Traffic Lights

If you’ve ever talked to me for more than a few seconds regarding the topic of commuting you know that I’m not a fan of driving to or from work. Jenn & I share this duty (thankfully) as I drive in the morning while she does her makeup and she drives in the evening.

It’s an empty white whine coming from someone who lives in the suburbs and works in Midtown, but I can think of a million things I’d rather do with my time instead of driving.

One of my recent pet peeves is the appearance of speed-monitoring signs in my neighborhood and on my commute route that display my current speed. These aren’t red light cameras or speed traps, just very public reminders that I do (occasionally) drive over the speed limit.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I’m happy to see them. They’re placed in strategic locations that are potentially hazardous due to the near-constant presence of children and pedestrians.

But I’m only human after all and quite prone to contradicting myself and changing my mind and getting really pissy at a sign which flashes at me when I’m going 26 in a 25 on my way to pick up a pizza. That sign can be a real asshole.

On Monday Joeventures featured a great video about The Speed Camera Lottery which is an interesting little twist on the speed-monitoring signs which have my opinions so twisted. Speeders end up paying their fines into a pool which law-abiding (read: slower) citizens can win in a lottery. Everybody gets their picture taken and speed recorded so everyone has the potential to be punished and/or rewarded.

Here’s the The Speed Camera Lottery – The Fun Theory video:

I don’t think I’d mind the speed cameras I encounter (on the days they bother me) quite as much if I had the chance to win some money for obeying the law.

Then yesterday the awesome Brand Flakes for Breakfast blog mentioned 8 redesigns of classic traffic lights that I somewhat recall seeing late last year. Not sure the whole hourglass metaphor would ever catch on, but it’s great to see people thinking differently about an object that “controls” some of our daily life.

I immediately flashed on a story – one I can’t recall bookmarking – about a small village somewhere in Western Europe that had done away with traffic lights, signage and even lines on the road. I can’t find it to save my life, but I did find a video that must have been a part of the original blog post.

That uncontrolled intersection1 is the work of the late Hans Monderman and is built upon the design philosophy of Shared space. I’m no traffic or safety or efficiency expert, but it just looks cool to see folks – drivers, bikers, pedestrians – all using the road peacefully.2

If you want to know a little bit more about Monderman and Shared space (apart from Wikipedia) check out Wired and Wilson Quarterly.

The one thing that bothers me in all of this discussion of traffic and lights and signs and lines and cars and people and time and distance isn’t the commute, it’s my inability to properly cite the blog or blogs that originally led me to the Monderman video/article that I still can’t find. It’s likely Kottke, but I may never know.

Since I can’t find the original – and since, if you’ve read this far, you’re dying for longer-form writing needs serious quenching – check out Give Me Something To Read. It’s something akin to @longreads/Longreads but with a more crowd-sourced bent. Plus, I know I got it from Kottke.

See you in the HOV lane (or at the stoplight)!

1When my folks lived in Sheboygan, Wisconsin I would regularly drive through one of that city’s 3 uncontrolled intersections. Two roads, traffic potentially converging from four directions, and not so much as a single Yield or Stop sign.

2Credit to Merlin Mann for my use of superscript citations today. I wanted to break up all the parentheticals in 2011.

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