Thursday, September 10, 2009

London Streets to Experiment with "Nudity"

London dips toe into the icy waters of the woonerf and finds the water is, in fact, just fine:
“We will be creating a bit of indecision in all road users’ minds to create a safe environment,” said Martin Low, Westminster City Council’s head of transportation, which is conducting the experiment with Transport for London. “When lights are out we have noticed that drivers are far more considerate and show more care and attention than they are when they have the reassurance of traffic lights.
I have noticed this phenomenon as well on Dallas streets/arterials after power failures and what not bringing about the blinking red lights. Typical traffic engineering makes for stupid drivers. This is why you can arrive at a destination without remembering your drive. You tune out, you talk on the phone, you run over a gaggle of geese, careen off a few parked cars, and you're home wondering how the red all over the grill of your car got there.

This returns awareness, intelligence and, in turn, safety to driving, aka handling a two-ton, high powered, agent of death and destruction.

But, don't take my word for it:
Without any clear right-of-way, he says, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed. ...
As in all cases, regulating speed via regulation is nonsensical and costly (when factored for policing, paperwork, etc.) Cars (w/drivers) will ALWAYS go as fast as the driver feels comfortable. Long, straight shot? Gun it. One way? Gun it. Turning radii allowing for high speed cornering and some dukes of hazzard style "wheelin' n' dealin'"? Gun it.

But, like all things there are downsides to the super happy fun time only seen in car commercials and movie chases, like degraded public realm, inflated healthcare and insurance costs, dreadful development models, and sedentary lifestyles (read: fat, FAT people), but who's counting?

Similarly, the key to all urban design is for inhabitors to intuit. Signage should never be necessary but supplemental. The experience of the place tells you, "well shit, there are kids in the road, as well as trees and parked cars that people might get out of, I better not drive at an unsafe rate of speed. For the sake of my insurance...Eff the kids."

Or, with wayfinding, the orientation and design of the place allows visitors to intuit thru cognitive awareness their way to destinations via landmarks, vistas, corridors, and the like. Signage is once again, supplemental...but that's a related discussion for another day.

Examples of woonerfs, loosely translated as "front yard," which is how the street ought to thought of: