23 December 2004

Information design

One among ten things the Chinese do far better than we do
In Tianjin, a city of 13 million people, traffic lights display red or green signals in a rectangle that rhythmically shrinks down as the time remaining evaporates. In Beijing, some traffic lights offer a countdown clock for both green and red signals.

During a red light, you know whether you have time to check that map; on a green light, you know whether to start braking a block away --- or to stomp on the accelerator, as though you were a Toronto or Montreal driver. (That's probably why Montreal has a few lights with countdown seconds for pedestrians.)



Indri said...

I don't remember anyone paying attention to traffic lights when I was in Beijing, where you honk to signal your intention to change lanes instead of using your lights, but perhaps things have changed since I was there.

Beijing traffic--part of the reason my hair started going white so early.

Jonathan Korman said...

Cool, the honking.

Alysse pointed out to me the other day that someone on the road must be a Mexican because they were stopped and using a turn signal to indicate "please go around me on this side." People use the limited vocabulary of car signals in very different ways in different places, it seems.

Maybe giving cars a bigger vocabulary isn't such a bad idea after all.

Indri said...

I've often thought there should be another light that means, "yes, I know I'm slow, I'm looking for a parking space."

Or perhaps, "yes, I'm slow. I have a cat in a box in the seat next to me and she's having a panic attack as it is."