Face the Congestion Problem Now
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Constructive Suggestions on the Alleviation of Traffic Conditions are Contained in this Article. The Complete Cure, However, Needs Large-scale Capital Investment By
C. B. Morrissey ASHORT time ago, all tlw traffic in Rio de Janeiro was immobilized for an entire day in a great jam which paralysed the city's life What has happened in the largest Brazilian city might well happen in Britain's unless present trends are reversed. The position has already leached a ridiculous state, for in London. where the average speed of the buses drawn by horses was 6-7 m.p.h., the average speed of the modern oil-engined bus is no more than 7-9 m.p.h.
Traffic congestion cannot be reckoned merely in terms of inconvenience, for the economic loss is serious It is estimated, for instance,
that traffic congestion costs London alone £70 m. per annum. Even more serious is the fact that congestion is the principal cause ot road accidents. In the first • survey of its kind, made in 1936, it was found that only 22 per cent. of the accidents caused by defective roads would have taken place on dual carriageways. Observations made on the EdinburghGlasgow road in Lanarkshire confirmed this finding, for on the section equipped with dual carriageways, accidents were 80 per cent. fewer than elsewhere.
The total road expenditure for 1950-51 is estimated at £48.5 m. compared with £50.5 m. for 1949-50. As the annual pre-war expediture was £59 m. and costs have since risen by at least 125 per cent., it is obvious that present expenditure is utterly inadequate for to-day's needs.
Success or Failure Every pound saved on road maintenance to-day will mean expending many times as much in the near future. The military expenditure, which cannot be avoided, means that economies in road building and repair will be continued, but it must not be overlooked that modern warfare requires first-class roads, and that success or failure in military operations may be decided almost wholly by road conditions.
Even an artery as important as the Great North Road carries only two lines of traffic for nearly two-thirds of its length, and there are few roads which carry four lines of traffic with oven the minimum degree of safety. Attempts have been made at various times to segregate various forms of traffic. Railway traffic is almost invariably segregated, although it frequently encroaches on the highway for short distances.
On the highways, however, with but few exceptions, segregation has not been established, with the result that cyclists are often compelled to travel too near the edge of the road. The sides of our neglected roads are often so scarred with pot-holes and generally in such a badcondition, however, that the effective road width is reduced, and cyclists driven too near the edge often find themselves in serious difficulties. Conversely,
cyclists who reduce the effective width of the highway by travelling two or more abreast ought not to be tolerated.
The parking problem has become as serious as the condition of the highways, and suitable accommodation for ever-increasing traffic must be found. " No-waiting " restrictions have been enforced in many London streets. This has reduced the accident rate, but it does not solve the parking problem. Indeed, the suspicion that reduction in accidents in " no-waiting " streets is balanced by an increase elsewhere is not without foundation.
The cleared bombed areas, which have been used as car parks since the end of the war, are usually covering land of highest value, as far as rating is concerned. Consequently, it is unlikely that local authorities will allow these spaces to be used indefinitely as accommodation space. In Liverpool, for instance, blitzed areas cover a large acreage and are filled with traffic daily. With the traffic increasing 'constantly, what is to happen when these sites are built on?
If vehicles be allowed to line the streets, then the accident rate is bound to rise and the cost of road transport is just as certain to increase. Crossings and junctions delay traffic and are always a source of danger. They could be eradicated on main roads and busy city streets by providing tunnels and bridges for crossing traffic, but this ideal solution is expensive and, once more, financial considerations prevent an essential reform.
Traffic lights, whilst valuable, do not maintain the flow of traffic as efficiently as is desired, and whilst the traffic signals which are vehicleoperated are an improvement, they are still far from satisfactory. Roundabouts are better in every way and safer.
Surface faults force the traffic to use only a portion of the roadway, and this state of affairs seems to be as old as the English highways themselves. De Quincey recalls that in his childhood, horses were driven from side-to-side of the road to avoid pot-holes and ruts To-day, with the enormous volume of traffic, the position in many respects is exactly the same.
In the sphere of lighting, real progress has been made. Uniformly distributed and good lighting is now recognized as a necessity, and once this type of illumination is provided everywhere, the need for powerful headlights, which are always a potential danger, will disappear.
Road-safety campaigns are valuable, and the teaching of road sense" to children is essential. But by themselves these measures are hopelessly inadequate. The traffic problem must be tackled in a comprehensive and imaginative manner. Money spent on efficient roads, of the best materials and design, is not unproductive. By reducing the number of accidents, by making for a smooth, uninterrupted flow of vehicles, by providing reliable road surfaces and highways of the necessary width, such money can prove highly profitable.'
Strain and Loss We must regard such expenditure as an investment, which will reap large profits in the saving of human lives, in reducing strain and loss, and equally, in providing a monetary return that will justify the spending of the maximum that the situation requires. The problem has been allowed to continue far too long. It must be faced, and faced at once.