The rules people follow

Posted on February 25, 2009 by


Here are two of a series of press articles on new thinking in street architecture and road safety.  It seems to me as a struggling student of spontaneous orders that this article is really about individuals following rules of behaviour and different rules in different settings.  The setting in conventional streets encourages faster driving (the rule is that the car takes precedence) and all the consequences that flow from that.  The setting in Drachten in Holland is quite, deliberately and visibly, different to a busy street in London and so the rules of driving in each become quite different.  I’m sure the same driver in the same car would automatically drive quite differently in both, just as we all do, automatically, when we drive in a different country.

Further, I think the rule following perspective would allow us to conjecture that isolated traffic management changes in London are going to suffer from a problem.  It may not be clear to drivers that they have entered a new setting.  The perception may be quite different to pedestrians and so there is the opportunity for a fatal misunderstanding as to which rules prevail.  Here in Dublin, the shared space concept was used on new pavements on the main street.  Within months two tourists were killed when they drifted over the largely invisible dividing line between the pavement onto the road and were run down by a bus.

What does all this mean for piecemeal social engineering?

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