Free to Choose

Free to Move

June 2009 Blog Posts (16)

How £much for a human life?

My heated debates with traffic engineers often concern their practice of giving everything, including road safety, an economic value. They allow £2m for a life. Today, in the 4th Reith lecture about the new citizenship by Michael Sandel, I heard my objections expressed along these lines: cost-benefit analysis is spurious because there are certain things which can’t be measured or given an economic value, most notably, human life. In renouncing moral judgement, the technocrat becomes… Continue

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

When does a crowd become dangerous?

The following, from a piece about crowd behaviour (Guardian Weekend, 27.6.09), is relevant to our debate about solutions being within us rather than in formal traffic control. Paul Wertheimer, of Crowd Management Strategies, investigated the crowd "stampede" (10 dead) at The Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979, and is the expert witness for the family of the man who was crushed to death in Walmart last year. He bases his theories on first-hand…


Added by Martin Cassini on June 29, 2009 at 9:30 — No Comments

Binding human nature

Discussing bio-engineering in his third Reith lecture about the new citizenship, Michael Sandel said, “Changing our nature to fit the world, rather than the other way round, is the deepest form of disempowerment”. It echoes something I said in my Newsnight report: “Instead of making human nature conform to a system, shouldn’t we devise a system that conforms to human nature?”

Added by Martin Cassini on June 28, 2009 at 22:30 — No Comments

Yahoo on shared space

Familiar territory to us, but there's quite a good overview of shared space on Yahoo News, with a useful round-up of pros and cons, and plenty of comments here. (Back tab to return to site.)

Added by Martin Cassini on June 28, 2009 at 15:55 — No Comments

A silent scream

Will our JET ever see lift-off? At a junction where lights failed and congestion disappeared, only to reappear when the lights were back on, we are proposing a lights v no-lights Junction Efficiency Trial to see what happens long term when people are left to their own devices. But officials are calling for signs at every single approach telling drivers and pedestrians to look both ways and beware, as if they wouldn't do so anyway! The thought of distracting signage defeating the object by… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 26, 2009 at 12:30 — 2 Comments

Cause for celebration?

According to DfT statistics, the number of people killed on UK roads is at a record low. In 2008, there were 28,567 KSIs (killed or seriously injured), 7% down on 07. Despite that unspeakable annual toll of dead, injured and affected, these figures are publicly welcomed. On FiT Roads - where equality would bring a culture of "After you" rather than "Get out of my way!" - there might be no KSIs at all. Any accidents that might occur would be true accidents, down to human error alone, not events… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 25, 2009 at 13:30 — No Comments

Moral compass

Jonathan Glancey (Guardian 20.6.09) recommends Ruskin's Unto The Last as essential reading for politicians. "Political economy is not a mechanism, it's an organism." I couldn't help seeing a parallel with our unjust traffic control system. Traffic engineers see humanity as chaos to be ordered and mechanised. Would it function better if it were seen as an organism and free to self-organise? You can guess my view. Bring on the JET (Junction Efficiency Trial) to prove it right or wrong!

Added by Martin Cassini on June 20, 2009 at 22:00 — No Comments

'til I'm blue in the face

Taking it in turns – it’s how we behave as social beings. Main road priority, on which the traffic system is based, subverts the natural order. It imposes unfair rights-of-way, and puts the vulnerable road-user at a dangerous disadvantage. Most accidents are not accidents at all. They are events contrived by the rules of the road. Traffic lights exist to break the priority streams of traffic so that others can cross. Like other control measures that try to undo the damage caused by the original… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 17, 2009 at 14:30 — No Comments

James May isn't far off

May has it about right when he says, "I've always believed that society should have as few rules as possible ... In May's world there'd be only one law: don't be a prat. That actually covers everything. Not paying your tax is being a prat. Neglecting your children is being a prat. Doing 100mph through a town centre is being a prat. As long as you're not a prat, you can do what you like." - It's another way of saying, "Be considerate", which is what the vast majority are when free to choose.… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 17, 2009 at 13:30 — No Comments

H.I. better than A.I.

An article in the New York Times about artificial intelligence (31.5.09) concludes with a quote from Dr Henry Baird, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. "Machines' abilities are slowly improving, but there is still a huge gap between human inborn perceptual abilities and machine skills." Yet traffic engineers and policymakers still refuse to trust us and insist on controlling our every move.

Added by Martin Cassini on June 17, 2009 at 11:00 — No Comments

FiT anthem

If we needed an anthem for FiT Roads and the culture of cooperation, it could be We Can Work It Out (McCartney/Beatles). Or One Love (Marley), which you can see by Playing for Change here.

Added by Martin Cassini on June 16, 2009 at 20:13 — No Comments

Getting into the groove

Freedom from traffic controls could bring safe, happy roads. When we're free to act naturally, we get along fine. Take away signals, abolish priority, and we'd soon get into the groove. Sweet music, like this. (Back tab to return.)

Added by Martin Cassini on June 16, 2009 at 17:00 — No Comments

JET and safety

At a meeting with a council to discuss a JET, the question arose, What if there's a fatal accident during the lights-off phase of the trial? The council leader is a man of action, so I hope he won't let the fear factor deter him. Lights take our eyes off the road and encourage speed: a recipe for danger. But when lights break down and there is no priority, we approach carefully and watch the road: a recipe for safety. A traffic engineer asked if I would take responsibility for a death under… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 16, 2009 at 14:30 — No Comments

The role of control in damaging health

Today's story about traffic pollution damaging lung function in children is not new. Despite the work that many of us are doing, the authorities fail to take note, let alone action. Under Livingstone, it was TfL's duty to reduce seven key emissions, but he choked traffic flow with hundreds of new traffic lights, and left lights operating even when side roads were closed. Policymakers continue to preside over a system of grotesque inefficiency and waste. One of the points made in my 2007 article… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 9, 2009 at 22:00 — No Comments

Fellow feeling

There is endorsement of FiT philosophy (achieving the common good through cooperation) in 'The New Citizenship' by Reith lecturer, Michael Sandel. "Fellow feeling is not a fixed supply. It gets stronger with exercise." Similarly, while road capacity is limited, the potential for fellow feeling among road-users is limitless. The mechanism for safe, efficient movement on the road is within us. Our greatest resource, boundless in its potential, is human nature. Systems of control, on the… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 9, 2009 at 11:00 — No Comments

No surprise

Bristol: Queues at Portishead's gridlocked Cabstand junction disappeared – after a fault caused the traffic lights to fail. Installed in 2004 at a cost of £800,000, they were out of action on Friday between 3-5pm. Engineers rushed to replace a faulty part in time for rush hour. It is understood that as soon as the lights were off, the traffic queues along the High Street which build up waiting for them to change, melted away, only to reappear when the lights were repaired.… Continue

Added by Martin Cassini on June 3, 2009 at 23:30 — No Comments

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