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Traffic more relaxed in Dutch town without road signage
Makkinga attracts attention
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
MAKKINGA - A northern Dutch town, which removed all road signs, traffic lights, fines and sidewalks, keeps attracting media attention from around the world. The municipal decision to redirect Makkinga’s conventional divided space concept into one shared by all road users, has also brought a CBS camera crew to the Ooststellingwerf town of 1,000 recently.
After surveying Makkinga’s unique traffic concept, the CBS crew targeted elementary school students for their opinion of the concept but quickly discovered that English is still a foreign language in some parts of the the Netherlands. Teacher Marlies Bouma who served as chair of a local citizens’ group when the traffic innovations were adopted in 1996, saved the day for the U.S. crew by explaining the process that led to the changes, which, she admitted, was at first strenuously opposed by many people.
According to reports, Makkinga has not had a road fatality in over ten years. The road system has been adapted so road users instinctively feel what is expected of them. The town does have street name markers and directional signs pointing to public buildings.
The CBS also visited a Drachten district where a similar concept is in place, also designed by traffic engineer Hans Monderman, since deceased. Monderman’s concept has also been introduced in other countries, mostly in small towns.
The Monderman concept, shared by other European traffic planners, strives for streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, by means of friendly gestures, the typical greetings, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs.
Acknowledging that things are different in Makkinga is a sign at the entrance to the small town, which reads “Verkeersbordvrij” - “free of traffic signs.” Cars bumble unhurriedly over precision-trimmed granite cobblestones. Stop signs and direction signs are nowhere to be seen. There are neither parking meters nor signs announcing parking restrictions. Nor are there any lines painted on the streets.
According to Monderman, the many rules of the road strip people of the most important thing: the urge to be considerate. The greater the number of traffic rules and directive, the more the sense of personal responsibility dwindles.
Monderman’s sign free concept keeps making news abroad and is regularly the subject of debate on Internet blogs and traffic industry and specialty magazines.