Counter intuitive approaches to managing traffic

Many people in the U.S. have heard the expression “changing the rules of the game.” In some European cities, however, traffic engineers are just about eliminating the rules of the road and removing all the streets signs American drivers are so familiar with.

As Matthias Schulz writes at Spiegel Online:

The plans derive inspiration and motivation from a large-scale experiment in the town of Drachten in the Netherlands, which has 45,000 inhabitants. There, cars have already been driving over red natural stone for years. Cyclists dutifully raise their arm when they want to make a turn, and drivers communicate by hand signs, nods and waving.

“More than half of our signs have already been scrapped,” says traffic planner Koop Kerkstra. “Only two out of our original 18 traffic light crossings are left, and we’ve converted them to roundabouts.” Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: “Yield to the right” and “Get in someone’s way and you’ll be towed.”

Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically. Experts from Argentina and the United States have visited Drachten. Even London has expressed an interest in this new example of automobile anarchy. And the model is being tested in the British capital’s Kensington neighborhood.

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