Good design influences behaviour – Part Two

In a recent post I included an example of how good design can encourage recycling. Here are two examples of design being used to improve road safety. This is an area I find fascinating because the standard approach used by government authorities is to increase fines and increase the number of demerit points issued to motorists.

Since 2008 the deaths of pedestrians in traffic have increased 41 percent, with more than 6,000 fatalities per year. Though there are many causes – unlit and unsafe road crossings and reckless drivers might make the bigger part of it – and many countries have different ways of dealing with this, Iceland has one of the most creative solutions for road safety.

3D Zebra CrossingIn the small fishing town of Ísafjörður, Iceland, a rather different development in pedestrian crossing safety has recently popped up – almost literally. A new kind of speed bumps has been painted that appears to be 3D by way of a cleverly-detailed optical illusion.

Not only does the innovative design give foot-travelers the feeling of walking on air, but the 3D painting also gets the attention of drivers, who slow down their speed once they spot the seemingly floating ‘zebra stripes.’

Icelandic environmental commissioner Ralf Trylla called for its placement in Ísafjörður after seeing a similar project being carried out in New Delhi, India. With the help of a street painting company, his vision of pedestrian crossing signs became a reality.

In their illuminating book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s give another successful example from the shores of Lake Michigan.

“The curve at Lake Shore Drive and Oak Street in Chicago is a favorite nudge. The tight turn makes it one of the city’s most dangerous curves. To try and limit wrecks, in September 2006 the city painted a series of white lines perpendicular to traveling cars. The lines get progressively narrower as drivers approach the sharpest point of the curve, giving them the illusion of speeding up, and nudging them to tap their brakes.”

The authors go on to report, According to an analysis conducted by city traffic engineers, there were 36 percent fewer crashes in the six months after the lines were painted compared to the same 6-month period the year before.”

Sources: and the Nudge blog

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email