…modifying roads and intersections so drivers are less comfortable—by making driving, in some ways, more dangerous—forces people to slow down and pay attention, producing a change in behavior that, paradoxically, results in more safety. This is also true for pedestrians, who Vanderbilt says are more cautious away from crosswalks than within them because they don’t know if cars will actually stop.
It reminds me of the idea of shared space that’s gained some popularity, particularly in Europe. In slow traffic areas, such as city centres, streets are completely unmarked. There are not even kerbs to indicate what is road and what is pavement. The idea is that all road users will mingle and “…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.”
Apparently it’s been remarkably successful in reducing traffic speeds, diminishing the number of accidents and speeding up journeys across town. Writing that makes it sound too good to be true, so I wonder if anyone with traffic planning experience can shed further light on it? I’d be surprised if there were no risk reducing measures we could take that didn’t result in complete compensation in people’s behaviour.