An Attempt to Create Empathy in Drivers

One of the issues that continually bedevils the members of the Streetsblog Network is how to get drivers to slow down and pay attention.

bostonglobe.jpgPhoto by Michele McDonald of the Boston Globe via How We Drive.

Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic and keeper of the How We Drive blog, writes about one such effort in the community of Needham, MA. As the Boston Globe reports,
Needham is posting signs in school zones that feature a child’s
drawings and hand-written plea to "Slow Down!!! You May Hurt the

Vanderbilt has this to say:

Part of
me can’t help but to look at those “child-like” signs, meant to
engender feelings of empathy for the nearby children, and think they
almost say more about the drivers. We often hear about how children are
“unpredictable” and do things like cross at inappropriate moments, but
to look at the behavior of drivers through these school areas it is
they who seem to be behaving without the appropriate amount of control
and risk-awareness.

Do you think signs like the ones in Needham might trigger better
behavior in otherwise apathetic drivers? Or do you agree with one of
Vanderbilt’s commenters, who wrote: "These signs are more effective at
appealing to people’s better natures, but not everyone HAS a better
nature. We need bollards here in Mass."

Also today on the network: Transportation for America has a handy table comparing the House and Senate transportation stimulus proposals; Hub and Spokes reports on how stimulus funds might pay for transit operating costs in the Twin Cities; and The Overhead Wire has some thoughts on Obama’s sprawl pronouncement, which got the network so excited yesterday.

  • There had been banners installed on light posts on 16th Street, too busy and unintelligible to motorists, with bilingual messages that said “this is our community” and “please slow down.”

    Of course, if you’re going at 30-40mph on a street, tunnel vision ensures that you’re not going to be able to read low contrast 2″ letters at 100′.


  • Carl

    If you have to stop and try to figure out what the sign above is saying, it’s failed.

  • Carl

    Speeding Fine = $1000 and lose your car.

    Sadly, it takes a very painful loss and inconvenience for offenders to be careful. Most of these feel good measures don’t work.

  • You need actual traffic calming devices, such as speed humps or speed cushions.

  • The City is concerned that owners of expensive low clearance vehicles will sue the City for damage to their roadsters, so they eschew topes in general.

    Some Mexican topes are 30 degree slopes that rise to 18″ or so in the middle of a 4 lane highway.



How Much Do Bicyclists Really Slow Down Drivers?

What’s really slowing these cars down? Probably not bikes. Photo by richardmasoner via Flickr. What is it about bicycles that drives some motorists so crazy? Anyone who’s ever ridden a bike more than a handful of times in this country has experienced it. The honking, the rude remarks, the vehicles speeding past with drivers shouting “get out of […]
When people who bike get behind the wheel of a car, their attitudes toward cyclists are influenced by the type of bike trips they make. Photo: John Luton/Flickr

What Do Drivers Really Think of Cyclists?

There's ample research out there backing up the safety benefits of streets with protected bikeways and slow car speeds. But what about the critically important yet less tangible factor of individual attitudes -- how does the mind of the person behind the wheel affect driver behavior toward cyclists? A new report from Portland State University looks at the question.

Supervisor Mar Wants to Study How Lower Speed Limits Could Improve SF

Supervisor Eric Mar requested a city study last week about how lower speed limits could benefit San Francisco. Although lowering speed limits without implementing physical traffic calming measures isn’t a panacea for safer streets, the measure does hold promise as a first step toward saving lives and implementing Vision Zero. San Francisco would follow in the […]