An old article I found on Jalopnik talks about Hans Monderman, a European traffic engineer.
Monderman, then a regional safety inspector for Friesland, was dispatched to the small village of Oudehaske to check the speed of car traffic through the town’s center (two children had been fatally struck). Previously, Monderman, like any good Dutch traffic engineer, would have deployed, if not an actual traffic light, the tools of what is known as “traffic calming”: speed bumps, warning signs, bollards, or any number of highly visible interventions.
But those solutions were falling out of favor with his superiors, because they were either ineffective or too expensive. At a loss, Monderman suggested to the villagers, who as it happens had hired a consultant to help improve the town’s aesthetics, that Oudehaske simply be made to seem more “villagelike.” The interventions were subtle. Signs were removed, curbs torn out, and the asphalt replaced with red paving brick, with two gray “gutters” on either side that were slightly curved but usable by cars.
The experiment was deemed a success when automobile speeds through the intersection fell, and accidents decreased. The success is largely attributed to taking away space that drivers might have typically thought was dedicated to them (i.e., road distinct from sidewalk). By removing barriers such as curbs, and forcing drivers to treat the road as space shared with pedestrians, a different, more responsible ecosystem emerged.
Monderman’s solutions appear to have been implemented in intersections across Europe, but what I find striking is the vision – large-scale open areas to be shared by everyone and everything from pedestrians to buses.