Beijing to Slow Down Traffic by Confusing Drivers With Optical Illusions
Beijing is looking to make its street intersections safer by introducing optical illusions to help convince its drivers to slow down for pedestrians.
The pilot project has "enhanced" white pedestrian markers at two busy Beijing intersections with blue and yellow "sides," giving the illusion of three-dimensional form. As the Beijing Daily reports, this makes the crosswalk more noticable to drivers.
A section chief for the municipal traffic management bureau Liu Shupeng said the new measures are part of a national standard to make crosswalks across the country safer for pedestrians.
The optical illusion crosswalks are located at the intersection of Fangzhuang Road and Pufang Road in Fengtai District, and at Linglong Road and Beiwan Road in the Qixiancun area of Haidian. Their appearance earlier this week coincides with a traffic crackdown that began two weeks ago that has seen the city dole out some 27,700 fines of RMB 200 and deductions of three demerit points to drivers failing to give the right of way to pedestrians.
"Due to so many cars turning right that steal the right of way from pedestrians, it's very easy to cause an accident," one unidentified middle-aged woman told the Beijing Daily. "I hope that this kind of 3D pedestrian road markings can help remind drivers to be more careful."
The idea of "reminding" drivers of their legal responsibilities goes hand in hand with the view people violate the law in China due to their "ignorance" of it. At the same time, drivers may feel compelled to slow down at these intersections due to psychological reasons, having been confused into believing there is an obstacle on the road ahead of them where in reality, there isn't.
Beijing Daily quotes one traffic warden who says the optical illusion crosswalk has been "effective" in slowing down drivers.
Although Liu called the use of optical illusions at city intersections "new," they have appeared before in China, even in Beijing.
A crosswalk in Taizhou, Zhejiang added "sides" to its traffic markers in 2010, sparking a trend that slowly began spreading throughout the country. Optical illusion crosswalks appeared in Lanzhou in 2012, Liuzhou in 2014, in Luoyang and Changsha (both shown above) in 2015, and in Handan and Hohhot last year.
"We want the new crosswalk to become a real safety belt for pedestrians and vehicles," explained a traffic offical in Taizhou.
Optical illusions are the latest measure to help improve China's roads that are largely populated by chaotic drivers to whom "the right of way" goes to whomever can hold it. The country's crowded city streets are a free-for-all that have left authorities desperately scrambling for ways to preserve order.
Jaywalking pedestrians have been penalized with everything from wearing green hats (representative of the wearer having been cuckolded) to threats of lowering credit scores to being publicly shamed by giant televisions screens and vigilante expats. Drivers have been urged to slow down by having children dance in the middle of busy streets, and have had to deal with a short-lived law that made crossing an amber light into a traffic violation.
As much as these 3D crosswalks are designed to restrain drivers, they may also serve to help pedestrians refrain from jaywalking by providing a distraction during their wait for the light to change, as demonstrated by these crosswalks:
Optical illusions require its viewer to maintain an ideal distance in order to be effective, leading to questions on which vehicle speeds can these 3D crosswalks provide safety for pedestrians. As well, prolonged exposed to an optical illusion may reduce its effectiveness.
Liu said the use of three-dimensional crosswalks will spread throughout the city if they are found to be effective.
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