Saturday, 21 June 2008

Sign of the times

Following the debarcle of the on again, off again Give Way, Stop signs on Minnie and Grafton Streets, this story will seem like something from Planet Ork.
I'm a great fan of this way of thinking.

Bohmte, a small town in Germany's North West, with a population of just over 13,000, has ripped down every road and pedestrian sign in their town.

Yep, you read that right.

In September last year, the new system was introduced to reduce the "dominance of the motor vehicle." The scheme is based on the shared space philosophy. And guess what an ironic outcome of this is: road safety has improved.

Even curbs, sidewalks and traffic lights have been removed. There's around 10,000 cars and trucks registered in the town.

The Shared Space concept is truly inspirational. With the lack of street signs and 'instructions' to tell everyone what to do and when to do it, they're slowly welcoming an attitude whereby everybody has to be considerate of everyone else. Imagine that?

It may seem rather odd to provide drivers with less information, to make them drive more safely, however after 8 months, the results have shown that the system is working. There have been no recorded traffic accidents since late last year.

The idea is to reclaim the streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, in a world that has being dominated by motor vehicles for nearly 100 years.
On a similar vein, I always questioned why there is a need for 24/7 vehicular access along the Cairns Esplanade. Surely this is one area where we could prohibit cars, say from at least the Spence to Florence Street precinct. Of course there would need to be emergency access. Also, goods delivery could be arranged around certain times.
Manchester's famous Canal Street, have done this along the strip of 60 bars and restaurants. There is now access during the evening hours, and bollards automatically come up to block traffic. The people own the street and night, and tables litter the promenade, devoid of cars pumping carbon monoxide onto your fish soup.
It's my hope that this new Council would take a genuine look at the way in which traffic and pedestrians interact in and around the Cairns CBD. All too often we plan a town around traffic. This is even more important as we are meant to be a world famous visitor-centric city.

1 comment:

dead dingo's donga said...

Curbs?! Sidewalks?! In this country they're called 'gutters' and 'footpaths' thanks Michael. Looks like the Americanisation of the world has got to you as well.