Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Got this email from a colleague at another university

I continue to be impressed by the crosswalk situation on University Avenue by A_____ Hall. Top down planning dictated that a crosswalk be emphasized with a prominent sign that cars yield for pedestrians. It is like California in the extreme. A pedestrian steps off the curb and cars screech to a halt as far as the eye can see. It is often difficult for cars to move down University Avenue without many starts and stops. Sometimes a single pedestrian holds up 20 to 50 cars or more.

Prior to the prominent sign and crosswalk we had a bottom-up system of pedestrian crossing and car movement along University.  This was the case for decades. Pedestrians moved in and out among the cars and the cars moved in and out among the pedestrians.  It was seamless as each pedestrian and each driver looked out for the other. Pedestrians did not want to be hit by the cars and the drivers did not want to hit the pedestrians. As far as I know there were almost no accidents, certainly less than what we must have today with all the starting and stopping of automobiles.  Not to mention the environmental costs and car wear and tear.  It was a perfect example of how an emergent system ordered human activity far better than the top-down planner.

Q:  but doesn't someone have to be in CHARGE?

A:  No.


lightning bulb (aka ngvrnd) said...

Problem is with situations where someone WANTS to be in charge.

Problem with (current) government is it creates far more of these situations than would exist in a state of nature.

Coming up with ideal system of government is a necessarily iterative process. Democracy is an iteration and better than much of what came before. But perhaps not final state of iteration. What's next?

Angus said...

Sounds like Clemson to me!

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Pelsmin said...

What Honey said.

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akon said...

This might just be a good example where clear rules advance society's values. College towns are thankfully often pedestrian-heavy. Cars are very dangerous to pedestrians, especially when pedestrians have to dart around them and are unsure whether cars will follow the pedestrian right of way rule (which probably existed before the new signage). It's like asking, "Why did they replace the stop sign with a blinking red light?" So people, who have to stop, will know they have to stop. Making people aware of the law is probably good, and the law reflects a preference for pedestrians over cars.

Maybe pedestrians having the right of way in crosswalks is a bad idea. Traveling in east Asia, you see emergent order at its finest in urban traffic where small cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians move as if one undulating body. While there is no doubt emergent order, it is slow and involves a lot of concentration and low-speed contact.

Anonymous said...

Cars should have the right of way at intersections, and no signage should be necessary to tell people that. Reason 1: The pedestrian has much more to lose in the event of a collision. Reason 2: Is the net reduction in time wasted, ie. the car can clear the cross-walk for the pedestrian to pass much faster than the person can clear the cross-walk for the car to pass.

I struggle with this almost everyday when biking greenway trails. If I'm approaching the intersection at the same time as a car, the car will usually slowdown and then stop. Meanwhile, I also slow down and often stop b/c I don't know what the cars going to do, and I'm not taking any chances given the consequences. To top it off, I've lost all of my forward momentum, which didn't have to happen if the car had just maintained speed and spared me the charity.

Anonymous said...

Our local university has an aoofest intersection so the crosswalk that technically goes diagonally across the intersection, which does not help traffic flow.

Also, remember that at any unmarked section line road intersection that the wheat truck always has the right of way.

Anonymous said...

offset (need to proofread better)