Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CNU: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 2--Morning)

The first day had a range of tours through various parts of London where design improvements had been implemented. Without this on the second day we covered less ground physically but more figuratively.

Day 2: Tuesday 13th November 2007

First off there where two related talks on pedestrian friendly urban design, accommodating traffic but equalizing the currently dysfunctional relationship of priorities between human and vehicular traffic. The first talk was given by Ben Hamillton-Baillie who has worked on the UK Guide for Streets and done research into the legal situation with regards signage and barrier requirements. It is important that councils can feel confident that they are legally secure if they decide to avoid using excessive signage and barriers. It turns out that in the UK at least the fears of litigation by drivers are unfounded. There are many guidance notes, green paper and other reports on signs and street design but virtually all of it is advisory.

Given this context, the second talk, by Hans Moderman covers a change in paradigm that is legally practical. Interestingly Hans has a very libertarian perspective on the relation between people in cars and on there feet. The key idea is of changing the behaviour of drivers not by using laws but by changing context: don't set 30 mph speed limits that people don't follow, slow traffic even further by simply designing streets that are amenable to lower speeds. Introducing uncertainty for the driver and re-enfranchising the pedestrian are methods. The ideas that Hans puts forward (Telegraph Article) are based on careful and long term measurement of test schemes and on universals of human behaviour. It seems--and this is gaining acceptance--that people behave rationally if you don't dictate rules to them! Removing confusing signage and road marking are part of this as is a general reduction of street clutter; another part is making it appear thorugh choice of materials and careful design that cars, bikes, people, all have a right to the street. The feeling that is created for drivers is one 'like driving on a cycle lane that you are allowed to use' there is a sense that people and bike have the right to walk wherever they like and that you just have to deal with it: bye and large people do deal with it very efficiently! In fact watching a video clip of a Hans Moderman roundabout at a busy junction is hypnotic in its fluidity. One junction with >20'000 cars a day was seen to function without a single cyclist stopping in 24hr!

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