People have been enthusiastic about this video from Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.  Addis Adaba has grown quickly now that they’ve sorted out their famine, civil wear and war with neighboring Eritrea, and the capital city has grown immensely in the last decade.  This video is from a traffic camera at the intersection of Ras Mekonen Street and Sierra Leone Street, looking east towards Jomo Kenyatta Street.  Meskel Square is in the foreground past the intersection

Many people who see this get effusive about the self organization of traffic without the intervention of signals or striping.  That is a poor conclusion.  I see over a hundred opportunities for collisions, emergency braking and dozens of opportune ivies for walkers to die in the one minute of this video.  That no one collides or gets hit in this seven-hundredth of  a day is no guarantee that there wasn’t a collision in the same day or week.

Here’s a more ground level view of the same intersection from the safety pot the sidewalk.  There are lane markings on this part of Jomo Kenyatta Street, and there are plenty of lanes.  I have not seen an undivided road this wide since Detroit.

Here’s another video showing the intersection performing a bit worse.  This could be from the same day for all I know, though I’m sure it isn’t.  Note that without signalization, queues have to form to indefinite lengths, and moving forward is a matter of patience and chutzpah.  For walkers crossing the expanse of traffic, its a matter of diligence and direction.  I saw several instances in the first video where a walker crossed in front of a stopped car to see another speeding car stop short to avoid killing them in the next lane.

I’m just conjecturing based on short snippets of video, but I’d expect this is actually a pretty dangerous and congested intersection at different times of the day.  The average traffic death rate in Ethiopia (17.6 per 100k population) is not quite double America’s (11.6) 17.6 traffic fatalities per 100k population in Ethiopia compares with 11.6 in the US and 4.3 in Germany. Not bad, compared to 20.5 in China and 48.4 in neighboring Eritrea.  There aren’t very many cars in Ethiopia.  For a nation of 90 million, there are less than half a million cars.  That’s not a lot of experience or infrastructure.  Judging by the width of these roads, I’d bet many of those half million vehicles are in metro Addis Adaba.

Of course, I can’t say this intersection is one and half times as dangerous as a similar intersection in the US.  I don’t have the data.  I can assure you that this intersection is more dangerous by design, which might make it safer that an intersection where people are lulled into a false sense of security.  A terrified driver or walker is going to behave better than a casual one, but the majority of vehicle and people in  this intersection have long since gotten through their terror.  It is what it is.  Apparently eight people die  “” every day in Ethiopian traffic, I wonder what fraction die in intersections like this.

Google maps “,38.759615&spn=0.001346,0.003541&utm_source=mapseditbutton_tactile_fineprint&q=addis+adaba&gw=30&t=k&lyt=large_map_v3” shows that they are now building a flyover for the north-westbound turn.  The pillars of flyovers can become their own road hazards, something large cities like New York discovered in the first decades of the 20th century.  I wish them luck.