The Null Device

"I like traffic lights"

Momus makes a few points about car-centric urban design:
It's always seemed to me that a society's respect for humanity might be better measured by the length of its pedestrian crossing signals than by any number of abstract declarations of support for "universal human rights". Cars are the closest thing we have in our society to predators, capable of picking off the weak; they're malevolent steel sharks or pumas, cruising our cities, hogging the head of the food chain.
Car signals stay green up to ten times longer than foot traffic signals do. Pedestrians sometimes only get a cross signal when they "apply" for it by pressing a request button. It just seems that car traffic is seen as "economically rational" and "necessary", whereas foot traffic is somewhat dilettante, an afterthought, unimportant.
Often, in studies, only the motorist's convenience is taken into account. Manhattan traffic police admitted, for instance, that a barrier scheme to prevent pedestrians crossing 6th Avenue by forcing them to walk up the block to the next crossing point was deemed a success because it reduced traffic wait times. The extra time added to the pedestrian's journey wasn't even measured, though, and this despite the fact that 6 or 7 times more people were crossing town on foot at these locations than in cars.

There are 1 comments on ""I like traffic lights"":

Posted by: Alexander Sat Sep 9 16:43:09 2006

That seems a bit silly to me. All cities (apart from Brasilia and not much else) began as gatherings of buildings on the edges of streets. The difference is today that instead of people and horsecarts the streets are occupied by cars. The actual car-centric thing comes from cities like Brasilia (which was designed with cars in mind from square one onwards) and motorways. Those are the real car-centrically conceived city-killers. The fact that in Manhattan people were forced to use pedestrian crossings is good, not bad, and should be implemented elsewhere. And you can bet whatever you like that a journey on foot won't be delayed as long by crossings as much as traffic lights delay journeys for cars. The solution would be eliminating cars from areas used mostly by pedestrians, but I digress. This might just make a good post.