Planning/politics/order/Zittrain: The Dutch city of Drachten has undertaken an unusual experiment in traffic management. The roads serving forty-five thousand people are “verkeersbordvrij”: free of nearly all road signs. Drachten is one of several European test sites for a traffic planning approach called “unsafe is safe.” (1) The city has removed its traffic signs, parking meters, and even parking spaces. The only rules are that drivers should yield to those on their right at an intersection, and that parked cars blocking others will be towed. The result so far is counterintuitive: a dramatic improvement in vehicular safety. Without signs to obey mechanically (or, as studies have shown, disobey seventy percent of the time (2), people are forced to drive more mindfully—operating their cars with more care and attention to the surrounding circumstances. They communicate more with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers using hand signals and eye contact. They see other drivers rather than other cars.
1. See Matthias Schulz, Controlled Chaos: European Cities Do Away with Traffic Signs, SPIEGEL ONLINE INT’L, NOV. 16, 2006, http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/ 0,1518,448747,00.html.
2. In the United States, studies by the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FTSA) have shown that motorists disobey speed limits on non-interstates 70 percent of the time. Interview with Earl Hardy, Speeding Expert, Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Admin., and Elizabeth Alicandri, Dir. of Office of Safety Programs, Fed. Highway Admin., Washingtonpost.com (Mar. 30, 2006), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2006/03/23/DI2006032301185.html.
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