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1st March 1963, Page 87
1st March 1963
Page 87
Page 88
Page 87, 1st March 1963 — TRADERS and the TRAFFIC PROBLEM
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

3Y W. CLARKE, TRAFFIC OFFICER, TRADERS ROAD TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION THE number of vehicles using the roads increases annually, and inevitably traffic problems must arise in cities and towns throughout the country. Few, I eel, would wish to dispute the belief that the long-term olution of the problems lies in the segregation of the .arious functions which the streets are required to perform.

Pedestrians must be separated from traffic, moving' raffic from standing vehicles. The multi-purpose roads vhich currently act as through routes for all forms of raffle, unloading bays for shops, car parks for shoppers, tot to mention the provision of general community meeting entres, must disappear.

Such drastic modifications will, of course, take much ime, effort and money and will not be achieved overnight, lie problem, however, is with us now and it is upon the uggested immediate solutions that much of the controversy ages. The debates as to the best usage of our limited road pace, the merits of the claims of the various modes of road ransport, traffic flow as against stationary vehicles, the 'alue of traffic restrictions in all their forms, continue Imost endlessly.

The car, particularly the long-term parker, the delivery van, he bus, the taxi, the pedestrian and many other factors contrimte to the problem. Commonsense dictates that where road pace is limited and a problem exists some form of control r restriction is necessary so that the available road space can se used to the best advantage, Due regard must be paid to ill interests but obviously some order of priority must be :ecognized.

Bearing in mind the essential service performed by the goods 'chicle in supplying shops, business premises and householders. he T.R.T.A. considers that the goods vehicle should be regarded is a top priority. This does not mean to say that the goods rehicie should not be prepared to accept some restrictions in he common interest.

We realize that in sonic circumstances, for example, busy ntersections and serious bottlenecks, loading bans may be inavoidable. What we do maintain, however, is that bans m loading and unloading should be introduced only when all )ther less harmful means of alleviating congestion have been :ried and proved to be impracticable or inadequate. "No ivaiting " schemes should first be tried and at all times properly .nforced.

Parking meter schemes have considerable merit, Those verating in the Central London areas are a success and have improved both rate and ease of traffic flow. Available kerb ;pace has been fairly allocated to cater for the needs of all ypes of transport user. The long-term parker has been eliminated, hut the car user who wishes to stop for a reasonable period while doing business is not shut out. The public service vehicle can move freely and can pull in close to the cerb when picking up or setting down passengers. The goods vehicle operator can carry out his essential task.

One-way Traffic One-way traffic schemes should he considered whenever possible as it has been proved that these permit a constant flow of traffic whilst preserving some degree of kerb-side activity. Further, they reduce conflicting traffic movements in junctions and intersections, one of the main causes of traffic hold-ups. Prohibited right-hand turns in difficult intersections remove congestion and lengthy hold-ups at these vital points. All these methods entail some inconvenience and restrictions on goods vehicle operators in common with other road users, but they do not prevent the essential task of goods delivery being carried out.

It is tempting to ask why the goods vehicle operator—and the shopkeeper—should expect to be able to claim this priority. Why should not they accept further restrictions, say peak hour loading bans, as their contribution towards easing traffic congestion? Why should not stationary goods vehicles be banned from the more heavily trafficked roads in town and city centres at the morning, eveiung and possibly midday peak periods? This would still leave the whole of the rest of the working day in which deliveries could be made. These are important and fundamental questions to which there is no one easy answer.

In the first place. one must ask whether or not essential deliveries do suffer because of loading bans. There can be little doubt that they do. Quite a number of commodities, particularly perishable foods, have to be delivered during the morning peak because their time of arrival is dependent on markets, overnight trunk services, etc. But even with other goods not in this special category there is no doubt that extended loading bans can cause serious difficulties both for the shopkeeper and the transport of the supplying company.

These difficulties must tend to cause dislocation and rising costs, particularly in the case of vehicles coming from a distance and arriving early in the banned period.

However, by far the most significant objection to peak hour loading bans or peak hour clearways lies not in the isolated difficulties which would be caused in one High Street, but in the major cumulative effect of banning goods vehicle deliveries for long periods of the working day. So far, transport has succeeded without noticeable dislocation in keeping deliveries going despite loading bans. But transport is very flexible and the number of loading bans is comparatively small. Deliveries can be reshuffled so that those in the banned area take place after the ban finishes.

But a totally different situation arises if the whole of a city centre is banned to deliveries, say, from 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. During this period the whole of the delivery vehicle fleet is non-productive. The vehicles cannot deliver anywhere. Consequently the whole of the daily schedule must be crammed into the remaining hours which, if midday and evening bans are also included, may be no more than half the working day. This necessarily means more vehicles, higher costs and many customers not getting the goods when they want them.

It is this cumulative effect which causes the goods vehicle operator most serious concern when he sees proposals for long stretches of clearway or extensive loading bans.

Above all, there comes a point when it is unreasonable to interfere further with vehicles which are stopping to deliver essential goods, simply in the interests of marginally speeding traffic. It is often suggested that those who are still on their way should have priority over those who have reached their destination; that those whose business necessitates essential kerbside stops are of less consequence than through traffic, The T.R.T.A. strongly refutes this argument. In this connection the comments of an inspector, who had been conducting a public inquiry into proposed traffic restrictions involving loading bans in a Cheshire town, are of considerable relevance. He said "It would be wholly wrong in my view to regard the flow of traffic, including through and local traffic and omnibus traffic, as the dominant consideration and to subordinate to that consideration the essentially local interests of other classes of the community ".

This does not mean that traffic flow is unimportant. Nor that the T.R.T.A. is opposed to all loading bans. Far from it. The traffic problem can be solved only by a lot of commonsense and a balanced approach. But it does mean that every traffic proposal must be carefully studied on site to assess the overall effect and, if necessary, negotiations undertaken with the local authorities concerned. This is the task that the T.R.T.A. has been trying to perform over the past few years.

All proposals involving loading and unloading bans are studied in detail at the time of the initial announcement of the authority's plans. In most cases, detailed site inspections involving traffic counts, surveys of deliveries, general assessment of the area and discussions with interested persons are undertaken.

We place a high degree of importance on such preliminary discussions, and particularly welcome the opportunity of early meetings with the local authorities concerned. By such early co-operation we are very often able to reach satisfactory agreements for modifications to the proposed schemes thereby minimizing, if not eliminating, any unreasonable restrictions upon the essential work of the delivery van or lorry.

Unfortunately, some authorities still do not invite our early comments, and, of course, when such consultations do take place they do not always reach satisfactory conclusions. In such circumstances we do not hesitate to press the claims of the goods vehicle. If need be we are always prepared to state our case at public inquiries. At all times we try to ensure that our action against proposed unreasonable restrictions is supported by facts.

Collation of Facts

The collation of facts is often a lengthy process, involving much detailed work, but it is essential work if a proper interpretation of a situation is to be obtained and if misleading and inaccurate surmises are to be quashed. Let me give an example.

Recently the Highway Authority of a busy country town asked the Association's views on a proposal to ban loading and unloading in the main street of the town between the hours of 8.30 a.m. and 10 a.m. During this period this narrow and winding High Street was daily subjected to a quite heavy increase of through traffic. The Authority, while anxious to speed the traffic flow through the town and reduce congestion, was also genuinely concerned as to the possible effect on deliveries to shops and business premises in the street. For a week of five working days we conducted a census of goods going into and out of 37 premises. It was found that more than 170 firms made regular deliveries of their goods to the shops. To the shops went 786 deliveries, the total number of collections and deliveries in the course of the five days amounting to 1,004. Of these 39 per cent took place before 10 a.m. A three-hour period which transpired to be the peak of the day.

The census figures were passed to the Council together with a comment that we 'felt that a ban for 11 hours was longer than the circumstances warranted, further that to move a substantial volume of loading and unloading to other periods of the day might give rise to greater difficulties during these periods.

The Council was very surprised and impressed by the figures revealed by the census and later met representatives of T.R.T.A. and other organizations to discuss the problem. The Council itself produced proof that the really difficult period in the morning was only of 1-hour duration. The discussion resulted in the acceptance by all of a ban of only -1 hour. This shows that reasonable compromises can be reached when the proper facts are available and when there is -goodwill and a willingness to co-operate on all sides.

834 During a recent nine-month period the T.R.T.A. was concerned with 58 proposed loading bans. Of the 58 schemes, 19 were unopposed by the Association after careful site inspections had been undertaken and it had been ascertained that the terms of the restrictions were reasonable. Twenty-five are still under review or negotiation at the present time and 14 were opposed in whole or in part. Of the 14, 10 have been settled to the goods vehicle operators' satisfaction following discussions with the local authorities concerned and four have been opposed at public inquiries. In two of the four cases taken to public inquiries concessions indicating acknowledgment of the goods vehicle's special case have been obtained.

We feel that these figures prove our claim for a reasonable and constructive attitude towards traffic problems in general and loading and unloading bans in particular. Certainly they prove the value of early co-operation and consultation between the authorities intending to introduce the restrictions and those likely to be affected thereby. There are not many problems which cannot be satisfactorily resolved by a little "give and take' in round the table discussions, The T.R.T.A. is always willing, indeed considers it to be its duty, to represent goods vehicle interests at such early consultations. Our hope is that more and more authorities will come to realize the wisdom of such co-operation.

Abuse of Rights

In the earlier part of this article I referred to the fundamental right of the goods vehicle to load and unload. In return, firms and their drivers must not abuse this right. Doublebanking outside a shop, although sometimes unavoidable, is not justified if there is a convenient gap a few yards down the street. Light goods can often be delivered from a nearby side street instead of partially blocking a: main road, and exemptions from "no waiting" orders for the purpose of loading and unloading do not carry the right to a tea-break, which should be taken vitth the vehicle parked in an unrestricted zone.

Abuse of loading rights not only feeds ammunition into the armouries of the advocates of extended loading bans, but distorts the whole image of the goods vehicle and the essential part which it plays in the nation's distribution system.

The goods vehicle driver has a justified claim to some preferential treatment. In exchange he should be prepared at all times to co-operate to the full in ensuring that he completes his work as quickly and efficiently as possible with the minimum of disturbance to other road users.

In this connection there is an equal responsibility upon the shopkeeper, for there is much he can do, particularly by aiding the rapid completion of the delivery or collection work. With the best will in the world the driver cannot curtail his stopping time if the shopkeeper does not lend his assistance in speeding up the vehicle turn-round. Both driver and shopkeeper should never fail to remember that "Kerb Space is Precious ".

So much for the immediate problem, but the hopes of all concerned lie in the long-term. The all-important segregation of traffic, and traffic from other town centre users, can be achieved only by large-scale planning, development of new area and the redevelopment of existing centres. With this thought ir mind the T.R.T.A. recently carried out a survey into the provisions of off-street loading facilities in new development and redevelopment areas, with particular emphasis upon the technical requirements of such loading and unloading areas and in order to ascertain the number of authorities who had, in fact, established minimum standards for the provision ol such facilities. The information provided by the survey, was to say the least, disappointing. Of the authorities who submitted information only 43 per cent insisted on the provision ol off-street loading facilities in new development and onl) 25 per cent in redevelopment schemes. In most cases it appears that the authorities have no firm policy aimed at the progressive reduction of the number of places where loading and unloadirq must take place on the highway.

Within the next 10 to 15 years much could be done te alleviate the town centre traffic problem of the 1960s if ever) opportunity were taken to segregate traffic and provide off-stree loading facilities. Such long-term planning requires present day thinking; let us hope that the opportunities will not bi missed today or in the future as they have in the past.


Organisations: Highway Authority
Locations: London

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