The pestilence of auto-centrism: “To Make Streets Safer, Seattle May Get Rid of Traffic Signals.”


As I’ve said many times before, you simply cannot grasp how badly most of us drive until we’ve walked (or biked) the same streets we speed through in our cars. Take away the protective wrapping of metal and plastic, and the truth has a better chance of seeping into our craniums.

Stop to consider that as much as I walk in downtown New Albany, it isn’t possible for me to constantly monitor signalized intersections. My sampling size is very small, and yet one or two times daily, I witness drivers speeding to race through yellow and red lights — in a densely populated urban area. Imagine the daily total.

The fact remains that the vast majority of complaints about streets and roads, from potholes through roundabouts, primarily are expressions of annoyance at being forced to reduce speed. And yet, speed obviously kills.

We’re not doing very well looking into those mirrors, are we?

To Make Streets Safer, Seattle May Get Rid of Traffic Signals, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

Here’s an intriguing idea to make city streets safer. Seattle is reviewing 10 intersections to see if traffic signals should be replaced with four-way stops.

Signalized intersections carry special risks. Drivers often accelerate into the intersection during the yellow phase to “beat the light,” for instance, leading to high-speed crashes. The Federal Highway Administration warns that improperly placed signals may “significantly increase collisions” [PDF, page 9-35].

One alternative to signals is a roundabout, in which traffic entering the intersection is deflected by a center island, and incoming drivers yield to traffic in the circle. One study cited by the FHWA founds the crashes with injuries declined 78 percent at nine intersections after signals were replaced with roundabouts.

Another option is the basic four-way stop, which is more common in America.