Tribute to a ‘radical’ traffic engineer

January 8, 2008 at 7:01 pm 3 comments

(Jon) I’d never before heard of Hans Monderman, who died yesterday, but according to Streetsblog, he was

“a rare and radical traffic engineer who believed that the art and science of his profession could be used not just to facilitate the movement of motor vehicles but to build community and enhance human relationships.”

Raise the Hammer gives a tribute:

His specialty was not to write lots of fat reports or go to conferences, but rather to get out onto the street and show people and policy makers what can be done if we apply our minds to it.

His approach has been called “Designing for Negotiation,” which he in his usual modesty admitted works better in some places than others. At busy urban intersections with slow traffic, he found that it is often safer and more effective to get road users to focus on looking at one another instead of traffic control devices.

That site pointed out this profile of Monderman that appeared in the New York Times with this lead:

“I want to take you on a walk,” said Hans Monderman, abruptly stopping his car and striding — hatless, and nearly hairless — into the freezing rain. Like a naturalist conducting a tour of the jungle, he led the way to a busy intersection in the center of town, where several odd things immediately became clear. Not only was it virtually naked, stripped of all lights, signs and road markings, but there was no division between road and sidewalk. It was, basically, a bare brick square.

But in spite of the apparently anarchical layout, the traffic, a steady stream of trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, moved along fluidly and easily, as if directed by an invisible conductor. When Monderman, a traffic engineer and the intersection’s proud designer, deliberately failed to check for oncoming traffic before crossing the street, the drivers slowed for him. No one honked or shouted rude words out the window.

“Who has the right of way?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t care. People here have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves, use their own brains.

You gotta love a guy who has a vision, pursues it boldly and then is humble enough to adjust it as necessary.

More on Hans Monderman:


Entry filed under: Jon Swerens, Neighborhoods, Transportation. Tags: , .

The four saddest words Great article: ‘Urban Paradox’


  • 1. Scott Spaulding  |  January 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Very interesting. Thanks for posting.

  • 2. Kevin  |  January 11, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    What a nice site this is. I grew up around Fort Wayne and went to Carroll, so it’s good for me to see a blog like this for the city! I have an Indy blog that is similar, but I think yours may be better. Kudos.

  • 3. abhijitkiran  |  May 7, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Well, the city I live in does have traffic lights, but they are just for namesake. No one really follows those things. At the same time, no one is open enough to admit that they can do without them. Its a mess, the traffic here. Everyone is so narrow in his/her thinking, very selfish. If there exists a junction without a traffic light, all hell breaks loose there. It starts a traffic jam that only resolves if a traffic police interferes.


But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

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