Tale of Two Engineers ? One Visionary, One Recovering

A revolution is underway in how towns are being redesigned for livability, and it’s playing out right here in West Windsor. The late Hans Monderman launched a movement for better safety without signs and signals, while in the Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, another engineer realizes that “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recounts the work of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who held to a maxim: ?When you treat people like idiots, they?ll behave like idiots.? In appropriate settings, he removed the signs and signals that tell drivers what to do. His goal? ?I don?t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.? His work underlies the design for the promenade in the new transit village west of the train tracks.

In Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, Charles Marohn relates his professional experience “convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.” Why? “I had books and books of standards to follow.” Finally, “In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

This realization is slow in coming to our Rt 571 Main Street design, where the state guidelines are in place but the design hasn’t taken them into consideration.

Please help the county engineers learn from the transit village engineers by supporting the WWBPA’s recommendations for Rt 571 Main Street – slower speed, medians with pedestrian refuges and a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at the crossing at Sherbrooke Drive.

This redesign is our chance to make drivers comfortable with the slower speed – just posting a lower speed limit will not effectively slow traffic. Our tale of two West Windsors might have the happy ending of a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and transit village promenade, leading to higher property values for us all.

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2 Responses to “Tale of Two Engineers ? One Visionary, One Recovering”

  1. Brian says:

    Ironically, Mercer County Library is on a road with a stupidly under-posted speed limit!

  2. Donald Pillsbury says:

    I’ve read Tom Vanderbilt’s book. I highly recommend it. It is very insightful and helps you understand why motorists behave as they do. (Bonus: you don’t have to buy it – you can borrow it from the Mercer County Library.)

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