The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

12 Dec 2015

The big traffic choker contest

I'm talking about the traffic calming device. This narrow thing where only one car fits side-by-side. Back in Belgium we know them as “verkeerspoortjes”, traffic ports.

I used to play a racing game called Stunts when I was a kid. Well, now my generation has grown up and has applied what we have learned in real life:

Reality vs. video game

OK, maybe they were not trying to recreate a video game. I am not sure why but all those councils over there got caught up in a pissing contest about becoming a “council who is concerned about traffic safety”. Or whatever. You know the politician’s fallacy, right?

And then the mayor can go bragging about “oh look at what we are doing about traffic safety”, and the opposition all be like “what a scandal!!”. Yeah right. As if anyone really believes they would not build them. They would build them just the same. Nobody likes losing a pissing contest. Especially politicians.

So the contest is on. We need a strategy.

I’m not in the urban planning or traffic engineering business, but even a layman like me can tell roughly where to put traffic calming measures. You put them where you want the traffic to slow down. In most countries that would be an useful guideline. Not here. We don’t do planning on our countryside. As a consequence we need to slow down everywhere. But often you can still tell where the village centres are, so that would be a good place to start.

And what to build? So many choices. There is chicanes, chokers, speed bumps, raised tables on crossroads.

…or maybe we’re overthinking this. Just build the damn things already:

Yellow: a few places to go. Red: where the chokers are.

There is definitely a little village centre in the middle of that map, but no traffic calming to be seen there. No, all those chokers are at least half a kilometre away.

Isn’t that a bit random? Actually it isn’t. This particular council has put them on the borders of those magic “builtuparea” areas. That’s where you have to slow down for unicorns *1 or something. I forgot. I’m sure it had a meaning once upon a time.

But enough jabbering now, let’s look at a few contestants:

Tielt-Winge’s entry

Well, it is a choker, but a bit bland for now. Maybe it will look better after those trees grow up a bit. You can also see here how far ahead that church is.

Bekkevoort’s entry.

Ooh, strong entry. Note the little bump in the middle after the choker, forcing cars to slalom a bit. Just too bad it’s absolutely in the middle of nowhere.

Glabbeek’s entry

Hm. Creative. Local fruit farmer have heaps of big fruit boxes. But they’re gone now. This council figured out it’s all a stupid idea and quit the contest.

When just dotting them on the landscape according to an arbitrary rule, some of them are bound to pop up in, ummm, unfortunate places.

Not a good place

Right before a blind corner and a side street. But, you can see the white traffic sign. It has to be here.

The fallout

OK, question. How much do you have to slow down to go through those things? Nothing? Good guess. We had a problem with cars driving past at excessive speed. Now we have a problem with cars at excessive speed on a collision course. Oops!

But at least some of those cars will have to stop for oncoming traffic, right? Indeed. In the ideal world they will understand that is for their own good and that every time they drive too fast, a super cute kitten will die. I’m sure there is a reason. Nobody knows that reason. More likely drivers will just get frustrated at having to stop for no apparent reason.

Now we have a problem with cars at excessive speed, on a collision course, involving frustrated drivers. What could possibly go wrong?

And then, when you go ride your bicycle, you get to wonder if you’ll ever encounter one of those chokers without broken glass lying around. Spoiler: you probably won’t. Bicycles don’t like broken glass.

Sometimes traffic safety is not the point at all. Another thing you may achieve is making that longer-distance traffic go around your council area. All you have to do is build more of this stuff than your neighbours.

That’s two of them.

And there is a third one a bit down the road. More is better, just make those pesky drivers as miserable as possible so they drive somewhere else. Never mind this is on one of the very few stretches of road which aren’t built up. Horses have their rights too.

The pink bands by the way are “cycle suggestion strips”. If this were a local street in a zone 30 in a suburb, it would actually be a sensible design.

Eventually the Walloon government *2 entered the contest, and decisively wiped out any competition. One Traffic Calmed Street to Rule Them All.

The N69 between Braives and Moxhe (video)

Yes, they win. Those fields over there will be very happy with the traffic being calmed.


(*1) 

A legit reason to slow down here is all the people living along these streets. But as outlined in the linked post, that is not related to those “builtuparea” areas anymore.

(*2) 

Yes, we have a lot of governments in Belgium. Wallonia is roughly speaking the Southern part of Belgium.

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