In 2010, Alex wrote:
Here’s a video of a small town in Britain that turned its traffic lights off.  Order ensued.
It’s 2013.  Here’s a video of another small town in Britain, Poynton, that turned its traffic lights off in the heart of town, replacing them with a double roundabout.  More decentralized decisionmaking, better outcomes:



Compton, a small village in the central England, passed legislation just a few weeks ago “removing kerbs and signage and giving priority to all road users – both pedestrians and motorists”.  Compton was inspired by nearby Poynton’s success.
The concept, “giving priority to all road users”, is at the heart of Martin Cassini’s project, Equality Streets.  From an essay he wrote for the BBC:
The unseen spanner in the works [of current traffic rules] is the idea of main road priority. It was introduced in about 1929…Main road priority licenses main road traffic to plough on regardless of who was there first, including side road traffic and people on foot waiting to cross….
So what did they do to solve the problem of priority to enable us to cross the road in relative safety? They put up traffic lights, so they make us “stop to avoid the inconvenience of slowing down”, to quote traffic writer Kenneth Todd.


Stopping traffic is an obvious planner’s solution; trusting drivers to make the right decisions requires a belief in the wisdom of individual decisionmaking. An essay at insurer Allianz’s site on the reformist “Shared Space” approach closes this way:
Not that it is anything new, as an old film of a trolley ride through San Francisco in 1905 shows; Shared Space is simply a return to the streets of old.
Coda: Britain’s many roundabouts are already a massive form of decentralized decisionmaking.  The Griswolds nonwithstanding, we could use quite a few more roundabouts stateside.
Update: Cassini critiques roundabouts in the comment section of this post.