Predictably, these high-speed intersections are safest when the lights malfunction. A transformer somewhere blows a fuse, power in the grid goes down, and we’re left with blinking reds. What do we do? We look around. We make eye contact with other drivers. Author Tom Vanderbilt theorizes in his book Traffic that it is eye contact that rehumanizes other drivers. They are no longer automatons clumsily operating on a theoretically perfect, but practically imperfect, conveyor belt. An order emerges as the blinking reds make the intersection operate like a four-way stop, the safest sort of intersection. Your turn, my turn. Drivers are polite again.
It came from a more emotional place than the typically more analytical one that I write from. I don't know why senseless fatalities and the destruction of cities can get me so riled up, do you? I didn't even have time or space to get into the financial catastrophe of the transportation-induced entropic inertia currently bankrupting us.
Fortunately, Chuck Marohn was in town last night giving one of his Strong Towns curbside chats for the local CNU chapter. I tweeted some of the highlights: