Traffic control: the naked streets experiment
I tend to waffle between asking for dedicated and separated facilities for cyclists and for keeping cyclists on the roadway (with some white stripes painted here and there). A new movement is spreading from its birth in the north of The Netherlands (those crazy, soggy Frieslanders) with the radical idea of Naked Streets (or Shared Space). The Dutch traffic engineer, Hans Monderman with the idea. The basic idea is that safe streets are made where all easy visual cues are removed: no more traffic lights, stop signs, speed limit signs, lane markings. They are all removed and intersections are remade so that there is very little difference between sidewalk and roadway.
Amazingly the naked streets concept has worked remarkably well. Collisions and accidents have dropped. All the road users have to use social cues to negotiate intersections (this is what Darren S anticipated in his comment on ship signals. People are more careful because there is a greater of perception of danger. They can no longer rely on traffic lights to tell them when it is "safe" to cross.
From the Wikipedia article:
Monderman: "We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior, ...The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles." and... "When you don't exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users... You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care."
Would this work in Toronto? I'd love it if the conservative engineers would at least pick some neighbourhood for a pilot project. London is the latest location for the concept, so soggy Netherlands isn't the only place where it can work.
The best way to understand it is to see it. The video is 4 of 10 short videos by Tequio focusing on Drachten in The Netherlands.