Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Taking Roadspace from Cars Speeds Up ALL Traffic

Just a quick post as this can't be said enough.

In an open letter earlier this month, Brent Toderian (an international consultant on advanced urbanism), made the point that far from creating more congestion, taking roadspace away from cars actually improves travel for EVERYONE not just those who don't use cars.

It works on a fairly simple mechanism, that making protected space for active travel, including cycling, makes people change their behaviour and step out of the car. The result is less people in cars than the space they used to take up, so more space for those who remain in cars for whatever reason. Thus, less congestion.

This is the key passage.
    You have to prioritise active mobility to make it inviting. In this context, the notion of “balancing” travel modes is a myth, and often code for the status quo.
    The good news is, when you prioritise active mobility, it makes getting around easier for everyone, INCLUDING drivers.  
    I know that can seem counter-intuitive, but smart cities have proven it’s true. 
    If you design a city for cars, it fails for everyone, including drivers.  
    If you design a multi-modal city that prioritizes walking, biking and public transport, it works for everyone, including drivers.  
    In other words, there’s no “war on cars” here. That’s a lazy political and media narrative.  
    There’s an old saying about what’s called “The Law of Congestion” – building more road lanes to solve congestion is like loosening your belt to solve obesity. 
    The whole idea of justifying more roads is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. You justify the road project based on the projected number of cars and the cars come because of the road project you’ve built.
We know that many cities in North Europe have discovered this and are charging their way forward along these lines. What is possibly more surprising is that many cities in the USA have discovered this.

wrote in Vox that bike lanes have actually sped up car traffic in New York City. And this is just one example of this. It's noted here that narrower lanes played a big effect even though traffic levels hadn't dropped much.

So why is the UK so far behind on this? Surely we want to make our cities nice places to be as well as easy to use by whatever transport choices we make? As I spotted on the Perne Road Roundabout debacle, we don't take any account of people's changing transport choices when we do make active travel more appealing, we just estimate car flow.

Our way of estimating how we estimate the effect of change for EVERYONE is fundamentally flawed.

1 comment:

  1. And just to show how bad the modelling goes:

    The UK government forecast graph for car use. Seriously. A primary school class could spot the problem with it