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How the Dutch Solved Street Design

Adam Yates travelled to Amsterdam to see how the Dutch have transformed the city and made it safer for people to get where they’re going more quickly. The phrase that grabbed me is:

Pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles can all coexist without conflict, but only if they’re all going the same slow speed. This advances the principles of shared streets.

This is related to the Downs-Thomson paradox:

In simple terms, the Downs-Thomson paradox claims that traffic will increase without limit until the option of public transport (or any other form of transport) becomes faster than the equivalent trip by car. It draws the conclusion that people do not care whether they drive, walk, bike, or take the bus to any location — they just want to get from A to B in the fastest and most convenient way possible.

(via @marcprecipice)

Discussion  4 comments

David Friedman

Reminds me of the study that found it’s faster if everyone stands on the escalator and nobody walks.

Richard Martin

I remember reading about that, but isn’t there a bit of an issue with treating humans as objects, at least with some interpretations / conclusions from that study?

What I mean is that some humans want to get up the escalator as quickly as possible, and others don’t care. If everyone stands, then the *average* throughput of people increases, but the “quick” group are now getting up more slowly than before, while the “don’t care” group are getting up faster (but don’t care).

In short, it’s optimising for mathematics, rather than optimising for human happiness. Which is probably why — in London at least — any attempt to coerce escalator travellers to stand on both sides gets promptly ignored.

Gotta engineer the world for squishy inconsistent humans. 😅

Jason KottkeMOD

I thought of this too — my post about it has one of the only headlines I've written that I remember many years later: A Spectre Is Haunting Europe, the Spectre of Standing On the Escalator.

Also, I think optimising for the impatient and characterizing the standers as uncaring hits right at the heart of the general issue here about which people have value in society and how we justify their value compared the value of everyone else.

Reply in this thread

Mary Wallace

OK, I thought this was going to be Adam Yates, professional cyclist, riding around the streets. This was good, but I'm still disappointed.

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