As cool as optical illusions are, not many people would think of them as an effective traffic management technique for reducing speed. However, in the city of London, that’s exactly what’s happening. The illusions are painted with black and white paint to appear like a raised speed bump. The concept behind it is that drivers will slow down when approaching it, but will never actually receive the jolt that comes from driving over an actual speed bump. Some of the first painted optical illusions started showing up in 2014 as a trial run to see if drivers actually slowed down, and the results were fairly conclusive: on average, there was a three mph reduction in speed for drivers. Since then, forty-five new optical illusions have been painted on various roads across the city and this number will only continue to grow.
The biggest question that many people seem to have about this new form of traffic management concerns why the city is even going through the hassle of painting speed-bump look-alikes when they could just install actual speed bumps. The main reason for this is that raised speed bumps do have some drawbacks that come with them–they increase pollution, damage vehicles and in the long run, even harm nearby properties when the shockwave of the car going over the bump is sent through the ground.
London isn’t the first place to implement this idea either–India, known to be one of the most dangerous places to drive, has implemented this idea in order to combat the loss of over 100,000 lives due to traffic accidents. After completely removing all their raised speed bumps, they substituted in the optical illusions and found the method to be successful in reducing accidents. A village in China has also tried out this idea and found it effective in slowing down drivers and decreasing the number of fatalities. Even Canada has tried out their own version of this idea in 2010 when a school showcased an optical illusion that looked eerily similar to a young girl running after a ball. Although it was an odd choice, the result was more careful drivers.
As of right now, the TFL–which controls some of London’s busiest road networks–plans to expand this project even further and implement 20 mph speed limits with even more illusions, signs, and various markings that will hopefully reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that are caused by car accidents.