Will Removing All Road Signs Make Us Safer?
Is it possible that road signs make us less safe, as both drivers and pedestrians? What would happen if we just got rid of them all? That idea might sound outlandish, but it’s already being tested in multiple countries across Europe.
The concept is often referred to as “shared spaces” and the goal is to make all users of a crosswalk pay more attention to all other users, thus preventing accidents. From a CityLab article on the trend,
“Drivers, bikers and pedestrians will make eye contact with one another. They’ll cooperate. They’ll move through public space with a greater sense of its communal utility. In Europe, the result has proven to be safer and more efficient – and more social – for everyone involved.”
By removing the road signs, you force the intersection to act like a community. It requires drivers to give up their priority to the streets in order to be effective– and also to dismantle all our internalized conceptions of how red lights work and how pedestrians should cross on street corners. With most people having learned these things since they were children, can we adapt to “shared spaces”?
One of the biggest challenges to these scramble intersections, as outlined in the video above, is access and safety for those with disabilities. The autonomy of individuals who rely on tools like auditory signals on crosswalks or raised and ramped curbs to help navigate a street with their cane is at risk in these news systems. While drivers are forced to look for all pedestrian hazards, wherever them may cross, accessibility activists say that this doesn’t provide enough safety or inclusivity for the part of the population trying to navigate this intersection with disabilities.