A half-heard news item on Today was about 11 year-olds immersed in their mobile phones being three times more likely (than 10 year-olds?) to be hit on the roads. No doubt the usual suspects will blame children’s lack of awareness. But children are not to blame. The rules of the road are to blame. They put the onus on the child to beware the motorist when it could, and in any civilised society should be the other way round. We need to change the basic rule of the road from priority to equality. ”After you” instead of ”Get out of my way!” As well as endangering the vulnerable road-user, the current system gives rise to expensive traffic regulation which treats the symptoms, never the root cause of our problems on the road.
The ideas behind Equality Streets have been called “counterintuitive” (a polite word for weird?). Are equality and filter-in-turn weird, or is the traffic system – by imposing unequal rights and subverting our social nature – more than a bit weird?
If I’m right: that the edifice of traffic control, based as it is on anti-social priority, is flawed and misguided; and that self-control on streets designed for equality are safer and more efficient than streets governed by priority and signals, what is the nature of the delusion that holds sway, and why does a vast state-sponsored industry uphold it? It’s akin to the power of religion in the Middle Ages. It’s no coincidence that the traffic rulebook is known in the profession as “the bible”.
Scenes like this are repeated ad infinitum up and down the land.
A Commons committee says the £33bn we’re to spend on high-speed rail will be a waste of money. The transport secretary says that’s nonsense; we have to “compete” with other countries. But I’m just back from Manchester where a fast Pendolino train arrived on time, but where connections on old, unreliable trains waited for onward journeys. We could link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Sunderland and Newcastle with fast, clean, comfortable trains for a fraction of the cost of HS2, and it would do far more for the economy. But I suppose it would neither impress nor interest foreigners. From Simon Hoggart’s week, Guardian 17 May 2013
What does HS2 have in common with the congestion charge? It will cost the earth, and it is being imposed before large-scale traffic system reform has even been tried. Cars are uniquely convenient, allowing you to go door-to-door at times of your choosing, and they are getting greener all the time. Poynton shows that sociable design enabling self-control cuts congestion and makes roads safe. Despite the evidence, traffic authorities continue to throw good money after bad on systems of counterproductive control, and government backs infrastructure projects that do nothing for outlying regions or the man in the street.
In banking and consumer affairs, regulation may be necessary, because self-interest is driven by profit. On the roads, regulation is counterproductive. Why? Because self-interest = the common interest. My interest in not hitting you mirrors your interest in not hitting me. My rulebook would consist of just two rules. Drive on the left, and take it more or less in turns.
A few years ago, the Guardian ran an editorial against me in praise of traffic lights. Are they beginning to see the light? http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/09/in-praise-of-poynton-intersection
“ … the doubters have been confounded” – this links to a piece in a local paper which quotes me – presumably they took it from YouTube, inserting their own punctuation.
On 8 May 2013, before the start of a conference organised by PACTS (government road safety advisory council) for the UN’s Decade of Action, I met transport minister, Patrick McLoughlin. What did he think of Poynton? He looked blank. I briefed him, but still he looked blank. In his later “keynote” address, he blamed dangerous drivers, especially texters, as if they were exclusively responsible for “accidents”. He failed to attach any blame to the traffic control system which makes roads dangerous in the first place, and his ”solutions” were all about enforcement. Not a word about traffic system reform or designing roads for safety. Depressing.