Blog Post

Traffic is more than just a great band

Because I'm kind of a dumbass, I forgot to post the link to this really interesting story from the December issue of Wired, the magazine for which I work. Does it still count as flacking my mag if I didn't write or edit the story?

Anyway, the point of the piece is that you can control traffic by not controlling it -- let chaos reign, and people naturally slow down and find their own order. Wisdom of crowds, or something like that. Anyway, salient bits, talking about traffic planner Hans Monderman:
Riding in his green Saab, we glide into Drachten, a 17th-century village that has grown into a bustling town of more than 40,000. We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

I'm ashamed to admit I didn't think to post this until the New York Times plunked in an excerpt in today's Week in Review section. Curse you, national daily newspaper of record!


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