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Sustainable Towns And Transport Proposals Part 2

Thundery wintry showers


Here's my sustainability manifesto, continued over from Part 1.

[b]3. Some general urban planning ideas.[/b]
I am in favour of "filtered permeability" in city centres and around "home zones", the idea being a high density of pedestrian routes, a moderate density of cycle routes and a low density of roads. The idea is similar, to combine it with a decent network of relatively high-speed roads outside of those areas, thus helping to filter traffic outside of these areas which prioritise walking and cycling.

I don't agree with dense residential zoning. I believe that, again, this is primarily about discouraging social-recreational car use by minimising the overall amount of road space, and not about improving the environment for residents. Not many people like living in concrete monstrosities, right next to busy roads, without much green space, and not many people like travelling on crowded buses (high population density + low car use = crowding on public transport).

I believe that the goal of encouraging a balanced, sustainable transport system at a high level is to design environments for everyone, not design them around cars, and not go to the other extreme and design them with the aim of discouraging social-recreational car use. There should be pedestrian/cycle-friendly zones plus a good network for vehicles that is kept separate from said zones.

[b]4. Improving road safety. [/b]

One thing that consistently came out of the recent discussions on road safety is that getting road users to adapt to the specific circumstances is paramount, and that "speed kills" is too simplistic, with a more accurate phrase being "inappropriate speed in the wrong place at the wrong time kills". The problem with low, absolutely-enforced speed limits is that it encourages drivers to drive relative to an arbitrary number, rather than the prevailing conditions, but on the other hand we certainly do need to have speed limits and other restrictions to filter out the reckless excesses. I think we either need relatively low speed limits and generous (but consistent, and strictly enforced) tolerances, or relatively high limits, absolute enforcement, and more in the way of discretionary application of "driving too fast for the conditions". In general we should aim to define road traffic laws such that the responsible majority obey them voluntarily, and enforcement can be directed at the minority of offenders.

I don't believe that we need a "harder" driving test, just more focus on training and hazard perception and less on rigid conformity to a set style of driving (which many people generally disregard as soon as they've passed the test anyway). A lot of accidents arise, not because drivers don't have the necessary knowledge, but they fail to apply it in a particular situation- in essence momentary lapses. While I don't agree with "full retests every 5 years", it might be reasonable for drivers to be requested or even required to take refresher courses once in a while to brush up on essentials of hazard perception and courtesy to other road users that may have been lost over time.

We also need to be aware that ultra-slow driving is potentially as dangerous as ultra-fast driving. I know people say "those stuck behind a slow driver should just be patient and allow extra time for their journeys", just as I might be told, waiting in a queue at a restaurant, that I should be patient waiting 20 minutes for someone to finish chatting to the waitress. But people do have deadlines to meet, sometimes they genuinely are in a hurry, and it can also be frustrating to have a pleasurable trip out spoiled by someone doing 40% less than the speed limit. Frustration and road rage result. The people who wish to drive slowly should pull out of the way once in a while to let queues of cars past (my dad often does this when there are queues behind him for instance).

Regarding the "pleasure driving" issue, bear in mind that a lot of reckless driving among 17-19 year olds arises because they feel "I know it's possible to drive in the manner I want and enjoy it in a safe and considerate manner, irrespective of what I was told when I learned to drive, but how far can I go in testing the limits of safety?". This is, of course, a dangerous situation, as inexperience inevitably results in lives being put at risk during the "testing the limits" phase. This is where my proposal on redefining road traffic laws to encourage higher compliance rates come in- then, hopefully, more in the way of young drivers may feel compelled to comply with road traffic laws, and thus make the laws more effective at guiding them away from the excesses of reckless thrill seeking. (The main alternative is to implement a thousand incremental measures to legislate for idiots by restricting everybody, which is the normal way of addressing irresponsible thrill seeking these days, but as with most subject areas it isn't guaranteed to be significantly more effective at improving safety and will hurt freedoms many times more).

Onto pedestrians, and I think the "war against speed" encourages a mentality that pedestrians are OK running out in front of cars because if they do, the onus is on the driver to slow down in time, and if the driver doesn't, then we chop another 10mph off the speed limit. We need to go back to emphasising that pedestrians and cyclists have to be considerate of drivers as well, it shouldn't be a "one way street".

Of course, as I've mentioned (controversially) in some threads, many of today's prevailing "road safety initiatives" are really about discouraging car use, which is addressed in sections 1-3. I would also like to mention that discouraging car use is likely to lead to increased frustration and road rage among car drivers, and that traffic calming doesn't improve safety by the amount that a simple reduction in speeds would, because you have to offset that against the increased hazards associated with the calming. Most of these car-deterrent measures probably do improve safety overall, but not by a large amount when the offsets are taken into account. And, as someone partially sighted, I can vouch for the fact that sometimes shared space and traffic calming actually makes walking more stressful (due to having to take more hazards into account and compensate more for being partially sighted), and as a pedestrian I don't want that for the sake of a 1% improvement in safety.

So, in summary, these are my proposals on how I think we should be aiming for a more sustainable, balanced transport system with some connected ideas on urban planning.

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An interesting read! :) I'm doing sustainability as part of my A level Geography, one of the four themes being sustainable cities which involves transport, housing, waste etc..

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