19 Oct 2010

Spontaneous Order -- Traffic circle edition

Hayek not only told us that it was impossible for a central authority to manage everyone's affairs. He also told us (with others) that spontaneous order would allow us to manage our collective affairs with greater success.

This video demonstrates how people can get along, without being told what to do:

This reminds me of the video I made of UC Davis students biking around a traffic circle (lost somewhere :(, in preparation for a paper I wrote on traffic circles [PDF].

Bottom Line: Sometimes engineers, politicians and bureaucrats do more harm than good, trying to "help" us.


  1. TS emails: "“Roads Fit for People” was just amazing. It should be put in the hands of every traffic designer, and more importantly in the hands of every City Council member in the United States (because it will be in the local City Councils where the decisions to test this concept will be made)."

  2. I look at this and think that as wonderful as it is, how much of it is an understanding (implicit or explicit) that this junction is somehow "different" than other ones with lights, and people are acting out of that understanding?

    In other words, if all lights were removed from all intersections, would the normality of them cause people to treat them all differently?

    Also, how might this be feasible in situations in which there are four lanes of traffic crossing another four lanes of traffic? In this case, it looked like two lanes crossing (somewhat complexly) into and through other two lanes of traffic. Up the ante to 4 by 4 (or 6 by 6), and how will people's behavior change?

  3. @umlaud -- that's when you need traffic circles, to make it easier for people to merge (always yield to traffic coming from the left), instead of the stop-sign three step stutter...

  4. I live in the US and I really appreciate this concept.It seems to have the potential to create real harmony on the roads and I think it would definitely increase driver alertness as well!In a country where we are always trying to cut spending, increase safety and be more environmentally friendly, I believe that this has a real place in all of that!


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