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Emotionally Intelligent Bollards

One of the most universal, and seemingly intractable, problems in the world of traffic is controlling drivers’ speeds on local streets, particularly those with children present. The latest approach, in Leicester, England, combines hardcore traffic engineering — steel bollards — with a more humanistic side: They literally look like small children standing on the side of the road.

There is, admittedly, a bit of a Village of the Damned look to the bollards — and yet also something rather cheerful, something like foosball players — but perhaps, echoing Daniel Pink’s “emotionally intelligent signage” proposal, they may trigger some instinctual response, reminding drivers of the presence of humans (and, after all, studies have shown that images of humans, particularly human eyes, can be as persuasive as real humans).

Not surprisingly, the locals are a bit divided.

Sylvia Thomas, who lives in nearby Greenhill Road, said: “I can’t see the point of them. If they are there to calm traffic they don’t work, because one has already been knocked over.

“They are quite strange.”

Helen Evans, 44, from Knighton, said: “They look great. I think they’re cute – and hopefully they will make people drive more carefully and remember there are children around here.”

As to the first commenter, rather than viewing it a failed solution, the idea that one has already been knocked down might simply demonstrate the extent of the problem. And the bollards are merely one part of a wider strategy, including striping and a new 20 mph speed limit.

From another story came this comment:

The RAC told Sky News Online that there was a risk “the statues will become a distraction with drivers focusing on them rather than the road ahead.”

One way to deal with that issue would be to put a few in the road. But of course there’s also the issue that real pedestrians will become a distraction — do we ban them from roadsides? Do we strip any sign of life from city streets so drivers will not have their precious roads obscured, their perilous attention (probably already compromised by their phone) fractured any further?

In any case, I’ll be curious to hear of any before/after speed comparisons.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 at 10:21 am and is filed under Traffic Culture, Traffic Enforcement, Traffic Engineering, Traffic Gadgets, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Emotionally Intelligent Bollards”

  1. SteveL Says:

    The RAC are part of the UK car-driver lobby, no surprises there.

    A bigger risk is “will it teach drivers to ignore children by the road”. The more kid-like bollards there are (none of which jump out in front of you), the more you will ignore kids by the road. I learned to ignore sheep by the roadside in the UK (They stay where they are), so got a big surprise the first time I saw a deer in the US -and especially the way it promptly jumped into the way of my hire car.

  2. Karl-On-Sea (Twitter: @karlonsea) Says:

    I think the RAC’s comment is typical of what makes a BAD driver – just concentrating on the road ahead, rather than being aware of what’s around them.

    I’m not sure if you picked up on this, but there was a case using a similar idea recently where someone created a policeman scarecrow at the roadside – complete with a fake radar gun. The police took a dim view of this, and confiscated it under the 1996 Police Act (apparently it was deemed to be impersonating a police officer . . .). Here’s the story as told on the BBC’s site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/8138993.stm

  3. TOTE Says:

    I agree with SteveL’s comment. After seeing so many children statues, drivers will no longer notice the statues or actual children. I would hate to imagine what will happen in this area in a few months when a child jets out into the street chasing a lost ball. Maybe statues of elderly people would be better. This should evoke the same emotional response in drivers. After all, no one wants to run down Grandma.

    On a personal note, I find even the photos of the statues to be very creepy. I would avoid the area because of the creepiness factor. Ahhh…traffic calming at work.

  4. mikey2gorgeous Says:

    How about if we make them in the shape of my mother-in-law???

  5. WWWebb Says:

    How about if we make them in the shape of my mother-in-law???

    bump-bump

    screeeeeech

    bump-bump

Leave a Reply

Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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