Video of How Cambodia Gets by Without Traffic Lights

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 14 2013 10:26 AM

Uncontrolled Intersection in Siem Reap

170837009
Angkor is cool, but the real local highlight is the traffic engineering.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Something I find fascinating is the possibly misguided nature of the assumption that heavy street traffic necessitates the use of traffic lights and stop signs. The theory is that controlled intersections are faster and safer. But the empirics don't necessarily bare this out, and the late Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman has persuaded a number of jurisdictions to shift to an uncontrolled model, especially in Northern Europe. In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, uncontrolled intersections are popular not because of hip traffic engineering theories but simply because economic growth and vehicle ownership is growing faster than infrastructure.

And it seems to work well. Here's something I shot with my iPhone in Siem Reap:

Advertisement

It seems to work perfectly fine. The key thing is that basically everyone drives slowly and steadily rather than in a stop-and-go manner. Stop-and-go turns out to be less a way of increasing safety than a way of maximizing the value of vehicles with high top speeds (i.e., automobiles) rather than slower vehicles (bicycles, scooters, motorcycles). So filling your city with signalized intersections turns out to be a kind of backdoor subsidy to automobile ownership. That's fine if promoting the auto industry is your policy goal (as it certainly was for the United States in the second half of the 20th century) but as more and more western cities now claim to have the policy goal of reducing car ownership, they might find they have a lot to learn from poorer countries.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

Move Aside, Oxford Comma, the New Battle Is Over Single or Double Quotes

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Ben Bradlee’s Fascinating Relationship With JFK

Culturebox

The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid in some kind of store.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 11:06 AM The Right to Run If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Outward
Oct. 22 2014 10:37 AM Judge Upholds Puerto Rico’s Gay Marriage Ban in a Comically Inane Opinion
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 22 2014 11:04 AM Do All U.S. Presidents Look the Same? What About Japan’s Prime Ministers?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 22 2014 10:29 AM Apple TV Could Still Work Here’s how Apple can fix its living-room product.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 22 2014 10:30 AM Monster Sunspot Will Make Thursday’s Eclipse That Much Cooler
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.