Michael Silence has posted that another Oak Ridge camera company (we have many: Ipix (dead), Pips, Perceptics, Aldis, others?) is attaching cameras to traffic lights. The full story is in the Knoxnews. These new cameras are being tested to replace the magnetic strips in the pavement that detect the flow of traffic or vehicles backed up at an intersection. These strips are often the bane of motorcyclists as they sometimes do not get detected and have to sit at a light forever. These cameras might be a good thing! Of course, No Silence Here commenter Joe Lance notes "Chattanooga has invested in a couple of cameras — complete with loudspeakers — that announce to illegal dumpers that they are being photographed." When do cameras cease to be a good thing?
I twitch a bit as we throw up more traffic lights, more signs, more lines on the road, more cameras, cameras, cameras. Traffic engineer Hans Monderman believes signs to be a danger to driving.
To him, they are an admission of failure, a sign – literally – that a road designer somewhere hasn’t done his job. "The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there’s a problem with a road, they always try to add something," Monderman says. "To my mind, it’s much better to remove things." [Source, Wired, Roads Gone Wild]
How does Monderman recommend building better intersections?
- Remove signs
- Install art
- Let lighting illuminate both roadbed and pedestrian areas
- Do it in the road (ie, get store fronts and Cafes closer to the road)
- Negotiate right-of-way by human interaction instead of signs
- Eliminate curbs
Knoxville has re-engeered roads for traffic control. Of course this project is not yet complete and Knoxville hasn’t reported on it at all much less said anything about its success or lack of success. Re-engineering roads for traffic control is not simply about removing lights and putting in traffic circles. It is about not cutting down that tree which seems so close to the road. A road with such an apparent danger causes drivers to be more alert. Re-engineering is about not straightening the roads and letting curves control speed. Re-engineering is about rethinking the paradigm by which we design our roads. I think some direct quotes from the article are in order. My favorite is when Monderman proves that designing without signs and signals works by putting hsi hands behind his back and walking backwards, blindly into traffic.
Monderman is one of the leaders of a new breed of traffic engineer – equal parts urban designer, social scientist, civil engineer, and psychologist. The approach is radically counterintuitive: Build roads that seem dangerous, and they’ll be safer.
He [shows] a favorite intersection he designed. It’s a busy confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians that doesn’t contain a single traffic signal, road sign, or directional marker, an approach that turns eight decades of traditional traffic thinking on its head. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings – and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn’t contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it’s unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins.
Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture. "I love it!" Monderman says at last. "Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can’t expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road."
In West Palm Beach, Florida, planners have redesigned several major streets, removing traffic signals and turn lanes, narrowing the roadbed, and bringing people and cars into much closer contact. The result: slower traffic, fewer accidents, shorter trip times.
In the village of Oosterwolde was once a conventional road junction with traffic lights [which] has been turned into something resembling a public square that mixes cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. About 5,000 cars pass through the square each day, with no serious accidents since the redesign in 1999. "To my mind, there is one crucial test of a design such as this," Monderman says. "Here, I will show you." With that, Monderman tucks his hands behind his back and begins to walk into the square – backward – straight into traffic, without being able to see oncoming vehicles. A stream of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians ease around him, instinctively yielding to a man with the courage of his convictions.
[Source, Wired, Roads Gone Wild]
Some countries have no traffic controls what-so-ever and still function fine. We can also use traffic calming methods or make our roads play music to control speed.
Related: One way to be environmentally sound and avoid tickets is to pickup a free bus ticket from Kroger when you buy groceries!
Update 6/3/08: Knoxviews reports that Oak Ridge is considering red light cameras at the same time The New York Times reports Trolling for Trouble in the Red Light District.
Perhaps a better way to reduce red light running lies in improving the design of the intersection. Studies have shown that extending the duration of the yellow light by just two seconds has significantly decreased the number of red light violations. In Dallas, longer yellows and signs warning motorists of red light cameras have helped reduce the violations so dramatically that the cameras are no longer generating the revenue needed to keep them in operation. [Source, The New York Times,Trolling for Trouble in the Red Light District]
Update 6/4/08: Red light cameras legal?.