Reading between the lines on traffic member R.A. Siy writes the Passenger column for VISOR, an online magazine about transport, motoring, technology,  and culture. Here is a snippet from his recent piece about the history of traffic engineering:

Back in 2013, the Copenhagenize Design Company posted an image that, I feel, speaks a lot to how we got into the traffic hell we’re in. I’ve been using it in my presentations for a while, but since some friends recently asked me to explain it to them, this piece is dedicated to this picture:

“So, what do the lines mean, Rob?”

Each of the lines symbolizes the shapes taken by different modes of travel throughout history. For a long time, we designed cities so that pedestrians, cyclists and transit could get to where they were going in a straight line, or a small number of straight lines. This makes mathematical sense: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and so when people want to travel, they travel in straight lines (hold on to that thought because it’s key to understanding the rest of the graphic). To understand this type of planning a little bit better, pay attention to the design of old Manila, or districts that are of similar age or older in other cities. It has small blocks laid out in a fine-grained grid of streets, so that pedestrians can easily find their way around by walking in just two straight lines.

What changed? Read the full story on


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