Posts Tagged ‘community-centric design

lithium | traffic negotiations

23, نوفمبر 2010

part one | documentation


WHAT IS “SHARED SPACE” when it comes to TRAFFIC?

Another city besides Bohmte that has tried this “Shared Space” approach is Drachten, a small Dutch city with around 50,000 residents has removed almost all of its traffic lights. Major intersections have been converted to roundabouts, smaller intersections just let drivers work make decisions on their own. Basically, it’s anarchy. Anarchy that has completely eliminated dangerous crashes and road fatalities and created a surge in bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Anarchy seems to breed courtesy, in Holland at least. Maybe this is the first step toward an actual blended transportation system, where bikes pedestrians and cars treat each other with appropriate respect. An act as simple as removing an object that everyone hates anyway could be a solution to a lot of our problems.

Drachten roundabout,1518,505246,00.html


Are streets without traffic signs conceivable?

 European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren — by means of friendly gestures, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs.

A project implemented by the European Union is currently seeing seven cities and regions clear-cutting their forest of traffic signs. A sign by the entrance to the small town (population 1,000) reads “Verkeersbordvrij” — “free of traffic signs.” Cars bumble unhurriedly over precision-trimmed granite cobblestones. Stop signs and direction signs are nowhere to be seen. There are neither parking meters nor stopping restrictions. We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior,” says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman, one of the project’s co-founders. “The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”

Germany has 648 valid traffic symbols. The inner cities are crowded with a colorful thicket of metal signs. Some 20 million traffic signs have already been set up all over the country.

Psychologists have long revealed the senselessness of such exaggerated regulation.

About 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers.

Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow.,1518,448747,00.html


-no curbs, guide dogs, issues


Traffic congestion and motor vehicle crashes are widespread problems, especially in urban areas. Roundabouts, used in place of stop signs and traffic signals, are a type of circular intersection that can significantly improve traffic flow and safety. Where roundabouts have been installed, motor vehicle crashes have declined by about 40 percent, and those involving injuries have been reduced by about 80 percent. Crash reductions are accompanied by significant improvements in traffic flow, thus reducing vehicle delays, fuel consumption, and air pollution.

Several features of roundabouts promote safety. At traditional intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, some of the most common types of crashes are right-angle, left-turn, and head-on collisions. These types of collisions can be severe because vehicles may be traveling through the intersection at high speeds. With roundabouts, these types of potentially serious crashes essentially are eliminated because vehicles travel in the same direction. Installing roundabouts in place of traffic signals can also reduce the likelihood of rear-end crashes and their severity by removing the incentive for drivers to speed up as they approach green lights and by reducing abrupt stops at red lights. The vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts that occur at roundabouts generally involve a vehicle merging into the circular roadway, with both vehicles traveling at low speeds — generally less than 20 mph in urban areas and less than 30-35 mph in rural areas.

NEW APPROACH TO TRAFFIC- Increased courtesy and less selfishness??

Speigel notes: According to the concept, road users have to negotiate their behavior with each other, rather than have it prescribed by rules — the idea being that people will pay more attention to what other road users are doing and hence cause fewer accidents. They report that the Drachten experience worked; accidents there have declined dramatically since the new regime was introduced. “The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior,” says Monderman. “The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”

Why haven’t Americans tried this yet?

ISSUE::::   Traffic selfishness and American Mentality:

A quote by Sandra Thompson, a writer for the St. Petersburg Times,

Is there a pattern here? I think the problem is much more insidious than any of us acknowledge. These drivers are selfish, pure and simple, totally and irretrievably selfish. They are the only car on the road, as far as they’re concerned, and everyone else can just get the hell out of their way. It’s a real Hummer mentality, and it’s so pervasive that we really need to look at why so many people think they are the only person in the universe who counts. In the meantime, there’s only one way to deal with them. Treat them like every other lawbreaker. Get the cops out on the streets in force and ticket them to death. Before they kill the rest of us.



  • Traffic fatalities in 2009 were down by 35% from 2001.
  • Traffic crashes cost the City’s economy $4.29 billion annually.

  • Pedestrians are 10 times more likely to die than a motor vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.
  • NYC’s traffic fatality rate is about a quarter of the national rate and less than half the rate in the next 10 largest U.S. cities.
  • Driver inattention was cited in nearly 36% of crashes resulting in pedestrians killed or seriously injured.
  • 27% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved driver failure to yield.
  • Pedestrian-vehicle crashes involving unsafe speeds are twice as deadly as other crashes.
  • 80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers.

  • 79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve private vehicles, not taxis, trucks and buses.
  • Most New Yorkers do not know the city’s standard speed limit is 30 m.p.h.


preliminary research for part two

brief history on organizational city planning

The interaction between, man invention, and transportation has always played a major role in the design of the city. Traditionally, cities were built on efficiency and convenience. Uruk, the city noted by many experts and historians as the first city in history, was created by engulfing several smaller villages and linking them together through the creation of  several pathways. Most roads in the city led to a center,which was only passable by the human feet. Other roads radially encircled the city providing both easy transportation of goods from one end of the city to the other and  across borders to help protect from invading civilizations.This allowed pedestrians to walk freely around the town and vehicles to transport goods from one edge to another without encountering traffic. But, the main concept of success in organizing the city was separating the commercial sector from the social and residential sector(s) of the city.

barcelona, a city which juxtaposes traditional and modern city planning

brief history on interactive city planning

From the time of systematic bartering, natural pathways  provided the most simplistic transportation mediums. These pathways were naturally adjusted to accompany the traffic. The wider roads were built to handle heavy vehicle traffic, for both human and wagons. In the 17th Century, the British Parliament passed an act that separated vehicular traffic areas from foot traffic. These were the first modern sidewalk systems. This allocated space on the side of the road for pedestrians and became recognized as the first traffic regulation in history.

a drastic change in the traditional system

The Industrial Age not only produced a change in the way products were made, but it also caused a transformation in the way cities were designed. The development of vehicles singlehandedly caused planners to readjust the way they intended to develop their cities. For example, the first asphalt paved road in America appeared Washington DC 1877. A decade later, American automakers began producing thousands of automobiles, which could easily travel on these smooth roadways. Within 35 years of the first paved roads, cities began having major traffic problems. In 1901, Connecticut introduced the first speed limit in America.In 1910, Chicago implemented America’s first automatic traffic system. In 1932, the first parking system was created to help fix the traffic problem in American cities. These regulations in America, as assumed, were set in place decades later than those implemented by their European counterparts.



part two | analysis

of our original negotiations and taxonomic categories, we have decided to further study

pedestrian vs. vehicle traffic and being guided by common sense vs.  being guided by rules and regulations.

Though “traditional vs. modern city planning” seemed to have potential at first, we realized as we researched that the subject is quite broad. The referencing of historical precedents is incredibly important; it seems too broad of a subject to approach within the frame of this project. Also, it seems to have a different nature than our other negotiations, and we wish to remain somewhat consistent with our work.


pedestrian vs. vehicle traffic

The idea that when one is considered different when one is commanding a vehicle is quite interesting. While a person is using a vehicle, they lose the ability to empathize with the pedestrian. Perhaps some people are capable of retaining empathy for the walker, but for the most part, when one’s vehicular movement is impeded by an individual, he or she finds it annoying- just another obstacle- rather than accepting the limitations of going about on foot. This negotiation can be further explored through cases of pedestrian vs. vehicle; an example case is embedded above (in part one) of a rather rotund man resting on a bicycle and then being run over by someone backing out of a parking space.

This negotiation is particularly interesting because other cases can be incorporated into its research; for instance, the Critical Mass case involves the pitting of bikers versus drivers.

As a result of our research, we have decided to modify this negotiation (the original intention remains) to

mobile individuals vs. modes of transport.

We will be putting particular emphasis on people versus cars and bicycles. (that is not to say that other modes of transport are not equally effective). The phrase “mobile individuals” focuses on the individual whose goal is to move from one location to another, while “modes of transport” refers to cars and bicycles and their users. The user and the transport will be juxtaposed and merged in the second part of the negotiation. How does the bike or car affect the individual’s perception of mere pedestrians? How does the pedestrian perceive the “car” or the “bicycle”, which itself contains a user?

Though the mobile individual will most likely be a pedestrian, it may also be a car or bike user. It’s possible that, depending on the viewpoint, both sides of the negotiation could be referring to car users. How do the drivers oppose each other? How are they to navigate around one another?


being guided by common sense vs. being guided  by rules and regulations

This negotiation is investigating whether people are actually inherently decent. There are individuals in this world that believe the exact opposite (they are referred to as pessimists). Something that we found quite interesting about this design fix, though, was that in situations like this, people are required to trust and put their faith in others. This idea goes against the common trend of social detachment and isolation that overexposure to subjects such as excessively violent video games and oversexed teenagers perpetuates.

The Economist posted an article about Law versus Common Sense early in 2009 about a flagrant, 54 million dollar law suit based upon a dry cleaning shop losing a man’s pants. The lawsuit was thrown out, but the owners were still left with 100,000 dollars in court costs. To quote the article, “The rule of law is a wonderful thing, as anyone who has visited countries ruled by the whims of the powerful can attest. But you can have too much of a wonderful thing. And America has far too much law, argues Mr Howard in a new book, “Life without Lawyers”. For nearly every problem, lawmakers and bureaucrats imagine that more detailed rules are the answer. But people need to exercise their common sense, too. Alas, the proliferation of rules is making that harder.” This would seem to indicate that there is a certain level of rules that are needed to operate a normal society. At some point, however, the number of rules exceeds a critical mass and an overload begins. This could explain much of modern drivers frustrations and the increase in road rage. As drivers no longer have to rely on good common sense and respect of their surroundings, they close themselves into their vehicles and rely on the thousands of rules to get them to their destinations.



taxonomic categories, revisited

community-centric design

  • The “common sense” solution to traffic is defined by a reliance on the other members of the community to respect their surroundings. Once an outsider enters the design, they must interact with and temporarily join the community in order to achieve their objective (moving from point A to point B)B.)

organizational design

  • Aside from the original effort to revamp the system, there will be very little “formal organization” involved in this design. The organization in this design is improvised.
  •   An organization that is fighting for better systems and sustainability.

cooperative design

  • This design fix cannot function without the integration of the cogs, per se. If the people do not agree to cooperate within the new framework, the system will not function in an enhanced manner.
  •  can we judge whose turn it is?  trust your neighbor to stop for you?

transit design

  • We decided this taxonomic category is not up to par with the others. “Transit design” seems to imply more of a focus on the structure and design of the vehicle movement in many constraints.

lithium | common sense

9, نوفمبر 2010

A Green Light for Common Sense

commentary by lithium | Rachel Wu, Geoffrey Rees, Caitlyn Simpson, Marlon Brazelton

the streets of Bohmte, Germany

In Bohmte, Germany, a new solution to traffic management is being tested. Instead of implementing more restrictions with more reinforcement, in this German town, the citizens decided to completely revamp the way traffic is directed. They are tearing up streets and sidewalks and creating a neutral space in which nearly all traffic regulations are removed; instead of barely following traffic regulations, people are having to rely on their common sense to get them around. There are only two basic rules of the road: the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, and everyone must yield to the right.

a police officer in Bohmte

This new practice has proven statistically to be effective, with the incidence of traffic accidents reducing up to 95% in an area. Even with its successes, however, the new laws have been criticized, often constructively. This traffic management is only effective in lower traffic areas; roads on which these principles apply must also be only of a certain length lest the drivers just choose to circumvent the area completely.


lithium was intrigued by this set of traffic regulations because of how relient the theory is on the inherent decency of people. Within this “common sense management”, several aspects of design can be derived and researched. For instance, the ambiguous design of the street and sidewalk has a multitude of design negotiations behind it.


pedestrian vs. vehicle traffic

modern vs. traditional city planning

being guided by common sense vs.  being guided by rules and regulations

taxonomic categories

community-centric design; organizational design; cooperative design; transit design