Monday, June 13, 2011

If everyone obeyed traffic laws, it would be easier for everyone to obey traffic laws

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.



Via Felix Salmon, a surprisingly entertaining video showing bikes, pedestrians, and cars all duking it out for limited street space in a NYC intersection.

Urban planning isn't exactly my forte, so mostly, I'm reposting this as a curiosity. But I do think the video suggests the degree to which culture can affect transit habits. When it comes to dangerous driving and traffic law violations, we like to think of drivers as the primary offenders -- maybe because your mistakes become so much more costly when you're guiding around a two-ton block of metal. This video, however, demonstrates quite clearly that nobody in NYC -- perambulators and pedalers included -- pays all that much attention to traffic rules.

For me the video highlights the futility of improving urban transportation safety by focusing on cars alone (or bikers, or pedestrians, for that matter). After all, the incentive to drive safely varies to the degree which everyone else is also driving safely. That's because the less everyone collectively follows the law, the more likely it is that any given person will be in an accident despite following the law letter for letter. For instance, drivers would perhaps be more concerned about following the rules, and not risking bikers' lives, if the bikers themselves seemed less inclined to put their own lives at risk by riding the wrong way down streets and careening through red lights. As things stand, a commuter who treats intersections as complete free-for-alls might get where he's going much faster, but isn't any less at risk from kamikaze cyclists and clueless cabbies.

I don't have much more than that to add, except that this is a big part of why Minneapolis cops should be better about ticketing anyone who bikes on the sidewalk. Seriously -- those people are a menace. And they're a direct obstacle to the development of an appropriately communitarian transit culture! Unacceptable!

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