Gizmodo shares the story of how Nick Falbo, a video game designer-turned-urban planner who had worked on game franchises like Rock Band and Mass Effect utilized his talent at creating virtual worlds to improve our actual world, making it safer for cyclists and motorists.
Falbo, who works at a city planning firm in Portland, drew from his video game animation background to create an easy-to-understand video illustrating his proposal for a safer intersection that incorporates a protected cyclist lane, keeping bicyclists completely separated from vehicular traffic, an idea modeled after Dutch intersection design and adapted to our US road systems. This video demonstration was instrumental in the idea’s adoption, as Gizmodo explains:
“To truly change the way bike intersections are built in the US meant getting new ideas into the federal roadway design standards. But new ideas couldn’t be published in the federal standards unless they had already been tested in the real world. ‘This was a little too far ahead of the game—it had never been done,’ says Falbo, who described it as the quintessential Catch-22. ‘We can’t put it in the guide until it’s been done, so how to we inject this idea into the infrastructure?'”
Salt Lake City is the first city where you can find one of these protected intersections, with new ones popping up or in the works in other bike-friendly cities like Davis, California and Austin, Texas. For that, you can thank the story-telling skills of one former video game designer.
“This particular solution might never have seen the light of day if Falbo hadn’t employed his animation expertise to drum up excitement. Planners often resort to explaining their ideas in text-heavy memos and wordy resolutions, but writing isn’t always the best way to prescribe change for a city, says Falbo. ‘Planners are inherently storytellers, here to tell stories about a place—what the problems are, what the potential futures could be.'”