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European towns do away with traffic signs, restoring freedom and social responsibility to drivers

Thursday, November 23, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: social interaction, traffic signals, traffic safety


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(NewsTarget) Can you imagine driving without traffic lights to guide you from place to place? Well, several cities in Europe are giving that very notion a try -- and the results are very encouraging.

European traffic planners have been dreaming recently about streets free of rules and directives, as they want drivers want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way.

European traffic planners see the interaction of vehicles and people as coexisting in a world of friendly gestures and nods of the head -- and eye contact. This contrasts sharply with the existing harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs in most traffic situations.

A European Union project is currently overseeing seven cities that are ridding themselves of all traffic signs. Towns like Ejby in Denmark, Ipswich in England and the Belgian town of Ostende are all participating.

In the Dutch province of Makkinga, cars bumble unhurriedly over precision-trimmed granite cobblestones; stop signs and direction signs are nowhere to be seen. This is the vision that some in the EU see as a possible model for many countries in Europe shortly. In Makkinga, there are neither parking meters nor stopping restrictions -- and the lines that used to be painted on streets are now gone.

"The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior the greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles." says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman -- one of the project's co-founders and main proponents.

Mondeman's sentiments hold true in a large way that is making waves across Europe at the moment, as psychologists have long revealed the senselessness of such exaggerated regulation, especially since about 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. Psychologically, the large amount of prohibited driving and pedestrian behaviors is tantamount to treating the driver like a child -- and it also forms resentment in a certain way.

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