Update: It made Slashdot this morning…

For some time, Hans Monderman has been advocated that the best way to make streets safer is to remove all the traffic control devices – lane marking, signs, singals, etc.

The idea is to make everyone slow down and figure out what’s going on around them. This has been piloted in the Dutch town of Drachten.

Yesterday two readers flagged an article in der Spiegel for me about more cities in Europe trying this out.

Apparently the der Spiegel piece hit the Drudge Report under the caption “Controlled Chaos” :-)

14 responses to “Mondermania”

  1. Now there is a different concept (not really). The only problem is… one must add legal precedant in places like America because to quote, Americans are a bunch of “litigous F*$%”.

    Which is so very very true. Europe on the other hand has a completely different attitude about it.

  2. That’s easy….”vehicles yield to pedestrians.” The key to making this work is design, especially pavement treatment that signals to motorists that they are entering a different world where they do not have special rights.
    Check out the new blocks in Chinatown…no curbs, different pavements…it sends a very different signal to all users. NE 42nd and Fremont would be good place to try this…a crossroads with an extra wide section of Fremont (where the streetcar used to reverse direction?). Also note the effectiveness of the raised crosswalks at PDX…they make clear that cars stop and proceed with caution.

  3. The Chinatown street is awesome. I thought at first it wasn’t even going to have traffic and then, I realized cars where still allowed there…

    But yeah, design goes a LONG LONG way in making these types of scenarios work.

    Still there is the strong need and precedent in MOST American cities (maybe not PDX?) for laws to cover every aspect of such a design.

  4. Law can provide a framework or opportunity, but design needs to be worked out with communities based on the specifics of location.
    PDOT’s primary agenda is to move motor vehicles; until that changes, nothing like this will happen in Portland because these kind of designs slow traffic. Are you reading this, Sam?

  5. Oregon is not the Netherlands or Germany. I lived in Germany and loved it but in Portland Oregon we had better move some more vehicles on our roads and highways or 200,000 jobs will be lost by 2030.

  6. I seem to recall that Eugene tried a pedestrian mall downtown. It was removed after decline of the surrounding area.

    Portland’s pedestrian malls seem to be very uninviting to pedestrians, with nothing fronting them to invite people.

    When “shared pedestrian/vehicle” streets are created, usually on-street parking can’t exist, except for the occassional delivery driver who stops for a brief moment, then drives off. When I was in Germany years ago, there were a number of such streets – usually paved with brick, and there were certain hours of the day were cars were forbidden, and others were cars were permitted. But even in a town of 45,000, there were several large parking garages that had to be built, to accomodate all the people that drove in from outlying areas and from the suburbs and small farming communities.

  7. The strategy in a number of European cities has been to create a car-free center, then provide access to that center by building parking at the periphery of the center.

    When we visited the Netherlands last year, the most sophisticated version of this concept I saw was in Rotterdam (although the center is not completely car free) which was planning about five ‘spokes’ corridors that would use a combination of arterial roads and light rail to move people into the central city.

    Of course, it helps a LOT to make this strategy work if you have good inter-city rail.

  8. To make these multi-modal streetscapes work you need lots of people. Nothing is worse than an empty plaza…check out Lovejoy Fountain.
    Interesting retail draws lots of people, maybe too many if you live a block off NW 23rd. To have retail that is not dependent on attracting out of neighborhood traffic, housing density must be high. Any comparison to Europe must note the much higher housing density that is common there.
    The closest we come is the experiment going on in the Pearl where higher density, good transit (read Streetcar) are combined with perfectly OK auto access. Couch is probably the best example…lots of peds, retail, multi-modal access where cars are OK, but not favored…until the foolish couplet plan wipes this out.
    But the key to mixing all modes safely is slowing things down. How best do we do that…with lots of signs, laws, cops, etc., or with innovative designs that have no signs but that clearly state this is not just a street, but a place for all.
    re jobs…OHSU’s tram is probably more central to the future of our economy than any road project.
    Research rules.

  9. I believe that (at least in theory) a car-free city center is a great idea. Except for deliveries of large items, personal vehicles seem unneeded and inefficient in a well-designed big city.

    Also, how many people actually realize that there are fountains/parks in the middle of those urban-renewal super-blocks? I’ve actually gone and seen them, and its nice without any traffic next to them, but they definitely can get lost in there. It just goes to show how street/vehicle-oriented we are.

  10. I am interested in taking this concept out of the urban core and into neighborhoods. Is there any reason except recent history that neighborhood streets have the same rules and designs as arterials and collectors?

    It seems that this is where we start up-ending the apple cart, i.e., have vehicles yield to pedestrians and cyclists, after all, neighborhood streets are for getting to and from home, not moving freight or commuters. Categorically lowering the maximum speed limit from 25 to 15 on these streets would allow designs that would make traveling fast uncomfortable.

    Why fight over downtown streets when the 600 plus cars a day going by my house cruise at 25mph plus and have the right of way (“out of my way, kid!”)? No impact on freight, no impact on mobility but a huge win for livability and safety.

  11. Categorically lowering the maximum speed limit from 25 to 15 on these streets would allow designs that would make traveling fast uncomfortable.

    I think this is the real starting point. Once you have low speeds lots of things become possible. Just look at the average state park campground – pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and RV’s all mix with kids of all ages running around. But you have to get the speeds down to where even a collision isn’t fatal.

  12. It is always amusing when some group talks about science only to twist it in their favor. In this case, science will tell you the heavier the vehicle, the longer it takes for that vehicle to come to a stop. This is why cars, trucks and busses have always had to stop and yield the right-of-way to trains. In other words, science tells us the majority of lighter vehicles with shorter stopping distances should be yielding to the heavier vehicles with longer stopping distances. This discussion however has so far only focused speed in an attempt to find a safety balance between modes rather than also addressing weight. Furthermore, another factor that also needs to be considered is the protective mass of the vehicle as it applies to the users, occupants and/or operators of various types of vehicles.

    Therefore, if speeds are to be reduced in the name of safety, the following also needs to take place:

    Large truck, semi and bus speeds must ALWAYS be set at 5 to 10 MPH slower than lighter weight cars and most classes of light trucks (pickups, vans & SUVs).

    When running on surface streets, or in a right-of-way where street and/or pedestrian crossings exist, the 5 to 10 MPH slower speeds must also apply to light rail vehicles and streetcars since both are heavier and have longer stopping distances than cars, most classes of light trucks and bicycles.

    Since bicycles are the for the most part the lightest weight vehicles with the shortest stopping distances on the streets, but also lack the protective mass of most other vehicles, bicycles must yield to all heavier vehicles, like motorists yield to heavier rail traffic, AND bicycle speeds must also be set at 5 to 10 MPH slower than cars and most classes of light trucks (due to the fact bicycles do not have any mass to protect riders).

  13. There is actually a very active and successful pedestrian “mall” in Portland: the riverfront marina down near the Strand, the marina & etc north of the Marquam. No cars allowed there, and no empty storefronts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *