Impromptu Shared Space Calms Soho Intersection

Reader Tim Koelle sends this report of a busted traffic signal gone terribly right at the intersection of West Broadway and Grand yesterday morning:

I watched for an hour while cars, trucks and pedestrians shared this space quietly… with civility! Little honking, no aggressive driving, no traffic cop. Why? Because the light was out.

No one had to speed up and honk to make the green light on time; no one honked or changed lanes to take advantage of the narrow window of time the light granted them. Everyone came to a stop, looked around (wondering why the light was dead, and what they should do), and proceeded slowly thru.

Instead of a line of cars waiting for the light to change, alternate sides vying with each other for the few precious moments allowing them the right to pass thru… no one had to wait very long. And in fact the alternate sides traded back and forth, almost at a one-to-one ratio. No one had to wait, so no one got stuck in a line, so no one sped up, so no one honked, so there was no need for aggressive driving! Even pedestrians got their due.

Someone should examine this closely. Reminds me of similarities to Hans Monderman and Shared Spaces.

  • Peter

    i always say, if we can just get rid of those pesky bikers, the world would be a much better place.

  • Prince Street had practically no traffic lights until about ten years ago – just stop signs. It was ideal, almost bucolic in its concept. Think the Shared Space of Drachten, Germany indeed.

    Ignoring the maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the nameless bureaucrats at DOT removed the stop signs and installed sets of traffic lights arbitrarily and without any requests from SoHo or the Community Board. Then the sheet hit the fan. Honking, congestion and speeding immediately resulted.

    To make it worse, this week I got a complaint from a Prince Street resident who claimed that DOT has recently synched the green lights, resulting in cars speeding even worse than before.

    Who at DOT hires these characters, apparently engineering school drop-outs?

  • No that all fits with traffic engineering philosophy of ten years ago.

  • “pesky bikers”, pedestrians…….even cars, got thru w/more equanimity.
    seems to me that the field can be leveled for all.

  • Gary, yhen let the ‘new’ DOT reverse a bad decision. It has proposed everything else for Prince Street but that. Why?

  • Callum Scott

    I’m from Oxford, England and on the ring road there are numerous roundabouts all with traffic lights on. My dad (from NZ) finds it hilarious that we have traffic lights on roundabouts instead of either/or. Whenever the lights go out the traffic flows just fine! I think roundabouts and give way’s encourage people to think for themselves about when to go rather than bowing to the will of three little lights.

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