TED2010

Maybe a new street sign is what the world needs now

Posted by: Emily McManus

GaryLauder_TakeTurns_CC.jpg What’s the best way to keep automobile traffic moving calmly and rationally through an intersection? It’s not a stoplight, it’s not a stop sign, and it’s not a yield sign (who knows what to do at a yield?).

In Session 6, Gary Lauder suggests we “Take Turns.”

Roundabouts are the best way to build intersections, he notes, but where those are not practical, instead of a ring of stop signs, some of those signs should be replaced with a new kind of sign that can save millions of dollars PER SIGN.

Here’s the street sign the world needs now. Half a stop and half a yield, the sign gives each driver a clear indication of how to behave. Below the red “Take Turns” shield is a small sign reading, “If Cars Are Waiting, Please Stop and Alternate.” And if there are no cars waiting, just blow on through. (No more stopping at red lights at 4am, on a country road, when there’s no one around for miles.)

Lauder has registered the sign with a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license — so share it freely (just credit him, don’t modify the sign, and don’t sell it). And imagine a world where every street sign contains the word “Please.”

Comments (16)

  • Ken Ross commented on Jul 28 2010

    Absurd idea! The approval process for all Regulatory Signs fall under the specifications of the Manual For Uniform Traffic Control Devices or the MUTCD. The MUTCD is a governing document created by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create uniform standards for devices. The agency initiates the review process through an 8 step process of experimentation based on recommendation, review, experimentation, notice, proposal, registration, comment review and approval. Overriding the “ideas” of a concerned citizen or inventory are practical Engineering reviews controlled by years of statitistical Traffic Analysis. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mandate the execution of it.

  • Lyle E commented on Jun 30 2010

    I’m from Jersey in the Channel Islands, and here we actually have this system implemented exactly as you describe it, but we call it “Filter in Turn”. Proof:

    http://channelislandstravel.suite101.com/article.cfm/car-hire-and-driving-around-guernsey–jersey-channel-islands

    …and other such links from Google.

    98% of the time it works flawlessly as it’s situated on a relatively slow but frequently congested area. There’s always the occasional tourist who isn’t sure what to do, but it doesn’t take much more than a quick flash of the lights to let them know if they should go. Apart from that, it works very much like a mini roundabout with all sides interweaving into each other nicely. If everyone is expecting to filter, there isn’t any chance of crashing.

  • Will Franco commented on Apr 15 2010

    THIS SIGN WILL KILL PEOPLE!!!! [it needs tweaking to be practical]

    Reason: Think about it, cars may not be waiting, so I drive through w/o stopping in accord w/ what the sign instructs me to do – CRASH!!!! One could debate this risk is eliminated by choosing the right locations for the sign.

    I have an alternative for blind intersections and other areas where blowing through a Stop Sign creates unnecessary risk:

    Change – If cars are waiting please stop and alternate
    To – STOP, and alternate if cars are waiting

    Great idea!

  • Johnson Lindenstrauss commented on Mar 24 2010

    No one on the present value? Probably calculated the present value of a perpetuity with some fixed interest rate, is that right?

  • Tranh Nguyen commented on Mar 18 2010

    Gary and most posters miss a key point: One of the purposes of the STOP sign is to raise money for the city/county. Logic or safety is not a key criterion for traffic signs nor their enforcement.

    In California, a rolling stop if caught, can cost USD 200-300 or more in traffic ticket and higher insurance premium.

    I never had an accident or a scratch from driving the last 30 years but got tickets for rolling stops.

  • Greg R commented on Mar 16 2010

    Take turns? Please alternate? That’s like a less orderly yield sign. I don’t see the point. It also misses the fact that that it’s already law that the person on the right has the right-of-way. “Take turns” is way to ambiguous for most people. Also, this whole idea seems to miss the point that probably half the stop signs out there are to keep people from speeding and have little to do with controlling the right-of-way though an intersection. Though stop signs are a really stupid way to keep people from speeding and there are way too many of them. However, the above won’t solve anything. We need more speed bumps. Something that doesn’t require you to stop, thus wasting time, putting more wear and tear on your brakes and wasting gas (i.e. increased air pollution). In Europe they have MAYBE 20% of the stop signs we do here, and it works just fine. They balance them out with yield signs (which we already have), speed bumps and occasionally round-a-bouts.

  • Steve Foley commented on Mar 15 2010

    We have something much better. A mini-roundabout. These are prolific in Europe, and they dont need any center “furniture” (eg a post or tree in the middle), just paint. They work beautifully for a 3 way intersection, and are pretty much what you are suggesting. Except that the rules are much clearer – you yield to the traffic on your left (or right in the UK).

  • Johnson Lindenstrauss commented on Mar 10 2010

    Can someone tell me how he calculated the present value to be 2 million?

  • Will D commented on Feb 13 2010

    Signs for “taking turns” exist in Europe.

    In Switzerland when there is construction – restricting 2 lanes into one, it is common to see a much clearer sign …. showing using picture with lanes and alternating arrows, taking turns while merging.

    Sometimes sign accompanied with the phrase “fair play” – a common slogan used by FIFA – governing world football (soccer) body

  • J. Marshall Pittman commented on Feb 12 2010

    (1/3)

    I am not against change, if it is effective. But this sign design by Gary Lauder is not effective.

    This new design has serious flaws. It presents no less than three separate messages, combines previous signs (stop and yield) that require different behaviors. It is an Ambiguous Sign, at the least, and a Dangerous Sign, at the worst.

    Most Signs are designed for easy compliance:

    A Stop Sign means that you should come to a compete stop, check to see if the way is clear, and then proceed. You should yield to traffic on your Right. It is used where you Must Stop in order to prevent a collision. This new sign design design would be entirely inappropriate, and dangerous, in these situations.

    A yield sign means that you may “blow on thru” if the way is clear. Generally, there are good lines of sight, and Greater Traffic flow is granted right of way against Lesser Trafic Flow. In this situation “taking turns” is also not adequate.

    (continued)

  • J. Marshall Pittman commented on Feb 12 2010

    What society needs for greater traffic safety is Education and, above all, Compliance. There are many people who do not obey very simple traffic laws (signaling lane changes and turns; coming to a complete stop at signs and lights; obeying the speed limit; following at a safe distance; passing only when it is safe and permitted; paying full attention to driving), and this disobedience causes the greatest numbers of collisions (there are no “accidents” in the random sense of the word). Pride and the anonymity of the car aggravates this conflict: “I’m in a hurry” or “Why won’t he get out of MY way?”

    Better sign placement, or clearly designed roadways would also help. Most driving laws are simple, and are designed to minimize the chances of a collision, whether by regulating physical proximity (yield to the car on the right, so that the car closest to the intersecting point of the two paths goes First), or by controlling the flow of traffic (letting Greater Traffic Flow have more access)

  • J. Marshall Pittman commented on Feb 12 2010

    (3/3)

    Unfortunately, the concept of “taking turns” does not give enough information to it’s intended audience in order for them to make a good decision in the immediate situation.

    Poorly designed roadway flows should be improved, and drivers should obey the laws and signs that are already in use.

    This new sign, unfortunately, cannot overcome bad roadway design (requiring placement of clear existing signage) nor rude driving behavior.

    • Gary Lauder commented on Mar 9 2010

      The sign is not intended to get people to be more polite (despite how this blog’s author interpreted it). The purpose is to ALLOW people to legally and safely do what is best for them and the environment in a common type of intersection. Presently with stop signs, it is illegal not to stop, even if you can clearly see that there is nothing to stop for.

      The problem that the sign is meant to address can not be solved with education. The sign is not intended to compensate for bad roadway design. The roadway is rarely designed badly…unless one accepts the need for this kind of sign and once considers all of the present intersections bad by comparison.

      I suspect that you did not see the presentation since it had not been posted at the time of your writing.

      • Greg R commented on Mar 16 2010

        “legally and safely do what is best for them”. I think that was Mr. Pittman’s point though. What’s “best” for them is to go first! “Alternate” is too ambiguous. It’s already the law at yield signs that the person on the right has the right-of-way. This sign actually is just a yield sign with a label leaving it up to the drivers who has the right of way. Not a good idea. Why not use a standard yield sign with text below reminding people that the person on the right has right of way. Seems a much simpler solution (and thus better solution) than introducing a new sign on the road.

  • Mark Mathis commented on Feb 12 2010

    Please let this happen? On my way to the highway from school there is an exit that loops around, there also just happens to be a stoplight with a left turn that also exits on to this. We, the people who turned right, have to yield to those on the left who are, for the majority, semi-trucks and people who have driven down just for the purpose of getting in front of the yield sign and other drivers. It’s become such a problem that it causes backup down the street waiting for people to get on to the exit. It literally stops traffic. This sign would completely fix that if people were to follow it.

  • Pierre Mol commented on Feb 12 2010

    I can’t stop thinking of the youtube video of “the process” when looking at this sign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVb8EC1Y2xM, description: “What if there were no stop signs and a major corporation was charged with inventing one?” Also, unless I am mistaken, when one is at a yield sign, either there is someone and thus one yields, or there is no one thus one “blows through”. Also, I doubt this is clearer than a sign that says “STOP”, but I do like the mention of “if cars are waiting please alternate”. Politeness surely can’t hurt! If the problem is “stopping at red lights at 4am, on a country road, when there’s no one around for miles”, don’t the solutions of having blinking yellow lights or…a stop sign already exist? And work?