Monday, May 17, 2010

Gary Lauder's new traffic sign: Take Turns

By Kayla H.

"Road design makes a difference, particularly intersections, of which there are two types: signalized and unsignalized, which means stop signs". Now you might wonder to yourself, how road designs can actually make a difference. In this talk, Gary Lauder's gives reason to this statement.

Gary Lauder suggests that roundabouts are a better solution then road designs like stop signs, giving statistics: "... 24 intersections have found crashes drop 40 percent from when you convert a traffic light into a roundabout. Injury crashes have dropped 76 percent. Fatal crashes down 90 percent." If this is only safety, then what about time or gas? Lauder explains that "...traffic keeps flowing, so that means less braking, which means less accelerating, less gas and less pollution, less time wasted, and that partly accounts for Europe's better efficiency than we have in the United States." Lauder continues to go on about how yes, stop signs do save a lot of lives, but they have an excess amount of proliferation. If you replaced an intersection with a roundabout, then you would decrease the amount of proliferation. Lauder gives an example of the roundabout in his neighbourhood, and how they're expensive to install, but they're more expensive not to. Meaning that, we spend more money stopping at intersections with stop signs then with roundabouts. For example, with a three-way intersection it's logical to use one there, on the minor road entering the major road. But the other two are "somewhat questionable". But, cars rarely appear on that third road anyways. Lauder explains about the three-way intersection he looked at with cost, and time. "... about 3,000 cars per day in each direction, and so that's two ounces of gas to accelerate out of. That's five cents each, and times 3,000 cars per day, that's $51,000 per year. That's just the gasoline cost. There is also pollution, wear on the car, and time. What's that time worth? Well, at 10 seconds per 3,000 cars, that's 8.3 hours per day. The average wage in the U.S. is $20 an hour. That is 60,000 per year. Add that together with the gas, and it's $112,000 per year just for that sign in each direction." So if having a stop sign in all 3 directions is costing this much, and at this amount of time, then why is it there? Is it really necessary? It is saving lives after all, but is there an alternative to using a stop sign for cases such as these? The solution is " enable cars to come in from that side road safely. Because there are a lot of people who might live up there and if they're waiting forever a long queue could form because the cars aren't slowing down on the main road. Can that be accomplished with existing signs?" The answer to the last question is yes, you could use existing signs, like a yield sign. Yield means: you must yield the right-of-way. Lauder explains that "If there are five cars waiting, you have to wait till they all go, then you go. It lacks the notion of alternating, or taking turns. And it's always on the minor road allowing the major one to have primacy. So, it's hard to create a new meaning for the existing sign." So, why not make a new sign? Well, that is exactly what Gary Lauder did. "So, you'd have a little instruction below it, you know, for those who didn't see the public service announcements. And it merges the stop sign and yield signs. It's kind of shaped like a T, as in taking turns. And uncertainty results in caution. When people come to an unfamiliar situation they don't know how to deal with they slow down." Conclusively showing that this new sign of his could be successful, if it were to be adopted but things like this "don't change quickly" and "That you can exercise your community influence to create more sensible traffic flows." The truth of it all is that you can have more impact on the environment just getting your neighborhood to change these things than by changing your vehicle. Meaning that it isn't just about the vehicle, and how it is more efficient in the sense, but about the community, and where signs are neccessary, and where they are not.

In summary, I think that Gary Lauder gave a well done presentation. You could tell he did his research. He was persuasive, showing this by including statistics showing that he put a lot of time into his research, sense of humour, and he gave examples using his own neighbourhood showing the audience that roundabouts are successful in neighbourhood settings. In conclusion overall he had his presentation well planned out for the amount of time he was given to present.

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