Redesigning roads to leave drivers and pedestrians uncertain about who has priority will save lives, according to a report by the County Surveyors’ Society.
The report says that barriers and signs such as railings, kerbs, traffic lights and white lines cause crashes because people assume they will keep them safe and therefore fail to focus on what other road users are doing. Giving drivers less information by removing signs will encourage them to slow down to negotiate a safer course along high streets and junctions.
The report, Travel is Good, recommends a revolution in road design. It calls for widespread adoption of the concept of ‘shared space’, pioneered in the Netherlands and better known in Britain as ‘naked streets’.
In the Dutch town of Drachten the removal of traffic lights at one big junction resulted in crashes falling from 36 in the four years before the scheme was introduced to two in the next two years. The average time for each vehicle to cross the junction fell from 50 seconds to 30 seconds despite a rise in the volume of traffic.
In Kensington High Street, London, fewer pedestrians are being injured after almost 600 metres of railings were removed to allow people to cross where they liked. In the two years since they were removed, pedestrian casualties declined three times faster than the capital’s average. Traffic engineers believe that drivers are keeping a sharper eye out for pedestrians because they may cross at any point.