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Order emerges in unexpected places

Posted By Russ Roberts On March 2, 2007 @ 11:00 am In Complexity & Emergence | Comments Disabled

European cities are cutting back on traffic signs [1] in order to let order emerge. (HT: August from a comment here at the Cafe):

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.

And later on in the article:

But one German borough is already daring to take the step into
lawlessness. The town of Bohmte in Lower Saxony has 13,500 inhabitants.
It’s traversed by a country road and a main road. Cars approach
speedily, delivery trucks stop to unload their cargo and pedestrians
scurry by on elevated sidewalks.

The road will be re-furbished in early 2007, using EU funds. "The
sidewalks are going to go, and the asphalt too. Everything will be
covered in cobblestones," Klaus Goedejohann, the mayor, explains.
"We’re getting rid of the division between cars and pedestrians."

The plans derive inspiration and motivation from a large-scale
experiment in the town of Drachten in the Netherlands, which has 45,000
inhabitants. There, cars have already been driving over red natural
stone for years. Cyclists dutifully raise their arm when they want to
make a turn, and drivers communicate by hand signs, nods and waving.

"More than half of our signs have already been scrapped," says
traffic planner Koop Kerkstra. "Only two out of our original 18 traffic
light crossings are left, and we’ve converted them to roundabouts." Now
traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: "Yield to the
right" and "Get in someone’s way and you’ll be towed."

Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically.

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