Slowing down

PUBLISHED: 11:36 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

SIR, — Traffic flow is a recurring theme in our apparently congested little country. The problem of optimising traffic flow puzzles mathematicians and challenges computer modellers. In the Herts Advertiser letters, speed cameras have prompted recent cont

SIR, - Traffic flow is a recurring theme in our apparently congested little country. The problem of optimising traffic flow puzzles mathematicians and challenges computer modellers.

In the Herts Advertiser letters, speed cameras have prompted recent contributions. Last week, for instance, two contributors asserted that cameras were only revenue generators, while a third suggested that they are a costly diversion of resources. Putting aside speed camera efficiency, there are other worthy considerations.

It occurs to me that several issues of interest to your readers - planning, local amenities and oddly, secondary school allocation, among many others - may be ameliorated by lowering our expectations with regard to our rate of speed.

How is that? Consider your story headlined "Double trouble" (Herts Advertiser, March 20) where we read that insensitive placement of traffic lights and other street furniture diminishes the aesthetic appeal of the city centre.

Evidently some Netherland towns and one London borough have had success with a scheme which removes traffic lights and other vehicle and pedestrian regulating paraphernalia altogether. In the absence of these, motorists and pedestrians are obliged to proceed heedfully to avoid collision. Almost certainly that means motorists going slowly.

Several parents have been noting with some dismay in your letters, the time and expense of transporting their children to county secondary schools - usually other than their preferred school. Others object that local primary schools become threatened with closure. So what is the connection?

The connection is that our pattern of life is formed by our perception of distances, not in terms of miles but in terms of the time it takes to get wherever. Consequently, our perception of distance has changed and will change. The effects of changing perceptions ripple through to shops, schools, hospitals and much else - in short, the character of our built environment.

We tend to rate the viability of one-off journeys, or daily commutes according to "travel time". And generally not just the usual, traffic-congested travel time. Typically, I think, we compare today's journey, inevitably unfavourably, with the best-ever travel time for that journey. In short, we as a society have a collective psychological problem about traffic flow.

Speaking for myself of course, and perverse as it will sound, I can think of many benefits to be gained by progressively reducing the maximum power and acceleration of our motor vehicles and thereby, speed. The Civic Society, small traders, campaigners for local amenities of all kinds, all would be well to reflect that in "good old days" - let's say when towns and villages were more-or-less self-contained and sustainable - travelling was time consuming.

K. DORMAN,

Upper Culver Road, St Albans.

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