Monday, June 23, 2008


What would encourage you to drive a car more carefully and safely? What would encourage you to look out for other road users more diligently, and not drive under the influence? You can choose between state-of-the-art airbags, seatbelts and crumple-proof doors, or simply a big fucking sharp spike sticking out of the steering wheel and pointed towards your heart.

This idea isn't so fanciful and can be compared to the German town of Blohmte's traffic experiment (apparently a total success in its first month with not a single incident to report among cars or pedestrians) - essentially the antithesis of the highly maternalistic UK.

In fact, the more you think about it, the more extensive its implications are revealed.


John McAndrew said...

"...or simply a big fucking sharp spike sticking out of the steering wheel and pointed towards your heart."

Sheesh, calm down, it won't be that long before Saw V is out! :P

David Waterston said...

Here in the Netherlands (at least in residential areas outside of the major cities) it's quite common to merge the road and pavement into a single, smooth surface and remove all markings. Car drivers are then driving on a large pedestrian/pavement area with no right of way, implied or otherwise.
Like the German experiment you link to it is very successful in forcing drivers out of autopilot / king-of-the-road mode.

You might find the description of the relatively radical Dutch approach (implemented since the late '70s) interesting. See'l.html

flora_mundi said...

i'm happy and not entirely surprised. we become dependent on regulations of various sorts to absolve us of responsibility for our own behaviour and in the process, we can forget that responsibility is empowering.

William Bennett said...

yes, very good point

Ea-M. said...

I just can't help noticing the rather stupid sentiment of forcing people to ride their bikes on cobblestone... It doesn't exactly encourage people to chose the enviromentally responsible and healthy transportation solution. But then again i'd rather just have all the cars out of the cities, better bicyckle paths and efficient transportation (but that really wasn't the issue here...)

Graeme said...

To ensure I'm driving safely in the city, I tend to ask my wife to drive. She's more cautious and more patient than I am, so I know it's a safer, less frustrating arrangement.

I don't think that experiment would work here in the States. Even if higher gas prices are slowly eroding the sense of entitlement our drivers tend to have, our car culture is just too toxic for a 'no rules' approach. Follow this link for a slightly more extreme example of what we deal with:

Graeme said...

Well, that link didn't work, so I'll just summarize:

Over the weekend here in SF, two cars met in an alleyway. There was a standoff for a minute, but one guy ended up backing up to let the other guy through.

This outcome wasn't enough of a win for the other guy, so he shot the man who got out of his way. And his two sons. All three are now dead.

That's the American extreme. While it's not typical, the stupid rage is. American drivers are absolutely toxic, and you can read the comments on any SF Gate story about bicycling to get a taste of it.

UNREST said...

"...or simply a big fucking sharp spike sticking out of the steering wheel and pointed towards your heart."

One of the leading RTC instructors in my brigade said the exact same thing to me ten years ago. A man who have attended countless road accidents and spent years developing, perfecting and teaching different extrication techinques. Of all the vital knowledge he imparted this one stuck in my mind more than the rest.

paul said...

reminds me of this video shot in hanoi:

William Bennett said...

paul, what a great video that is, esp. the aerial shot!