Tuesday, July 5, 2011


In recognition of our Independence Day from the British Crown in 1776, I note that a new British invasion is occurring which could potentially tame our suburban traffic nightmares and cure the red light camera syndrome. Wouldn't it be terrific if this "walkability" theme included attractive intersections, much like the issue surrounding Prince Charles' famous "carbuncle" pronouncement to the RIBA in 1984? Which in fact generated a backlash to the imported American strip mall retro-experience (another exchange across the Pond?) and instigated a movement towards even more radical modernism that reflects the changing aesthetic towards creative, energy-conserving minimalism. The humble element in this case is the roundabout.

In this way, a humanized traffic experience as part of the urban fabric is becoming a popular adaptation here in the US, as is covered by an article from BBC news. Unlike the vast, complex autopian circles shown above, these are the small, single circle suburban street intersections that generally host a tree and shrubs that link the allees of street trees with a marker that indisputably creates a "stop!" point for pedestrians. This slows traffic because of the change of scale and the subtraction of the "highway" visuals from many of our suburban arterial streets.

However, to note the cultural differences cited in the BBC article, the Brits have famously learned to navigate these in a rather frightful fashion. I had "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" on a visit to Southampton, with my cousin merrily ripping through the traffic circles as if they didn't exist on the way back from the local pub to the train station. Only in England.