In this world, a guy can build a self-driving car in a month in his garage, but it takes a city three years to plan to paint a cycle lane

Back in 2009 Tom Steinberg wrote this:

The most scary thing about the Internet for your government is not pedophiles, terrorists or viruses, whatever you may have read in the papers. It is the danger of your administration being silently obsoleted by the lightening pace at which the Internet changes expectations.

I’ve for a long time wondered quite what he meant.

Perhaps this week two news stories about roads and traffic made me understand.

The first is this extraordinary story documenting how George Hotz has built a self driving car in a month in his garage. The story is worth reading to the end – it’s a tale of a brilliant mind putting it to quite an extraordinary purpose. Little in the way of funding or tech infrastructure required. OK, this is not the Internet changing expectations, but tech, but it is a remarkable achievement.

The problem for Hotz’s car would of course be what sort of street his car would travel on – especially if he were driving in Berlin.

This week the news broke about how Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is trying to take travel planning into its own hands as the Berlin Senate’s Verkehrslenkung agency has not been able to paint a bike lane on Am Hasenheide in three years, or has needed more than a year to paint a zebra crossing. All the details in German from BZ here. It would probably be easier to crowd-fund on Kickstarter to rent a line-painting truck and some workers, and go and paint the lines that way, than waiting for the Senate to get its act together. It’d probably be illegal to do that, but there are enough people annoyed at the roads in Berlin to mean raising some cash wouldn’t be hard. This is perhaps also the reason why Berlin cyclists are contemplating a citizens’ initiative to force political change.

It’s a strange world we live in where an individual can make a car drive itself, but the city authorities in Berlin are incapable of putting a bit of paint on a street.

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