Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Science of Traffic in Addis Ababa

Posted by on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Though the chaos of this traffic captured in a square in the African city of Addis Ababa appears to be very dangerous for pedestrians, it is probably safer than it looks...

The lack of regulations, lights, signs fits with the traffic and design theories of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer. According to his way of thinking, removing safety features and instructions from a road forces drivers to pay more attention to what's happening outside of their vehicles (pedestrians, cyclists) rather just blindly following the rules. The addition of this attention makes the traffic situation safer for all involved. The drivers in the Addis Ababa video are clearly not closed in their cars but are out and in the traffic itself.


Comments (24) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
south downtown 1
video is sped up, so it looks deceptively riskier
Posted by south downtown on April 30, 2014 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 2
What I don't get: progressive urbanists have such a huge hardon for Hans Monderman and his "shared space", which boils down to "risk compensation" theory. Which is to say, safety technology makes you take greater risks.

So no to street signs, and lane markings, and no to traffic lights. But also no to seat belts and no to helmets. Because all that is nanny state regulation that impairs your freedom of choice. And if you "worked without a net", you'd make smarter decisions. Sound familiar?

It's basic anti-government conservationism.

So Hans Monderman = Koch brothers.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 30, 2014 at 9:12 AM · Report this
I'd really love it if instead of just speculating you'd show some data supporting your hypothesis. Did you even bother to look and see what pedestrian and car injury/death rates were in the urban/rural areas of Addis Ababa versus the US, Japan or the Eurozone?

Otherwise you're just engaging in speculation that could get people killed.
Posted by Solk512 on April 30, 2014 at 9:18 AM · Report this
@2, Great insight!
Posted by Solk512 on April 30, 2014 at 9:24 AM · Report this
In small areas like plazas it works well enough, but it is really inefficient in moving larger volumes of traffic with any speed. I guess that's ok if you're not the one in a vehicle trying to get somewhere, but since transportation is a key part of commerce this anarchic traffic system won't be adopted in too many places.
Posted by SPG on April 30, 2014 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
Entertaining music although I was expecting Yakety Sax.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 30, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 7
"The WHO African Region had the highest mortality rate, with 28.3 deaths per 100 000 population."…

"Despite a substantial decrease in traffic accidents, pedestrians in Addis Ababa are still at a huge risk of losing their lives, according to a new police report.
In the past six months of the Ethiopian year, over 174 residents lost their lives in traffic accidents, out of which 152 were pedestrians.

According to the public relations office of the city’s traffic office, one of the major causes for the high rate of traffic accident in the capital is drivers “not giving right of way to pedestrians”.…

But hey, who needs data when you have theories that give you happy thoughts?
Posted by Theodore Gorath on April 30, 2014 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Call me Scott 8
By appearances . . . size matters. The take-away: drive a bus and walk in groups.
Posted by Call me Scott on April 30, 2014 at 10:50 AM · Report this
basically, the monderman theory works best when you have small streets with a small amount of traffic. The huge terrible streets in this video look dangerous for everyone. I like the modified theory, where street designers deliberately add trees and other visual mass to the street scape to obscure sight lines and force drivers to slow down. They also add refuges for pedestrians, and remove other signs to allow the driver to focus on what is important.
Posted by leighzbohns on April 30, 2014 at 11:02 AM · Report this
lark 10
Good Morning Charles,
You and Monderman have a point. Having recently returned from Vietnam, I found traffic in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) chaotic. However, I also found a certain sense of "order" in that chaos. The cities and towns there have a high volume of motor scooters. A fair estimate is for every car in Seattle, there are 5+ scooters in HCMC. At first, crossing a street felt terrifying. But, after a few times I felt comfortable. I didn't even dodge them.

Here are a few things I noticed:

-the traffic appears to never stop unless at a railroad crossing or traffic light.

-Traffic is relatively slow. They can stop if necessary, on a dime.

-a pedestrian crossing a main thoroughfare must proceed slowly (walk don't run) ahead and never look or step back.

-a pedestrian crossing a main thoroughfare must always look at oncoming traffic. The scooters/cars will drive around you.

-a pedestrian crossing a main thoroughfare must never, ever mess with a bus. Let it pass first.

Heed those suggestions and one will manage fine.
Posted by lark on April 30, 2014 at 11:08 AM · Report this
Fried Worms 11
I love this children's book: "Charles Mudede and the day he obliviously promoted libertarian idiocy."
Posted by Fried Worms on April 30, 2014 at 11:10 AM · Report this
First Charles doesn't give a shit about untested and untraceable seafood sales, and now he promotes traffic design that "just feels right" but actually kills a lot of people.
Posted by Solk512 on April 30, 2014 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Suggesting that libertarians don't believe in traffic signs (or any government regulation at all), is the surest evidence that someone has never bothered to learn what libertarianism actually is (or "are," as libertarianism comes in a variety of strains).

Full disclosure - I am not a libertarian
Posted by LJM on April 30, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Dougsf 14
@7 - I was wondering about those numbers too. That's double the traffic deaths per capita than Los Angeles. Perhaps drivers and pedestrians in Addis Ababa are more alert, but they are in twice as much danger.

If there was a way to combine their level of attention with a more well organized system, we might be on to something—for a few weeks. We are all the same animals. Stress levels go down. We relax. Our minds wander.
Posted by Dougsf on April 30, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Charles Mudede 15
@2, for me, anything that makes driving unpleasant im going to support. if rational traffic management makes driving less stressful. then i think should look for ways that will make it stressful.
Posted by Charles Mudede on April 30, 2014 at 1:01 PM · Report this
You might as well stay home if you are elderly, disabled or otherwise slow-moving. You'll be road kill in no time.

Posted by bigyaz on April 30, 2014 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 17
Here's an article at Smithsonian about risk compensation theory, or risk homeostasis as it's also called. It points out how much conservative talking head George Will loves the idea. And a Wall Street journalist and some Chicago (hint hint) economists blamed the fall of Bear Stearns on excessive regulation. And the effect of the TARP bailout, preventing risk takers from getting properly spanked for their bad risks. But that's only a sideshow. The thrust of the article is "NO SEATBELTS"! Really.

Forget about the fact that when Wall Street had no bailouts or regulation, we had a depression every 10 years, like clockwork. Mass unemployment, masses of people lost everything. And once they recovered, they did it all over again. Risk compensation theory says they're not supposed to behave that way. But they did.

Or consider that before seat-belts, helmets, anti-lock brakes, air bags, hundreds of car design rules and crash tests to verify it, and hundreds of traffic and road regulations, the traffic fatality rate was an order of magnitude higher. Before modern traffic engineering, people died like flies on the roads.

So the same libertardianism that would have us go back to the Gilded Age of laissez faire economics also asks that we have traffic governed by the "invisible hand".

Someone above already pointed out that the traffic fatality rate in Africa and other developing areas is mind bogglingly high. There you go.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 30, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 18

Except all the driving enthusiasts hate traffic rules, and they hate that seat belt chime and all that other "safety nazi" stuff. They consider a pleasant drive to be one free of anyone telling you what to do, and free to yap on your cell phone and see what your baby is capable of. People constantly complain that driving was more fun back before all these rules. That's why Ted Nugent an those GOP types want to motorcycle with no helmet: more fun.

People in Addis Ababa don't forgo driving because it's unpleasant. They drive what they can afford, and they drive as much as they can afford to. Same as the US.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 30, 2014 at 1:25 PM · Report this
Nieuw Hollander 19
Is this a joke? An uncontrolled intersection of two fourteen-lane highways not a good example shared space. Africa has the highest rate of traffic and pedestrian fatalities in the world per km travelled. This is ghoulish.

That said, #2/17, you are slightly off base here at least with the Monderman bashing. Monderman was not an advocate of the removal of safety regulations. Cars in shared spaces rarely exceed a walking pace, and 30km/h (18 mph) is the statutory limit in them. You're right that Monderman's work depends on increasing the perception of risk and thus alertness of all road users in shared spaces, but he was never an advocate of converting all roads into shared spaces, or against improved automobile safety.

Conflating the demonstrated utility of shared spaces in appropriate contexts with advocating a removal of all regulation is dishonest.

But this post is still crap.
Posted by Nieuw Hollander on April 30, 2014 at 1:50 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 20

So one of the purposes of shared space is to make cars drive slowly, but you say cars going slowly is also a prerequisite for shared space? Are you sure?

It's also not true that Monderman's theories only apply to cute pedestrian malls. He also favors removing most signs from faster roads, and removing the centerline from two-lane roads.

I doubt Monderman ever thought of himself as a free-market libertarian with anything in common with the Koch brothers or Ron Paul, but the assumptions about human nature are the same.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Report this
@15 okay, you mean you're in favor of increasing motor vehicle fatalities? Which would of course include more fatalities on buses, with pedestrians and bicyclists.

That is a very strange position to take and contrary to literally every other social position you claim you support.

If this Dutch libertarian morons theories held any water then the most regulated societies would have the highest road fatalities. And of course that is easily disproven and patently absurd.

Oddly the Netherlands and Northern Europe have some of the most highly monitored and regulated road systems and infrastructure in the world.

By contrast please go drive in the anarchic particle collider that is the roads of Saigon for a few weeks. I have.

You see hit and runs, pedestrians being routinely run down, and large scale accidents every day. And in the same places that could easily be remedied with a simple sign. They tolerate highway fatalities that nowhere in the west would tolerate. Libertarian highway heaven I guess.

And also contrary to your idiotic theory all these developing countries are more and more exponentially relying on cars.
Posted by tkc on April 30, 2014 at 3:16 PM · Report this
charles is so clueless that its almost comical. He proves it in every one of his posts.

Charles, what exactly do you contribute to society anyway?
Posted by charles is a joke on April 30, 2014 at 3:50 PM · Report this
@15 What in the fuck is your problem? You're driving becomes more unpleasant, even if it vastly increases death and harm to others?

What the hell is wrong with you?
Posted by Solk512 on May 1, 2014 at 7:50 AM · Report this
SPG 24
You also have to keep in mind that the places that have adopted some of Monderman's theories are already highly regulated. Driving licenses are much harder to get than here, and the fines more severe.
Ever drive the autobahn in Germany? Sure people go fast on the zones with no speed limit, but it's orderly with people keeping right except to pass. The moment you go into a zone with a speed limit, everyone including that Porsche that was flying by at 120mph slows down to just under the limit. Unlike here where speed limits often seem arbitrarily low, Germany's make sense and are for the most part obeyed by everyone.
Posted by SPG on May 1, 2014 at 9:59 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy