We Are All Human, We Need Better Design
This video has gone viral. It has already been posted on several blogs and many MyWHaT readers have sent me a link (thank you). Posts and emails that comment about it typically provide perspective like Boston Biker, which titled their post on this video: Everyone is Guilty. I prefer another perspective, because humans are odd animals and our actions don’t fit neatly into the ordered world of engineers: we need better design!
It’s clear that this intersection, though “normal” and “expected” for most North Americans, is not designed with a clear intention of what people need to do based on fairly predictable patterns of behavior. It leaves everyone struggling with expectations and assumptions in a busy place with numerous conflict points. If you use this intersection on a regular basis, I suspect you eventually find a comfort zone and act like some of the users in this video.
David Hembrow’s take on this video, on A View From the Cycle Path, is one that matches my initial response closely. As he writes:
I don’t see the behaviour at this junction as being about “bad habits”. What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.”
He goes on to explain how Dutch intersections (where he writes from) primary goal is to remove points of conflict through design. This is counter to the standard here that seems to prefer to force a set of rules on people, whether they be natural or not. The goal in the Netherlands is to design the space with minimal conflict points in a way that functions intuitively to how the majority of people can be expected to navigate an intersection. The goal, as he labels it, is Sustainable Safety, which in part means you design so that you don’t need a police officer present 24/7 to enforce rules.
The base response for most people will be to look at this video and lament, “dang, people are so selfish!” (Or, perhaps another term). We probably are and I lament: what else would you expect?
We need to design spaces to clearly move us in the fashion and manner desired. That’s one of the main points of my tag-line: the intentional, efficient and inclusive design of our public spaces.
I believe infrastructure is not neutral; it is a communication tool.
What do you see at this intersection?