I’ve said as much before, but in response to this Observer piece about Exhibition Road, I’ll say it again.
Is streetscape redesign enough on its own? Not in my view. People need to unlearn the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. A wider programme of reform is needed, above all, abolition of priority in favour of equality. Priority imposes aggressive rights-of-way based on artificial status of road or direction of travel. It encourages vehicle domination, inappropriate speed, neglect. It denies infinite filtering opportunities and expressions of fellow feeling. It produces a “need” for traffic lights – to break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross. (Yet traffic lights are no guarantee of safety – Westminster City Council’s latest safety audit shows that 44% of personal injury “accidents” occurred at traffic lights.) Most traffic control a grotesque exercise in self-defeat and waste of public money. The priority-based system makes roads dangerous in the first place. It puts the onus on children to beware motorists, when it could and should be the other way round. By contrast, equality harnesses our instinct for cooperation and stimulates empathy. As we rediscover our humanity, we start looking out for each other and taking it more or less in turns, as in all other walks of life. Given equality, our children would not have to learn age-inappropriate road safety drill. Blind people would be able to go in perfect safety. As a trade-off for proceeding at walking pace in urban settings, drivers should be free to go at their own chosen speed on motorways or the open road.