This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Like countless other communities, this western German town lived for years with a miserable traffic problem. Each day, thousands of cars and big trucks barreled along the two-lane main street, forcing pedestrians and cyclists to scamper for their lives.
The usual remedies – from safety crossings to speed traps – did no good. So the citizens of Bohmte decided to take a big risk. Since September, they’ve been tearing up the sidewalks, removing curbs and erasing street markers as part of a radical plan to abandon nearly all traffic regulations and force people to rely on common sense and courtesy instead.
This contrarian approach to traffic management, known as shared space, is gaining a foothold in Europe. Towns in the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and Belgium have tossed out their traffic lights and stop signs in a bid to reclaim their streets for everyone.
If you’ve ever travelled in the third world, you know this is basically how the streets work. It’s chaos, but it works. People adapt to it pretty quickly. And when a car hits a bicycle, the driver gets out and basically throws wads of cash at the injured bicyclist until he stops screaming. It’s nuts.
I’m pretty skeptical that something like this could work in the U.S. After one accident there would be intense commmunity pressure to put up new signs “in memory of little Timmy” or whatever, the local media would pounce on the transpo agency for failing to “do something” and we’d be right back where we started.
Still, it’s interesting.