This post is by Clay Gump, a resident of College Park and member of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee.
The topic of a recent East Campus meeting was traffic and how to plan for it. The East Campus project is going to present a challenge when dealing with the large mix of pedestrian, auto, and bicycle traffic. While the developer representative was detailing the options maintaining traffic flow I recalled a interesting concept I had read about in Discover Magazine called “Shared Space.” The East Campus project could very well present a fantastic opportunity to utilize this concept. Basically the idea is to remove all traffic controlling signs, signals, and rules. Sounds crazy right? Well the numbers sound promising. In the town of Drachten in the Netherlands one intersection had an average of eight accidents per year. After the signs were removed that number dropped to one per year while reducing congestion by 20 percent. Here is a fascinating video discussing this crossing.
The entire concept is based on the idea of perceived risk whereby all creatures (even the road raged commuter) will adjust behavior when there is a perceived risk. Having signs and marking telling the drivers exactly what to do actually discourages drivers to be aware of their surroundings. This might also explain why those with anti lock brakes drive faster and cyclist with helmets get into more accidents. Come to think of it it might also explain why I backed up my new car into a rock even though I had the “parking assist” option. Of course I could just be a bad driver.
Keep in mind this is not a traffic calming scheme or a pedestrian “zone” rather it is a way of incorporating a “community sense” to an area that encourages intermingling of all traffic types. Groovy man.
Another effort is on in the Kensington borough in London to “Declutter” the streets in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. They have reduced pedestrian accidents by more than 40 percent. Considering the safety history of Route 1 in general I think it is time to adopt some new thinking in how we design our intersections. Maybe East Campus could be a model for Shared Space design and give the folks at SHA something to think about when it comes time to improve Route 1.