- the guardian)Losing our way on the roadmap of Britain
Friday 21 October 2016 22.15 BST
Simon Jenkins argues that, since the Department for Transport predicts traffic growth, we should increase road capacity and efficiency (Stop obsessing about planes and trains. Use roads better, 20 October). But the DfT has long over-predicted traffic expansion, and these inaccurate predictions have been used to justify massive investment in road-building schemes over the past few decades, which in turn have attracted more and more cars on to the roads. This is called “predict and provide”.
Britain is now in a position where most urban journeys made by car are less than five miles. These journeys could easily be made on bicycle or by foot. But people are too afraid.
Where traffic is made to move more efficiently (which is what Jenkins wants to see) it moves faster. Jenkins praises the rest of Europe for its roundabouts and says we should build more in the UK. He fails to understand that continental roundabouts are very different from Britain’s, which are among the most dangerous in the world.
Here multi-lane roundabouts, wide, splayed junctions and an absence of pedestrian/cycle crossing points – features beloved of the highways engineer because they increase speed and efficiency – are lethal for anyone trying to walk or cycle.
The biggest deterrent to cycling in the UK is fear of traffic, especially among women and children who are under-represented in the cycling population, yet want to cycle more than the average.
Yes, we need to use the roads better; but the answer is not to provide more motor vehicle capacity. The government needs to invest in cycle and pedestrian traffic capacity (safe, segregated routes) so people don’t have to drive for all their local journeys. It’s more efficient in terms of space, good for health, communities and the planet.