Recently there’s been a bunch of articles about “second-generation traffic calming.” The basic idea is simple, but sounds crazy: remove all signs, traffic lights, and lane markings. Eliminate the curb separating the sidewalk from the street.

This does several things. It emphasizes the street as a space to be shared between pedestrians and drivers. It encourages drivers to slow down (although the street may also need to be narrowed as well). Once the speed is down to about 20 mph, then drivers are slow enough to negotiate around other drivers and pedestrians without the need for signs. And since intersections don’t have stop signs or traffic lights anymore, total travel time actually goes down, because you no longer have to come to a complete stop at intersections.

This is already being tried in Europe with good results. Could it work here in the U.S.? I could see it working in some downtown and suburban residential neighborhoods; in fact, it’s already working in West Palm Beach, Florida, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it tried out in my neighborhood. But doing this on a 6-lane arterial surrounded by strip malls would be a bit much.

A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts • New York Times • January 22, 2005

Roads Gone Wild • Wired Magazine • December 2004

Why don’t we do it in the road? • Salon • May 20, 2004