Monday, June 18, 2007

Traffic calming frisbee playing

Want to slow traffic? Throw a frisbee across the street. That's what six-year-old son of NS&S and I learned on Sunday.

Please note that we did not throw the frisbee in front of traffic. We stopped throwing as soon as any car approached. But, our presence on the sidewalk, frisbee in hand, seemed to create some anxiety, and traffic slowed. Reaaaaaally slowed. It was remarkable.

This is consistent with the theories promoted by offbeat Australian traffic innovator David Engwicht. Among other things, Engwicht invented (or at least popularized) the idea of the walking school bus. Relevant to our frisbee toss, Engwicht believes that traditional approaches to traffic calming aren't necessary (or enough). Rather than build speed bumps, install chicanes, or otherwise change the roadway (or in addition), Engwicht promotes what he calls second-generation traffic calming: intrigue and uncertainty.

That's what we created with our frisbee playing. Intrigue and uncertainty. Motorists didn't know what to expect. So they slowed. Every last one.

While our experience confirmed the efficacy of intrigue and uncertainty, it also confirmed my concern with the theory. It takes a lot of work. There are a lot of cars out there. To maintain intrigue and uncertainty would be a full time job.

I'd still like some speed bumps.

Relatedly, Boston City Councilor Robert Consalvo recently introduced a proposal to create a pace-car program. In a pace-car program, motorists pledge to abide speed limits and pay special attention to pedestrians. Pace-car pledges put a sticker on the car. Sort of a peer-pressure program.

Though the Globe article doesn't mention it, Engwicht invented (or popularized) the pace-car program, too. The Globe article does mention that other efforts to institute a pace-car program have faltered with very limited participation.

Maybe we could have a volunteer program to play frisbee a few hours a day.

1 comment:

Adam said...

My favorite trick, a variation on traffic calming frisbee, is traffic calming tug-of-war. Just stand on opposite sides of the road and pretend to pull a rope. Cars will screech to a halt!