Saturday, 1 October 2011

Traffic wind-up schemes

Usually when I put these posts together they are to comment on small features we tend to overlook in our day-to-day lives and they are primarily rant-free zones.  No blog can be fully rant-free forever, however, their very existence is for individual expression.  Today it is a bit of a rant, but I don’t believe that it is a lonely rant....

There is no visibility to oncoming cars and streams of
vehicles head off regardless of priority

We in the UK have an expanding population alongside increased vehicle ownership.  More people mean more houses and this means roads that had developed for lower levels of traffic now bear the strain.  While attempts to force people to adopt laughably inappropriate and inadequate public transport options fail in rural areas, parallel attempts at slowing the traffic down have varying levels of success.

In our Sussex village, inside the new South Downs National Park, we have what has to be one of the most ridiculous and irritating sets of traffic calming measures ever implemented.

There is a clue in the phrase 'Traffic Calming' that ought to imply that the idea is to calm the traffic down.  It is hard to remember this through most measures experienced.  Traffic Wind-up is by far the more appropriate phrase.  There has been considerable research done on this subject in both the Netherlands and in Germany.  It is of no great surprise to learn that traffic behaviour is at its very best when drivers are calm, unstressed and not confused.

In our village drivers are never calm, rarely unstressed and usually confused.  A further complication does come in the shape of SatNavs pointing heavy lorries up a High Street that has a weight restriction on it, but the problems are very real even without that.

No professional landscape architect was asked to advise on the scheme.  I asked this question in the early days as I spluttered about what had been implemented.  There are three 'pinch-points' placed where there is no line of vision to the oncoming traffic and cars are usually parked densely down one side of the road all the way along.  Consequently there is often nowhere for the traffic to pass when it meets the vehicles previously unseen.  The priority is for traffic leaving the village, but almost all of the time the signs indicating this are missing because someone has knocked them over.  Occasionally there are wooden bollards, until they get destroyed. 

Inappropriate pavement treatment pushes north-bound
vehicles into the path of south-bound traffic
In the High Street is a pavement layout that further beggars belief.  In order to contain car parking bays the pavement suddenly pushes out into the road, so that cars pulling in behind parked cars are pushed into the path of the oncoming traffic!  Only to have fists shaken at them as the other drivers presume that they are being pushy...

On occasions we have been waiting behind other cars in a queue to get through the pinch points, only to find ourselves being overtaken and accused of being parked!

On a road heading east, speed bumps have been used as an alternative measure.  The early incarnation of these were bolt-down forms put in the wrong way round and regularly took the exhausts off sports cars...  It has been a huge benefit to that road to have the traffic slowed down, but there is a Primary School with its own drive that white vans use regularly to drive rapidly round, in order to by-pass the speed humps, singularly defeating the purpose of the slowed traffic and endangering any children unprotected by the mummy-mafia.

I am just old enough to have been taught to drive by assessing the 'speed of the road'.  This is using the width of the road and the distance between lamp-posts as a subliminal guide to sensible speed of travel. It is very interesting to note that in the European research the answers have been very similar.  To slow drivers down effectively it is best that they are calm and that the road guides them to their speed, subliminally.

In Petersfield road treatment calms drivers
In Petersfield in Hampshire there is a highly effective scheme that uses surface texture and carriageway width to slow the traffic down.  It is a pleasure to drive through as a result.

In Petersfield, the width of the road is managed to keep
drivers alert to avoiding oncoming vehicles
In Ditchling people turn into Olympic athletes of world class.  The dedication to the task is paramount.  The task is getting through, regardless of any commonsense understanding of whether by getting through the first block it will be easier or more difficult to get through the second.  Utter dedication, head down and bull-like charge.  Nothing is calm, it is life or death.  It cannot be the answer, the insurance companies have to pay out too much in car repairs as it is.

There is a great deal more that I would like to say about the horrors of large lorries blocking the road through the stupidity of Satellite Navigation systems ignoring weight restrictions on the routes they select for road access to rural areas, but that would become a very major rant indeed.  No emergency vehicles can access the village when these regular, many times DAILY, events take place and it does not help relations with the local industrial estate.


No comments:

Post a Comment