Thursday 1 December 2016

Traffic Calming

So NICE have come up with some important things about how poor our road infrastructure is and how it increases pollution.

I'm especially pleased to see they've pointed out the negative issues speed humps cause.
“Traffic calming measures such as speed humps ... may increase emissions by adding to decelerations and accelerations,” it says. “Ensuring motorists drive steadily at the optimum speed can reduce stop-go driving and reduce emissions.
I'm sad to see they don't talk about the better alternatives, just what doesn't work. I'm sure a lot of motorheads will start yelling "Rip them out now, pollution, think of the children (and let me speed without concern for others)". Obviously, completely the opposite of what NICE is suggesting, although it'd be "nice" if they pointed that out.

Again, we've not got far to go before we see what does work, it's just over the North Sea in, yes, The Netherlands.The Telegraph did a piece (all the way back in 2012) on how they work it out with something called "woonerfs". There are 3 principles behind these areas:
  • traffic speeds are forced down to "footpace", typically well below 12mph. 
  • the principles are applied consistently nationwide so they are instantly recognised by road users everywhere. 
  • legal liability is heavily weighted against the motorist in the event of an accident.
It's interesting to note that this has support from the population and professional drivers organisations.

The piece then talks about how this is engineered on the ground.
Clever use of planting, play areas, chicanes, even the position of the houses, means there isn't a straight road in sight.
And it's praise of the result is great!
there's little need for speed signs; our pace automatically falls to a crawl, underlining the designers' dream that children should roam the streets in safety
Note that this starts to sound like UK schemes like Exhibition Road which many speed campaigners really don't like. But compare the "Clever use" quote above and look at the picture of this development and you can easily see how the UK scheme totally fails. It's a massive straight space, encouraging speeding and, as a result, pushing other transport modes out of the way.

So, why can't we do this in the UK? Actually we already do. Look at new developments in St Neot's and Peterborough.

In Hargate, a new development south of Peterborough, you'll find it hard to find a place with a straight road. Additionally, there are no quick routes through, no road to start on that'll take you all the way through. You have to know your way and make a variety of turns.

Entering (picture shows leaving) St Neots from the east and the road wiggles around, for no obvious reason. There's space for it to go straight, but it doesn't, it has an open space with trees instead. This naturally slows everyone driving down without thinking about it.

These two areas are showing the main signs of the engineering of woonerfs, although still have a few things to work on. And, of course, it's missing the principle priority issue. The result is ground breaking, as The Telegraph points out.
woonerfs are not only possible but desirable, because they transform neighbourhoods into garden cities
underlining the designers' dream that children should roam the streets in safety
Not only do The Netherlands do this with new developments, but they retrofit older neighbourhoods. The've figured out it's not that difficult to do, unlike our country that seems to accept the blank myth that "we don't have space". We do, we just choose not to be clever about it. The Dutch have been clever.
Woonerfs have been retro-fitted over several square miles of side roads
And to complete the quote from above.
Amsterdam proves that retro-fitted woonerfs are not only possible but desirable, because they transform neighbourhoods into garden cities
So, while we moan about pollution, invest vast sums of money in speeding up our journeys on major trunk roads by a few minutes for a few years only (before it returns to the same old congestion), there's great examples of what we can do to transform our neighbourhoods and remove urban pollution at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. Much of what you write above is correct, but the Telegraph got it wrong as they usually do: The Netherlands hasn't actually built woonerven since their brief period of popularity in the late 1970s / early 80s. That style of development has long been out of fashion.

    What is built now and what was being built as early as the late 60s / early 70s, were residential areas which operated as giant cul-de-sacs of cul-de-sacs. Yes, these also have non straight roads (even those like where we live which were built years before the word Woonerf was coined) but the big win is that they have no through routes by car. That removes all opportunities for rat-running and as a result there is no requirement for speed bumps.

    Some British developments are similar. Kings Hedges in Cambridge, for instance, was designed on similar lines (imperfectly - KH does have speed bumps). However in much of the UK every possible street works as a through route, that encourages rat-running, and speed bumps are overused as a "solution".

    I wrote about Kings Hedges way back in 2007 in the Cambridge Cycling Campaign magazine. It's still a model which ought to be copied from in the area. Far more inspiring than the modern developments which offer no alternative to inconvenient driving.