When it comes to safety, we tend to feel safest with the familiar. We like to stick with methods that we’ve been told are tried and true, ones we’ve been used to for years or decades. But what if someone told you that some of our default safety precautions are, well, more default than safety? Because that might just be the case with road signs. Vox spoke to the folks at 99 Percent Invisible about our traffic signs and the reasons why more and more towns with Europe are going without traditional road signs at major intersections. To many of us, it looks chaos-inducing. But looks can be deceiving.
The new ‘shared space’ design strategy argues that getting rid of signs and barriers can actually make large intersections safer. Cars, cyclists, pedestrians all share the same space. In theory, the idea is that sharing the space will make everyone more cautious and, therefore, safer. We’ll slow down, make eye contact, and negotiate. Sound like wishful thinking? Well, they tried this in many areas in England and throughout Europe and the results might surprise you. Even though some pedestrians say that they find the layout stressful, there are actually statistics that show these shared spaces are not only safer, but calmer— at least for some. It’s not a perfect system, but there is some indication that it may evolve into a more efficient, streamlined way to design cities. Check out the whole video here:
There are obvious and understandable fears that shared space designs do not protect vulnerable people and groups enough. We need children, the elderly, and the disabled to be catered for— it’s their public space, too. But perhaps a combination of shared space and safety precautions can bridge the gap. It’s definitely still a work in progress, but it could change the way we plan our cities.