Scrap road signs, save lives says Dublin Transportation Office

Having spent €200,000 on traffic signs that were critised by all and sundry (apart from us, we were uncharacteristically nice about them) and then more money replacing them, the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) now wants to remove them.

While the plans to establish the Dublin Transport Authority move along at a pace akin to a Dublin bus, it’s predecessor, the DTO, is busy making noise.

We wouldn’t dare suggest that the people running the DTO are after top jobs in the new authority, but some of the things coming from them of late are a tad avent-garde, to say the very least.

It’s not just the street signs that, current DTO chief, John Henry is proposing to remove, but also the footpaths and all road markings. There’s no mention in the interview if this includes bus stops or even bus lanes, of which there are not enough as it stands.

Another idea being floated yet again and presented as new is to allow trams priority at traffic lights. That sounds very nice for tram users, but what about the buses? Dublin Bus carry far more passengers than the Luas system ever will, why not give our buses priority at the lights? In fact, what not let our buses share road space with the trams?

The Irish Times’ Frank McDonald reports:

TAKE A street in Dublin. Eliminate the footpaths. Get rid of all the “clutter” – traffic lights, direction signs, pedestrian crossings and guard rails, then see what happens.

That’s the experiment John Henry, director of the Dublin Transportation Office, wants to try out in the centre of the city.

“Without any signs, traffic will automatically slow down and there will be fewer accidents because drivers will take more care,” he said confidently.

“The environment is what controls speed, not signs or rules. It’s psychological. Signs like ‘slow’, ‘stop’ and ‘yield’ are often not seen by drivers. If you take the signs and kerb lines away, and say ‘go figure it out yourselves’, you’re creating uncertainty – and that’s safer.”

Evidence from abroad, rather surprisingly, supports Mr Henry’s novel proposal. Five years ago, the Dutch town of Drachten removed signs and traffic lights as part of a “naked streets” experiment – and accident figures plummeted as drivers became more cautious.

The idea of “going Dutch” was taken up by Daniel Moylan, deputy leader of the Tory-controlled London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Mr Moylan said it was “about re-civilising the city, to the benefit of all people who use the roads. We want to stop this top-down system of signs and signals to keep drivers and other road users apart, and give everyone back a sense of shared ownership and responsibility.”

And that’s what was done in Kensington High Street three years ago.

Following the removal of pedestrian crossings and guard rails – those sheep-pen railings so favoured by traffic engineers to keep pedestrians corralled – accidents have been cut by 44 per cent, compared to 17 per cent for London as a whole.

Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins noted how: “Drivers undirected by signs, kerbs or road markings are faced with confusion and ambiguity. Since they do not want to cause accidents at junctions, or damage their cars, they reduce their speed and establish eye contact with other users.”

Meanwhile, Mr Henry says several minutes could be shaved off Luas journey times if traffic lights were tweaked to give trams priority.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Henry said there was no reason why the computer-controlled traffic lights could not be altered to detect the approach of a tram.

“If a Sandyford tram carrying a full capacity load of 200 passengers is held up by 90 seconds at, say, Hatch Street and Cuffe Street, that equates to a delay of five person hours. So what’s needed is a ‘hurry call’ on the traffic lights at these junctions.”

Mr Henry said the DTO favoured “optimising the movement of people, rather than vehicles” and believed that the same rule should apply at pedestrian crossings, where people often have to wait for four minutes or more to cross a street legally.

2 Responses to “Scrap road signs, save lives says Dublin Transportation Office”

  1. May John Henry die with his hammer in his hand, as per the American legend…well not really; this one is mad and megalomaniacal, it seems. Does he really want chaos to reign on Dublin streets?? Like it or not, optimisation of vehicle movement is the same as optimisation of movement of people, so unless you have another way to get people to get into buses and other public transport versus leaving their cars home, this is a recipe for utter disaster.

    The article is funny when they talk about trams coming out of Sandyford being “held up”. Guess what: back when the Harcourt Street Line was still “heavy rail”, the railway was elevated over Harcourt Road/Adelaide Road! and the trains would have been capable of carrying well over 200 persons. (There are plenty of buses that have 200-person capacity.) Shoulda rebuilt the Harcourt Street Line as DART, then?

    What is the level of enforcement in Drachten, Holland? Now that is not revealed, by any news source, which makes it very, very suspect. After all, road signs followed accidents, not the other way around. Drivers get more cautious around a higher police presence, not because there are no road signs, because a lack of road signs is an invitation to do what you want. Never mind the fact that Drachten has a mere 40,000 inhabitants while Greater Dublin has 1.7 million. Also never mind the chaos that would ensue when you’re left guessing as to where to park.

  2. I can’t see this working in Ireland either – we’d need suits of armour walking down Dawson Street!

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