I visited Shanghai recently during a large International research project Foviance was conducting for a client in the mobile sector. It was the first time I had visited any part of China and I found the cultural experience fascinating. The differences between East and West are so apparent when you see them first hand and there was plenty to take in and admire.
One idea I really liked was the way the traffic signals work in Shanghai. The simplicity and practicality of the idea reminded me of the first time I visited Florida and experienced the ‘turn right on a red light’ phenomenon. For those unfamiliar this would translate in the UK to allowing motorists to turn left (and therefore not cross the traffic) on a red light providing that there aren’t any vehicles coming. It seems a safe way of reducing queues to me but seems never to have caught on over here. I did hear that London’s Mayor is considering allowing cyclists this privilege so maybe there is still hope for the rest of us.
Back in Shanghai, what they have done is add a countdown to the lights. Although the photo I took shows only how it benefits pedestrians it is actually in operation for motorists as well. What I observed was people either rushing to make sure they crossed in time or waiting because they realised they wouldn’t have time to cross. The result was traffic moved away from the lights more quickly because no dare-devil pedestrians decided to risk it.
I would be interested to learn about other features and functionality provided in cities that provides benefits to pedestrians and motorists by making technology easier to understand or communicate a more valuable message. Please let me know if you see any and if you send me a photo I’ll put it in a later blog post.