Traffic control is the last bastion of institutionalised inequality

 

Calls for a moratorium on shared space miss the point, given that the current traffic system is based on inequality.

Inequality, aka priority, makes roads dangerous in the first place. 25,000 killed or hurt on our roads every year is grim testament to system failure. Scandalously overdue for reform, the system is intrinsically dysfunctional.

Since 1929, we have been forced to live and die by the delinquent rule of priority. "Get out of my way!" yells priority, as it denies infinite filtering opportunities and expressions of empathy.

The key is to replace priority with equality as the central rule of the road. "After you," says Equality, as it allows us to rediscover our humanity and make common cause.

Reform based on equality will lead us out of congestion and road safety problems that kill thousands, delay millions, cost billions, stump governments and plague us all.

”Local

The only losers will be the traffic experts and systems manufacturers who for decades have been driving us down the road to nowhere, symbolised by this sign in central London.

The idea that traffic lights ensure safety is a myth. Westminster City Council's safety audit shows that 44% of personal injury "accidents" occur at traffic lights. How many of the remainder are due to priority? Compiled in the defective context of priority, the stats don't tell us.

I put "accidents" in inverted commas because most accidents are not accidents. They are events contrived by the misguided rules and design of the road.

Shared space is on a venerable quest to make roads intrinsically safe. The only problem is that it seeks to achieve the desired behaviour change – low speeds, mutual respect – through re-design alone.

But bad habits die hard. Redesign needs combining with wholesale reform: of the rules of the road, the law and the driving test.

If engineers want to keep traffic moving - often a specious imperative - let them build a bridge or a flyover. Otherwise, let streets and junctions be all-way give-ways.

Martin Cassini is a video producer and campaigner for traffic system reform. See equalitystreets.com

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