Effective Traffic Calming Device: The Frisbee

From Sean Roche at the Newton Streets and Sidewalks blog:

frisbee.jpgWant to slow traffic? Throw a frisbee across the street. That’s what six-year-old son of NS&S and I learned on Sunday.

Please note that we did not throw the frisbee in front of traffic. We stopped throwing as soon as any car approached. But, our presence on the sidewalk, frisbee in hand, seemed to create some anxiety, and traffic slowed. Reaaaaaally slowed. It was remarkable.

This is consistent with the theories promoted by offbeat Australian traffic innovator David Engwicht. Among other things, Engwicht invented (or at least popularized) the idea of the walking school bus. Relevant to our frisbee toss, Engwicht believes that traditional approaches to traffic calming aren’t necessary (or enough). Rather than build speed bumps, install chicanes, or otherwise change the roadway (or in addition), Engwicht promotes what he calls second-generation traffic calming: intrigue and uncertainty.

  • The automobile was never a good idea. Let’s not make peace with it.

  • catalyst

    let’s not forget that sidewalk extensions, speed humps and other kinds of traffic calming can make it so that average people feel comfortable getting out into the street in the first place.

  • srock

    making sidewalk extensions also lessens the distance you have to throw a frisbee….

  • Do read the whole post. (And not just to plump up my traffic stats, though it helps.)

    I don’t endorse Engwicht’s theories. Who has time to throw a frisbee at all hours of the day? It suffers, as we the tech nerds say, from a scalability problem.

    We need to redesign our streets.

    My only point was to share this remarkable experience.

    srock, if you shorten the distance, how is the kid ever going to learn how to heave the disk? Another example of the tyranny of low expectations!

  • Greg Raisman

    Couple of things:

    1) When you look at Engwicht’s ideas, he actually calls for some very expensive engineering. His concepts of “rooms” are quite nice, but much more expensive to implement than “traditional traffic calming.”

    2) I love community driven ideas. However, the frisbee toss only works when the frisbee is being thrown. It’s the other times during the 24-hour a day 365 day year that the operation of the roadway matters.

  • flp

    ya wanna calm traffic? ride a bike and help add to the growing number of cyclists! it requires no engineering, no government meddling and no so-called “law” enforcement.

    of course, ya gotta learn to ride the correct way to calm traffic, but it can be done once you have acquired the experience, skill, and confidence.

  • Mitch

    A lot of Engwicht’s ideas are labor-intensive and hard to implement — how do you call your neighbors together to sign a Traffic Reduction Treaty? — but I think it’s worthwhile to try looking at these issues through his eyes.

    I really like his insight that the solution to traffic problems depends more on social change than installation of hardware, and I think this idea is slowly becoming part of the conventional wisdom.

  • Jay

    Please describe what your approach is, to “calming traffic.”

    I live in a community with old, narrow, driving lanes. The streets are posted, by the town government for 20 m.p.h. traffic speed. However, about half of the drivers follow those laws, and the other half, well….don’t seem to know they exist.

    Bicyclists are omnipresent on these lanes, and there is plenty of wildlife, criss-crossing the lanes. Unfortunately, so many of them are caught by the headlights and speed of 2,000 pound autos driven by rushed and hurried human animals.

    On many occasions, children have told me that drivers have narrowly missed running them over. And, recently, a neighbor, with a Lhasa Apso on a leash, was horrified when her puppy, was struck and killed by a car. The driver, by the way, did not stop.

    So, what do you suggest? What are your thoughts? I have presented my case before the town council and got a blank look of disapproval and an unqualified “no” to any “traffic calming” devices being installed. I think that I should shirk in the dark of the night and install 6-foot tall speed bumps to a disconcerting public.




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