In every big city, more pedestrians run red lights than motorists. Impatient and confident that no driver would purposely run them over, they dart across the red lights or inch off the curb and into the intersection to get a head start when the light turns green. This doesn’t happen much in Los Angeles where automobiles are “king,” and pedestrians know that they have few rights.Cars speed down city streets, daring a walker to step into their path. On the other hand, San Francisco has always been more pedestrian lenient. Motorists get annoyed with “red light jumpers” and jaywalkers, but perhaps are more forgiving because they know how steep the hills are and recognize that trudging across a hill is an ordeal for the elderly, disabled, and anyone carrying a heavy bag.
In Lisbon, Portugal, the company behind the Smart car successfully tested a novel deterrence, and it didn’t do it by stationing traffic cops at every crosswalk, handing out fines, or constructing barricades. It used entertainment. Smart Company installed “dancing traffic lights” that projected moving pictographs of passersby dancing in real time in a specially designed booth. The dancing signal was so engaging that red-light jumping was reduced by 81%. Now the question is how to get pedestrians to move along and cross the street.