Traffic without traffic signals

by Russ Roberts on March 8, 2007

in Complexity & Emergence

In this earlier post, I wrote about the European trend toward removing traffic signals and relying instead on informal methods of communication. How would such a change actually work in practice? Some diligent readers (Romulo Lopez and Jose Andrade) found some extraordinary videos of traffic-signal-free traffic. The short answer is that it works surprisingly well, though it’s not clear whether there are fewer accidents or more accidents and what the net impact is on travel time. What is clear from these videos is that a world of informal communication is dramatically LOUDER as the horn appears to play a crucial role in either communicating or catharsis or both.

Check these out. They have a ballet-like quality that is mesmerizing. In some of the sequences it works so well it almost looks staged. Whether it would work in American culture and with a different mix of cars and motorbikes is hard to say. But this is incredible:

Hanoi

Another Hanoi

Somewhere in Vietnam (at night!)

India

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