Another counter-intuitive result has popped up in traffic planning. Instead of building roads as as controlled, cars-only thoroughfares, it turns out that intermingling humans and autos produces better results - at least from the safety point of view.
Combining traffic engineering, urban planning and behavioral psychology, the projects are inspired by a provocative new European street design trend known as "psychological traffic calming," or "shared space." Upending conventional wisdom, advocates of this approach argue that removing road signs, sidewalks, and traffic lights actually slows cars and is safer for pedestrians. Without any clear right-of-way, so the logic goes, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed. [More]
I would label this the "Rural King parking lot" syndrome. Since your have no idea which direction drivers and pedestrians are going to attack from, you proceed with intense caution. Especially when your car is less than 3 years old.
This concept of presenting risks realistically, rather than seeking to control risky behavior is rooted in the principle of moral hazard. Behavioral science has particularly critical of many insurance schemes because they induce the very behavior insured against.
PS - you gotta read the whole article to find out what a woonerf is.