I want you to conjure an image in your mind of the white stripes that divide the lanes of traffic going the same direction on a major highway. How long are the stripes and the spaces between them?
You can spread your arms out to estimate if you want to.
Over the course of many years, a psychology researcher named Dennis Schafer at Ohio State asked students from many different parts of the country this question and the most common response was that the white stripes are two feet long.
Tom Vanderbilt, author of the brilliant book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), reveals the real answer and some of the other perceptual countermeasures that are designed to make you feel comfortable going way faster than your brain can adequately process.
We also talk about how this design language of exaggerated scale and wide vistas is great for limited access highways, but it’s problematic when these features are grafted onto suburban landscapes where they don’t belong.
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