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April 2009 Blog Posts (29)

The JET and culture change

Details are under wraps, but thanks to the hard-won support of a council, a JET (Junction Efficiency Trial) has lift-off. The aim is to explore potential improvements in congestion and road-user interaction. The current culture - based on major/ minor road separation, priority and unequal rights - fosters a "get out of my way" mindset which flouts social custom. It produces a "need" for lights - to break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross in relative (but not guaranteed)… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 30, 2009 at 21:00 — 4 Comments

Inefficiency and injustice

Vicious parking controls, inconsistent bus lanes, 24-hour traffic lights, the 'crime' of 'speeding', no scope for intelligent discretion, above all, inequality imposed by priority. Why is that mother with pram marooned on a traffic island? Because the green light tells traffic to ignore her. Why is that district nurse facing an indefinite wait on a B-road? Because she is faced with fast-moving traffic from opposite directions on the A-road, licensed to plough on. If the law is an ass, nowhere… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 26, 2009 at 20:00 — No Comments

Naturally honest and cooperative

In a test of the nation’s honesty, a Sunday Times reporter left £20 notes in cash machines across the country. All except one next in line called out and returned the note, prompting the conclusion that despite our jaded view of human nature, most people do the right thing. Similarly, most people on the road are co-operative. But misguided regulation, above all the priority rule, makes us act against our better nature. The problem is not the public. The problem is public policy.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 26, 2009 at 8:00 — 3 Comments

JET set

It's important to understand the context of priority in which I question the value of traffic lights. For anyone who sees my calls for abolition as extreme, I've always recognised that at certain junctions at peak times, some control might be needed. But how do we know until we've tried it? Hence my pursuit of a JET = Junction Efficiency Trial. We need to base road policy on a trust in human nature rather than an obsession with controlling it. We need a level playing-field for all road-users,… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 25, 2009 at 12:30 — No Comments

Think! My foot!

Councils and the DfT pride themselves on their shiny new road safety campaign, Think! Along stretches of road such as the A39, panels announce road death numbers, and road signs shout Think! Will that help? For one thing, the signs take our eyes off the road. For another, they assume that road deaths are due to bad driving. Above all, they fail to recognise the role that defective regulation and road design play in creating the circumstances in which "accidents" are inevitable.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 24, 2009 at 18:30 — No Comments

Priority turns roads into conflict zones

More evidence that priority is the fatal flaw at the heart of the system in this story from the US, about Swedish visitors hit by a truck as they crossed the road. The authorities call it an accident, but could it be another avoidable event arising from the misguided rules of the road? Note how it lobs a grenade into the mechanics of human interaction and turns fellow road-users into foes.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 24, 2009 at 10:00 — No Comments

Car scrappage scheme

It seems a travesty to junk serviceable cars such as the Focus in the background. Couldn't old cars be given to owners of genuine old bangers? Why is the scheme facilitating the purchase of new cars only? Why not fuel-efficient secondhand cars too? Why does it fail to stipulate ultra-low emissions for new cars purchased, such as the Econetic pictured? Moreover, the scheme negates the ethos of recycling. Maintaining an existing car involves a smaller… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 23, 2009 at 16:30 — No Comments

Slow motion

Pertinent piece by Will Self in Standard here. To return to the site, use Back tab.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 22, 2009 at 18:30 — No Comments

Is now the time for your tears?

Roads will never be safe until there is fundamental reform of the rules which set the stage for conflict. In the transport minister's much-trumpeted "wide-ranging proposals to cut road deaths" not a single question is raised about the defective system of priority which makes roads dangerous in the first place.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 21, 2009 at 15:30 — No Comments

Road safety "experts" missing the point - again

Speed limits are in the news again. As usual, the govt approach is coercive rather than organic. If you’re trying to cross an A-road, how will it help if the streams of traffic coming at you from opposite directions are doing 50 rather than 60? If anything, the gaps between vehicles will be even smaller. No, the way to make roads safe is to scrap main road priority with its culture of aggression, and let people do what is natural and intrinsically safe: slow down for others who were there… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 21, 2009 at 7:00 — No Comments

Pythagorean skills denied

Some of my favourite writing on the subject of counterproductive traffic control is by (Prof) John Adams. He calls pedestrians "Nature's Pythagoreans", i.e. we have an instinct for geometry, preferring the shortest route, often diagonal, between two points. But traffic engineers seek to structure our movement into a sequence of staggered right-angles, often involving backwards progress through pedestrian traffic islands (called "pens": yes, they see us as sheep). The revamp of Oxford Circus… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 19, 2009 at 12:30 — No Comments

Parallels with defective drugs policy

In an "unprecedented attack on global drugs policy", Michael Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund to Fights Aids, TB and Malaria, says the use of illicit drugs must be decriminalised if efforts to halt the spread of Aids are to succeed (Observer). He denounces policy which treats addiction as a crime, and accuses govts of repressive measures that deny human rights and put public health needs last. He argues that govts should switch from a focus on criminal justice to a strategy of harm… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 19, 2009 at 11:30 — No Comments

The case for disobeying traffic lights

For obvious and pressing reasons it's our duty and inclination to save energy. If I come to a red light and can see there is no conflicting traffic, it would be wrong to wait and pollute the air unnecessarily. No good switching off the engine, because switching it back on uses more fuel and produces a burst of exhaust gases. In any event, why should I wait for no reason? So the responsible thing is to proceed with caution. So begins the case for the defence, your Honour.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 18, 2009 at 21:30 — No Comments


Inspiring piece in Guardian about Holocaust survivor, psychologist and 'resilience' theorist, Boris Cyrulnik. His belief that empathy is instinctive and the cornerstone of humanity echoes my philosophy of life on the roads. When left to our own devices, we empathise and get on fine. When straitjacketed by an imposed set of rules that deny humanity and defy commonsense, we suffer and get the blame for the fallout (= "accidents", "road rage", congestion).

Added by Martin Cassini on April 18, 2009 at 13:30 — No Comments

Great Dane and outbreak of BSE

With reference to a clip of Gordon Brown tongue-tying himself in knots over the smear 'scandal', the 'Great Dane', Sandy Toksvig, on The One Show, said there was an outbreak of BSE - Blame Someone Else. Yes, and applied to roads, policymakers contrive a lethal playing-field then BSE when things go wrong.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 17, 2009 at 19:00 — No Comments

Accident or murder?

The cyclist killed at Elephant & Castle was Meryem Ozekman, 37. Another victim of our defective traffic control system, Rebecca Goosen, 29, was killed as she turned left from Old St into Goswell St, EC1. Boris proposes left turn on red for cyclists. Nibbling at the edges! The system of priority - that's what needs fixing! Rules should be re-thought and streets re-designed to allow civilised filtering. Then there will be an end to these unspeakable "accidents". Is the DfT guilty of… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 17, 2009 at 7:30 — No Comments

Writing on the Wall

The writing about peak oil and climate change has been on the wall for decades, so the government's announcement about support for electric cars is overdue. It's not clear if they are finally getting round to subsidising manufacturers, or only making empty offers to consumers. Most electric cars or hybrids are unattractive, unaffordable or unpractical. Also, as I've said before, when we're driving "green" cars, will we still be subject to all the oppressive traffic controls currently in force?

Added by Martin Cassini on April 16, 2009 at 8:30 — No Comments

Hold the front page!

The Mayor of London is planning to trial left turn on red for cyclists. No, what needs trialling (to prove the obvious) is substitution of main road priority with no priority - to provide equal opportunity for all road-users and to stimulate safe, efficient filtering. Then we won't need traffic lights, or the green wave trumpeted by the DfT. Along with amber-flashing lights at side roads, the green wave has worked in Germany for decades. As usual, the people in charge of… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 14, 2009 at 18:30 — No Comments

Call to reform the rules of the road

The rules of the road alienate us from each other and our surroundings. They negate the civil manners that structure social interaction. In life, we are sensitive to the needs of others. We take it in turns. When traffic signals break down and standard rules don't apply, the same considerate behaviour emerges. Instead of inefficient consecutive queueing, we get good-natured simultaneous filtering. People say the rules of the road should be obeyed. I say they should be abolished.

Added by Martin Cassini on April 13, 2009 at 22:00 — No Comments

Bus damage

In today's Observer, Sebastian Faulks notes that local objections to a new bus route through his W11 conservation area were ignored. As predicted, average occupancy is low, with empty buses - called a 'Boris' - commonplace. The area, writes Faulks, has been turned "into an 18-hours-a-day skid-pan-cum-test track for roaring, empty single-deckers." Coincidentally, when getting the paper, I had noted buses speeding between lights, and braking sharply at red. As mentioned in my article… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on April 12, 2009 at 8:30 — 1 Comment

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