Compare and Contrast Two Views of How the Relationship Between People and Traffic Is Ordered.

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  • Topic: Road, Traffic, Hans Monderman
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Compare and contrast two views of how the relationship between people and traffic is ordered.

This essay will compare and contrast Buchanan, an engineer who reproduced a report on 'traffic in towns' and the Dutch engineer Monderman's ideas of 'shared space' by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of their research and what differences and similarities they have to each other using examples to reinforce the information.

The relationship between people and traffic is down to how people behave on the roads they use and how they deal with the rules associated with this, as well as accepting that others need to use the same space whether this is at the same time or separately. Traffic is viewed in Buchanan's report as an agent because it has an active role in shaping the way people live, how space is designed and how people interact with each other and with their environment. (Silva, 2009, P. 329).

Table 7.1 shows that in a 57 year period the number of motor vehicles on UK roads grew by more than ten times from 44% of cars and taxis in 1949 to 79% in 2006 '(Department of Transport, 2007, p.124, Table 7.1, quoted in Silva, 2009, p.326)'. These figures are bound to affect order on the road, but it was not until after the 1960s that considerations for traffic movement were to affect the design and regulation of roads and streets. The first relates to an influential report by Buchanan called traffic in towns, published in 1963; which predicated the segregation of pedestrians and cars. The second based on the idea of shared space derived from the work of Monderman, who in the 1980s devised the principle of the naked street, which has become influential in urban planning in the early twenty-first century. (Silva, 2009, P. 325). Foucault and Goffman are relevant to both Buchanan and Monderman through their identities as traffic engineers. They share an area of knowledge with Foucault, who influenced the study of social order since the 1970's (Silva, 2009, P. 320). Goffman's view of centrality of interaction is certainly visible in Monderman's approach in negotiating space (Silva, 2009, P 343).

Monderman's thesis suggests the best way to improve road safety is to abolish roadside markings and warnings, i.e. psychological calming. Measures include removing centre lines, eliminating the kerb to blur the boundary between pavement and road and changing the colour of the tarmac (Silva, 2009, P. 333). In contrast, Buchanan's traffic in the towns report aimed to produce a new design for urban space in order to engineer the efficient distribution and access of large numbers of vehicles to a large number of buildings while achieving a satisfactory standard of environment for life in towns. It emphasised the need for humans to live with motor vehicles (Silva, 2009, P. 327). This shows that although they both wanted to create a safe environment for people but they both had different ideas about achieving this goal such as; Buchanan believes individuals need to be told how to act and behave whilst Monderman believes they need to work out what to do for themselves.

The modernist approach prevailing at the time of the Buchanan Report prescribed the development of standardized uniform spaces commanding uniform behaviour, leaving no room for individual interpretation, explaining everything with signs and texts compared to the flexible approach of Monderman's shared space philosophy, tailor made layouts are required for more individualized style to emerge: every site is unique and it has its own story which gives information about how the space is used (Silva, 2009, P. 339). The key principle for Buchanan to was to isolate 'rooms' for working, shopping and leisure from the 'corridors' where the traffic would move. Buchanan called these isolated areas 'environmental units' (Silva, 2009, P. 328).

Monderman's aim was to create the need for motorists and pedestrians to negotiate with each other for use of the road, he...
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