Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living Intersections

A co-worker said to me the other day "I hate driving." He perhaps had a valid point, as the time was nearing 4:00 and rush hour or "Slow Hour" was in the midst of its hellish havoc betrothed to car travelers every day.

The problem with the joy that some people get from cars, is that they never feel that joyful while stuck in traffic. I like to think sometimes about the resting time on the road, that is the time spent waiting to move. In a car in heavy traffic, you can sometimes see the red light at an intersection more then once. Sitting through cycle after cycle of lights is frustrating, even in a Prius despite what this commercial may try and show.

The flow of traffic is dictated by the state, by laws that are seeking to protect drivers from their own bad driving. Imagine a intersection with no lights, no signs, only the names of the roads. A place where you acknowledged the people around you as fellow travelers, like this scene from "Paint your wagons"

If this seems like a old times occurrence that could never work in the world of today, where speed and time are at a high premium. But take a look at "Shared space" , one could argue that the lack of signs and regulations would lead to anarchy. But perhaps anarchy would be better then what we have with stop and go traffic.

Time will tell, but I'm all for shared space, perhaps because it gives preference to bikes, where traffic today treats bicyclists like Rosa Parks.

We have to move over to the right, we have to hope they give us the three feet of space while passing so that we don't shudder as hulks of loud vibrating metal fly past.
People might look at the shared space intersections and say "Won't people just do what they want and have accidents anyways?" Well that may be the case that accidents haven't gone down, but it shows that the fatality of accidents has gone down. Because instead of cars "gunning it" through an intersection, people assume traffic will be there, there is no green light for people to take as a sign that they can move freely, unless the laws are being broken by a jaywalker, or an oblivious driver.
The accidents have become more pedestrian, small fender benders, which are bound to happen, much the same way crowded school hallways will always have people running into each other and dropping their books, but hopefully with more people noticing and looking at each other at intersections, maybe romance might blossom more often. Like dropped books in a crowded hallway.
But I mean if children can move around everyday in the crowded halls, without signs or lights, then perhaps we could too?