARY JACOBY
    September 25, 2006; Page A1

    BRUSSELS -- The intersection outside Isabelle de Bruyn's row house in a quiet residential neighborhood here is a typical Belgian crossroads. It has no stop signs. Now and then, cars collide outside her front door.

    "The air bags explode. One car flipped over in the street. Part of one car ended up here," says Ms. de Bruyn, a real-estate agent, pointing to her front steps. Her brother-in-law, Christophe de Bruyn, adds: "In America, they have stop signs. I think that's a good idea for Belgium, too."

    The suggestion isn't popular at the Belgian transport ministry. "We'd have to put signs at every crossroads," says spokeswoman Els Bruggeman. "We have lots of intersections."

    But insurance companies seeking an easier way to sort out who's at fault in Belgium's frequent fender benders have lobbied for a solution. And so now the government is in the process of making changes to a traffic rule at the heart of Belgium's problems. It is known as priorité de droite, or "priority from the right."

    The law evolved from a rule adopted nearly a century ago in neighboring France, intended to offer drivers a simple rule of thumb: Always yield to any vehicle coming from one's right unless a sign or other road marking instructs otherwise.

    That was meant to modernize an even more unwieldy rule of the time: Right of way went to the driver of the highest social rank. Horse-drawn carriages were still in common use, and, after accidents, "it wasn't unusual for the passengers to get out of their carriages and compare their titles and ranks in the nobility," says Benoit Godart, a spokesman for the government-financed Belgian Road Safety Institute.

    Even more confusing, a driver in Belgium who stops to look both ways at an intersection loses the legal right to proceed first. Such caution might seem prudent, given the lack of stop signs. But a driver who merely taps his brakes can find that his pause has sent a dangerous signal to other drivers: Any sign of hesitation often spurs other drivers to hit the gas in a race to get through the crossing first.

    The result is a game of chicken at crossings, where to slow down is to "show weakness," says Belgian traffic court lawyer Virginie Delannoy. Neither driver wants to lose this traffic game, she says, adding: "And then, bam!"

    To make matters worse, cars on many of the smallest side streets still qualify for priority over those on major thoroughfares -- so long as they are coming from the right. That forces drivers on many boulevards to slam on their brakes without warning, and some get rear-ended as a result. On certain roads, the rule is suspended, but the only indication of that is a small yield sign drivers often overlook.

    Today, failing to yield is the cause of more than two-thirds of the accidents at unmarked Belgian intersections that result in bodily injury.

    It contributes to Belgium's relatively high traffic fatality rate, analysts say. Last year, deaths in Belgium from driving accidents were 11.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris.

    Other countries have more stop signs and traffic lights. By comparison, deaths in the Netherlands were 4.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, 6.1 in Germany and 8.7 in France -- countries that border Belgium.

    Although the U.S. has a higher number of fatalities in absolute numbers -- 14.5 per 100,000 inhabitants -- there are more cars on the street in the U.S., as a percentage of the population, than in Belgium. Americans also spend on average more time in their cars, traveling longer distances.

    When the difference in the number of cars is accounted for, Belgium has
  • A google search for "Ipswich road signs" turns up nothing about the town doing away with road signs; a relevant page on Suffolk county council's website says nothing about what would necessarily be headline news. The same is true of a similar search for Kensington. Not only that, but as I live and work in London, I think I'd have heard about it, yet I've heard nothing at all.

    Without corroboration, I'm going to have to consider this bullshit.
    • by duguk (589689)
      I agree, I live nearer to Ipswich than you do - I work near Colchester and live nearer to Clacton, and haven't heard anything like this, at least in Ipswich. Theres nothing on the local news sites anywhere. Can anyone else find anything?

      Monkeyboi
  • Unfamiliar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @05:57PM (#16907188) Homepage Journal
    With the motto 'Unsafe is Safe,'


    This would better be represented as 'Unfamiliar is safe'. If people are in a new situation, they'll naturally be more cautious. Once everyone gets used to no roadsigns as the standard, things will be no safer than before.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • I can't see this idea getting traction in the U.S.

    The author obviously has never driven in the DC moetropolitan area.

    --MAB
  • Woonerven (Score:5, Informative)

    by waldoj (8229) <waldo@nosPaM.jaquith.org> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:22PM (#16907436) Homepage Journal
    The Dutch have a more restrained version of this that works quite well, called the "woonerf." (It means "street for living.")

    In heavily-trafficked areas where cars will always move slowly and multiple modes of transportation come together (bicyclists, pedestrians, mass transit, scooters, cars, etc.), it seems that it works better if they self-regulate. Woonerven came into being in The Netherlands in the '60s and '70s, and the idea is to have a common space shared by all of these types of transit. Obstacles are placed in the street (planters, trees, parking spaces, etc.) to prevent traffic from moving quickly. This also turns pedestrians into the primary users of the space, making vehicles the intruders. Cars seldom exceed 10mph in woonerven.

    Holland and Denmark have converted 6,500 brief stretches of road into woonerven. Traffic fatality rates have dropped to nothing. Intersections were a few annual fatalities were routine haven't seen a single death. That's a) because automobile drivers cannot drive through quickly because they're so varying and b) because 20mph is the cap of speed at which pedestrians can avoid serious injury when being struck by a car.

    Happily, 18.5mph is the speed at which urban traffic flows best, many studies have shown. Coincidentally, this is also a speed at which there's no need for traffic control systems.

    We have woonerf-like traffic patterns (and self-regulating patterns, as in the article) throughout the world now. Look at rush hour on Paris' Avenue de la Grande Armee: it's got four lanes of traffic at noon on a Sunday, but come rush hour people up and decide that maybe six is better. Look at Beijing during rush hour -- hordes of bicyclists mingling with packed autos, scooters weaving through the chaos.

    England's got them, too. They call them "home zones." They're in a few dozen places now. They can't be more than a third of a mile long, and can't be used by more than 100 vehicles per hour. More traffic means that it's just not a viable home zone.

    For more on this see Linda Baker's 2004 article for Salon [salon.com], Anthony Flint's 2004 Boston Globe article [boston.com], and walkinginfo.org's page about woonerven [walkinginfo.org].
  • Denmark! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MonoSynth (323007) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:25PM (#16907462) Homepage
    What about the new Danish traffic signs [break.com]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IainMH (176964)
      NSFW!

      PLEASE mark these as not safe for work. Video contains ladybumps.
  • by CrankyOldBastard (945508) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:56PM (#16907716)
    I was terrified by the traffic signs and rules in California. I found the 4 way cross-roads with a stop sign on each entry particularly confusing. It seemed to work on the principle of "everyone knows when it's their turn to go". Here on the Gold Coast we have a lot of roundabouts, which are not a perfect solution, but are really very simple (1) traffic entering the roundabout gives way to all traffic on the roundabout, and (2) on a multi-lane roundabout, only exit from the first left if you entered in the left hand lane. Keep those 2 rules straight and it's near impossible for it to stuff up.

    In general, the rule here is "whoever disturbs the flow of the traffic the most gives way", which seems simple enough. It's different in other states though. I can't see the idea of less signals and signs working in the USA though, as your society thrives on rules and regulations, and without them people will cause trouble asserting their "rights" and "freedoms" over other people. The other posters who have pointed out that politeness is a key to safe driving without signs are on the money too - and American's are not noted for their politeness in general.
  • by Bertie (87778) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:20PM (#16907928)
    Here in Tony Blair's wonderful nanny state, you can't fucking move without some sign or jumped-up idiot in a uniform telling you what you can and can't do. This has been steadily getting worse over the years, and now it's at the point that sometimes as you're driving along, there's so many signs bombarding you with instructions that you don't have time to assimilate them properly. This is especially problematic if you're in a strange location, where simply finding your way around's hard enough, without also having to work out if you're allowed to drive on the inside lane at 4:30 on a Tuesday, and whether the 40MPH speed limit sign you passed thirty seconds ago is still in force, because here comes a speed camera and it would be just like the bastards to lower the limit yards before it. Next thing you know, you're in the back of a Land Rover which has just pulled up to drop the kids off at school, and to rub salt in the wounds, a traffic warden chasing the employee of the month award is writing up a parking ticket with your name on it.

    Still, here comes Ken Livingstone to save us all with a £25 congestion charge for people driving gas-guzzling behemoths like, er, a Mondeo diesel estate. Take the Tube, you say, Ken? Certainly, but first can you explain to me why, if the congestion charge is subsidising improvements in public transport, you felt the need to jack prices by 50% in some cases? Is there anybody you wouldn't like to fleece?

    It boils my blood, y'know.

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