There's a lot of good points made (albeit in a rather colourful way) in an article over in today's BBC magazine about speeding in urban areas. Children's author and traffic campaigner, Ted Dewan, has hit upon the idea of "folk traffic calming" or as Sean Coughlan reports it where art installations meet road safety, a kind of sleeping policeman that's been influenced by Damien Hirst.
The idea is to put "traffic witches" in the path of speeding vehicles instead of the usual array of signs, bumps and cameras in a more absurd effort to make the driver slow down. So far motorists have had to negotiate an 11-feet high rabbit, a big bed (for a sleeping policeman), a Casualty-style fake crash scene for Halloween and the setting up of a living room in the middle of the road. All this is currently taking place in a single Oxford residential street, but it'll be interesting to see if anyone jumps on the idea here to try and stop small streets from being turned into rat runs.
"There's an element of fun and mischief, but underneath is the ambition to encourage people to re-examine how roads are used," says Mr Dewan. "With the living room, it was the most direct way of saying 'We live here. This is our living space.'" And he says that residents really enjoyed the strangeness of being able to relax outside in their own street, rather than feel it was a place only belonging to the cars that race up and down it.
Bet that made the SUV owners happy...
"A driver of a 4x4 didn't so much disapprove - he was too crazed and violent for that. He seemed to be made psychotic by the idea that roads could exist for anything other than him to drive on," he says... It's this sense of entitlement that he says he wants to challenge - leaving a 4x4 blocking half the street is called parking but a couple of chairs and a magazine rack put in the same place is seen as a senseless provocation. "My daughter isn't allowed to throw snowballs at school, because it's considered too dangerous. But it's meant to be acceptable that she can walk home only inches away from cars driving at lethal speeds. There is something weird about this, a deep cultural bias."