Karan Talwar, a blogger and Freakonomics reader, writes about an interesting traffic nudge near Shimla, India. The roads into Shimla are notoriously dangerous, and traffic signs have done little to lessen the problem. So local authorities began constructing temple shrines at hot spots. The nudge worked like a charm: “Turns out even though the average Indian has no respect for traffic laws and signs, they will slow down before any place of worship and take a moment to ask for blessings!”
The endangerment of children—that persistent theme of our lives, arts, and literature over the past twenty years—resonates so strongly because, as parents, as members of preceding generations, we look at the poisoned legacy of modern industrial society and its ills, at the world of strife and radioactivity, climatological disaster, overpopulation, and commodification, and feel guilty. As the national feeling of guilt over the extermination of the Indians led to the creation of a kind of cult of the Indian, so our children have become cult objects to us, too precious to be risked. At the same time they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation. And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.
What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children’s imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go.
Sticks and stones may break your bones — but if you need surgery, the right words used in the operating room can be more powerful than many drugs. New research published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that when surgical teams heeded a simple checklist — as pilots do before takeoff — patient-mortality rates were cut nearly in half and complications fell by more than a third. . . .
Whether these changes can be sustained over time is another question. Gawande and his colleagues note in the study that a phenomenon called the “Hawthorne effect” may be largely responsible for the checklist’s success. The effect was named for a series of experiments designed to determine how to increase productivity at a factory in Chicago. All of the tactics implemented by the study leaders improved worker output during the experiments — but researchers realized that the effect they were really measuring was a boost in motivation among workers who knew others were watching.
“The checklist is kind of an effort to produce a consistent Hawthorne effect,” says Gawande. “It is intended to make people aware that other people expect these things to be done.”
The women took issue with mainstream UK initiatives to ‘design out crime’ in their dislike of the surveillance culture and technology promoted in the name of community safety. This government-promoted approach includes felling trees to ensure clear sightlines for CCTV cameras, erecting railings around steps and public monuments where people like to linger and chat, covering public spaces with ugly signage prohibiting everyday activities, or installing “mosquitos” (high-pitched sounds) to deter young people from congregating in the street.
The very presence of CCTV made women feel that an area must be unsafe. Although many wanted to see more uniformed people in public spaces, they preferred the sight of park wardens, bus conductors, and toilet attendants rather than police. Fenced-off areas and barriers made them feel trapped. Security guards, overseeing privatized public spaces, were also seen as a problem - concerned primarily with the profitability of the enterprise, and not the well-being of the visitor.
The factor that contributed most highly to women’s sense of safety was ‘a variety of/ lots of other people about’; often they would add ‘smiling people’, ‘happy people’, ‘the sound of children laughing’. WDS therefore does not support the current mainstream approach to community safety. Designers and decision-makers need to think more about how to attract a wide range of different people to come and enjoy themselves in the public spaces of towns and cities. One way of achieving this is simply through making such places beautiful - a concept rarely discussed in the context of safety. It is this quality above all which will draw people out of their homes and cars to occupy and enjoy a sense of well-being in public urban space.
By placing our How’s My Driving sticker on your car, other drivers now have an easy way to provide feedback about your teen’s driving. Utilizing this information, concerned parents can work with their teen to correct poor driving skills and reinforce safe driving behavior.
Every year nearly 10,000 teens die violently in automobile crashes. Young drivers account for 18% of all police reported automobile or truck crashes. This staggering fact should scare the parents of every teen driver.
When a report is received, parents are contacted via mail or e-mail with information regarding your teen’s driving behavior. Utilize this information to teach your teen accident reduction and defensive driving techniques.
Trucking companies utilizing “How’s My Driving?” driver monitoring programs have reported a 20% decrease in accidents and ticketing. It’s our hope that Tell-My-Mom.com can increase safety in teen driving in a similar fashion.
Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name. At the town center, in a crowded four-way intersection called the Laweiplein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.
As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.
A year after the change, the results of this “extreme makeover” were striking: Not only had congestion decreased in the intersection—buses spent less time waiting to get through, for example—but there were half as many accidents, even though total car traffic was up by a third. Students from a local engineering college who studied the intersection reported that both drivers and, unusually, cyclists were using signals—of the electronic or hand variety—more often. They also found, in surveys, that residents, despite the measurable increase in safety, perceived the place to be more dangerous. This was music to Monderman’s ears. If they had not felt less secure, he said, he “would have changed it immediately.”