Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us)

with 2 comments

Charles Enman, Canwest News Service

It is very tempting to dredge through this article – based on a new book – and clip out the paragraphs that repeat things that I have written here under the same heading. But this is not about being right, it is about what we can do to improve the standards of driving, which does more to improve road safety than widening and straightening roads. The book praises Hans Monderman who got traffic calmed just by removing all the signs and signals and making drivers concentrate on what they were doing. It completely contradicts the case that was made for “improving” the Sea to Sky Highway – or, for that matter, the Patullo Bridge. It is not the road oir the bridge that is dangerous, it is the drivers.

Of course the really stupid and arrogant will not read this book – nor will they ever pay attention to what they are doing. Traffic engineers everywhere know that roundabouts reduce accidents but continue to bow to public pressure from ignoramuses who say they are “confusing”. Maybe they should simply respond “that is why they are safer. It makes YOU think about what you are doing.”

We do really need to tackle the monthly road death rate that exceeds 9/11. And that means we need to change what we are doing – which is what we have been doing so ineffectively for years. Conventional wisdom has nowhere more clearly failed than in road safety. This means we need to try something different, and this book gives a very good indication of where to start. First, we bring back photo radar and then ban cell phone use. We know both are unpopular. Tough. These measures work.  Then we stop silly projects that speed up traffic, and we start taking down the traffic lights and signs. And we increase the sense that drivers have that they need to pay attention to what they are doing.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 6, 2008 at 8:50 am

Posted in Road safety

2 Responses

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  1. > The book praises Hans Monderman who got traffic calmed just by removing all the signs and signals and making drivers concentrate on what they were doing

    While you were away in mid July Vancouver decided to conduct an experiment and turn off all the traffic lights downtown for the afternoon… it was in all the papers…. and it wasn’t much fun for pedestrians trying to cross at intersections… the so-called “4 way stop procedure” doesn’t seem to take into account people trying to cross on foot.

    David Banks

    September 16, 2008 at 9:01 pm

  2. […] The ever insigtful Stephen Rees has a post about the forthcoming book ‘Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (And what it says about us)’ […]

    Traffic « People Powered

    September 20, 2008 at 2:03 am


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