How Amman Uses Visual Distractions To Slow Down Traffic

Near my home exists a giant traffic circle. Actually, the street is home to three traffic circles that are no more than 200-300 meters apart from one another. It is, perhaps, a symbolic representation of Amman itself, which is known to be littered with these circles. What’s interesting about this particular circle is that every time I pass it, which is several times a day, I’ve noticed cars have started to slow down as they’re turning the circle. Why? Because the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) has discovered a great way to reduce speeding on its traffic circles by putting up visual obstacles; billboards. It’s like driving during a city-wide blackout or during a massive thunderstorm – suddenly, everyone’s a bit more careful with their driving for fear of colliding with another vehicle.

The Jordan Festival, which has been going on for the past month or so, has put up giant billboards on various sections of traffic circles across the city, causing cars, who are unable to see other cars that are driving within the inner parts of the circle, to slow down, and for the latter to take it easy for fear that a car entering the circle won’t see them. And, in the meantime, from an advertising point of view, everyone slows down just enough to get a real good look at the poster, the specific event, the time and location, and maybe even jot down the information if they have a free hand. In other words, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

But size matters in this case, and it’s interesting to see the small vertical-sized posters that often hang on the side of the street lights that line the middle of major roads. The writing is often so small on those posters that you really have to slow down your car and squint your eyes to read all the information. Again, a win-win situation; a message is delivered and cars are forced to slow down in order for that to happen.

Also, some of those vertical ones are so low that they often times hit the driver’s side of the car. I’ve seen this happen first hand, and for those that haven’t it’s quite a sight, and you can sometimes see the aftermath of such collisions happy accidents in the form of twisted up, bent, beaten and broken billboards that lay hanging from the street light. But again, it does slow down those speeding cars.

What is perhaps even more amazing, and those that work in the local advertising business might be aware of this, but it was only a few years ago that various methods of public advertising was banned in Jordan, and specifically the city, by the traffic department, because it constituted a “visual hazard” for drivers. A good example of such a ban is the rooftop advertising on taxis, which was suddenly permitted when Taxi Mumayaz (the Kuwaiti funded special cabs business) came on to the scene.

Rooftop billboards were also banned based on similar announced justifications, but they were soon replaced with bigger and “better” ads that took up the entire space of a building’s wall, including buildings that the GAM is involved in building itself, and, as of late, giant TV screens, one of which is now located on the busiest traffic circle in Amman – the seventh circle.

One can only determine that since the GAM took over traffic regulation within the city through a temporary law that came in to effect some two years ago, that new tactics are being employed by the city to get citizens to really, really, really slow down and look at the giant picture in front of them. This is of course only one citizen’s interpretation and if there is any truth to it, then I have nothing but great respect and commendation for the fine job the GAM is doing in this regard.

They are literally recycling visual pollution to become a powerful force in traffic management.

I’m not sure any city has ever attempted to do that.

And we can definitely hope to see a whole lot more of this in the coming weeks when the elections roll in to town with their visually stunning campaign banners.


  • Hmm… it seems like a catch-22. I almost never drive through one, so I’m not well-versed in traffic circle scenarios… but if you’re driving inside of one and see a sign, yes, you just might slow down a bit to take a look; but by doing so, you’d have to take your eyes off the road… Isn’t that when most accidents happen?

  • whats with this writer!! i cant seem to understand is he with or against this!! some times he shifts here then others jumps there!! weird.. anyways i dont see any sign of recycling or management in this.. i think it stupid and disturbing.. specially that the driver is actually pausing or slowing down to read!! well well how about we give him books to read as well!! talk about distraction!! shouldnt a drive’s only role is to DRIVE!! no mobile, no smoke, and surly NO READING!!! while driving.. i dont know about this but reading while driving or slowing down for no traffic law and me hitting an idiot in the back cuz of he or she decided to slow down all of sudden for no logical reason (oh wait to read GAM amazing and ridiculously priced tickets for local talents show), this is simply (im a little bit sorry to say) retarded!!

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