URBAN VELOCITY

Where The Sidewalk Ends
Behavioral psychology’s unexpected lesson for urban design
(Linda Baker)
[excerpts]
“The idea of this street is that it’s designed like a public square but it’s open to traffic,” said Ellen Vanderslice, a project manager for the Portland Department of Transportation. “We were very consciously trying to create a body language of the street that tells people something different is going on here.”

Combining traffic engineering, urban planning and behavioral psychology, the projects are inspired by a provocative new European street design trend known as “psychological traffic calming,” or “shared space.” Upending conventional wisdom, advocates of this approach argue that removing road signs, sidewalks, and traffic lights actually slows cars and is safer for pedestrians. Without any clear right-of-way, so the logic goes, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed.

“The whole notion behind psychological traffic calming is to give drivers responsibility for the speed they choose,” said Andrew Parkes, a research scientist at the U.K.-based Transport Research Laboratory (TRL)

I’m trying to visualize a shared right-of-way. I squint and see the cars moving very very slow. Read the article from Seed magazine; it’s really a different take on controlling urban velocities.

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