The quality of life
22. Speed also has a huge impact on the quality of life through
intimidation, severance and noise. The Slower Speeds Initiative
"Public space has been surrendered to traffic. The residual,
disrupted and often derelict spaces left to pedestrians and cyclists
indicate the low value placed on their safety and time".
Professor Allsop observed that reducing speed could "help
to return street space in towns and villages and the use of country
lanes to people on foot, on bicycles and on horseback".
He considered that in many cases cost benefit analysis would show
the advantages of constraining speed where it affects the quality
23. Many cities are blighted by roads designed to maintain traffic
flows. The Local Government Association argued that:
"The traffic free-flow philosophy as applied to town planning
through the 1960s and 1970s has led to divided communities with
the social implications which this brings...The former philosophy
implied that the time savings of not allowing congestion to develop
was more valuable to society as a whole than the disbenefit to
the local community".
Sustrans informed us:
"Highways [have] become roads for cars rather than streets
for people ....Multiplied across a city, this impact can have
devastating consequences. People will not visit, shop or live
in an unattractive environment. Much of the urban decay and 'doughnut-effect'
of city centres is caused by dangerous, speeding traffic. Those
who can, leave".
24. Not so long ago it was possible to enjoy a walk or ride down
a country lane; now such a journey can be a nightmare. The Ramblers
"Roads do not have footways. Pedestrians are therefore forced
to walk within the carriageway and to share the space with motorised
vehicles. Beyond the 30mph zones of a village, that traffic may
well be travelling at the national speed limit and can take any
form from an articulated lorry to a motorbike. Within living memory
it would have been safe for walkers to move from the public rights
of way network, along a linking stretch of carriageway, and back
onto the rights of way network, but that is no longer the case".
Riders are also severely affected by speeding traffic. The British
Horse Society's most recent survey found that 99 per cent of respondents
cited the speed of motor traffic as the biggest hazard faced by
them when riding on the road. It was found that 5 per cent of
the respondents had had an accident with a vehicle while riding
in the preceding 12 months and 50 per cent reported a near miss.
In Hertfordshire, there are an estimated 68,000 riders. Fewer
than 3 per cent could go for a ride without using the roads at
25. Speed is an important factor in noise levels. Tyre noise becomes
a problem at higher speeds (over 30-40 mph for newer cars). The
noise from traffic can spread for miles through the countryside.
As the IHT notes noise increases as the square of the speed at
higher speeds. Formerly
tranquil areas like the South Downs are now dominated by the sound
of fast moving traffic on the A27 below. The situation is as bad
in cities: a study in Huddersfield found that traffic noise interfered
with the relaxation and sleeping of 20% of respondents.
26. Many witnesses stressed that speed discourages people from
walking and cycling.
The Health Development Agency pointed to research which shows
"the built environment, including road traffic density and
speed, is a major influence on the quality of the experience of
walking in urban environments...Increasingly, there is an acceptance
that environmental considerations influence the level of physical
The TRL found that the speed of vehicular traffic was an important
deterrent to cycling and, it was widely believed, walking.
It is hard to see how the Government will meet its target of trebling
cycling by 2010 unless the speed of traffic is reduced on routes
which cyclists use.
27. The Commission for Integrated Transport found that 20 mph
zones had been "fundamental in prompting strong growth in
walking and cycling".
While the precise relationship between traffic speed and walking
is hazy, there is
little doubt that in cities where pedestrians have been given
priority people walk and cycle more. The City of York Council
has introduced "a danger reduction approach to speed management
that has helped it meet national casualty reduction targets well
in advance of target dates." This means that it has taken
measures to slow traffic down. Such measures, together with the
creation of a pedestrian and a cycle network, have also promoted
walking and cycling: twice as many people in York walk to work
as the national average and there has been an increase in cycling
and a reduction of 28% in the number of cycling accidents.
28. Speeding also indirectly affects health. Physical inactivity
is a major public health problem in the UK. Health professionals,
supported by a number of other witnesses, stressed that by discouraging
walking and cycling speeding traffic led to inactivity, and hence
the increased risk of illnesses such as coronary heart disease,
colon cancer and diabetes. The Health Development Agency noted
"around 60% of men and 70% of women [fail] to reach the minimum
recommendation of 30 minutes moderate activity at least five times
a week...It is estimated that the population attributable risk
of coronary heart disease from inactivity is 37%."
The prospect of an unpleasant walk to the shops down a busy road
with traffic travelling in excess of 30 mph makes most of us get
into our car; a walk of the same distance in a pleasant and peaceful
environment is an attractive proposition. The BMA pointed out
"issue of children's exercise is crucial not only because
of its link with their health and fitness in later life, but also
because habits such as taking part in and enjoying physical activity
are most easily acquired in childhood and may be difficult to
29. The threat posed by traffic has had a major effect on childhood.
The relationship between traffic, air quality and health, including
asthma, are well known. In addition, as the Traffic and Children
"A major deterioration in children's quality of life has
been the increasing loss of their independent mobility with many
harmful consequences on their development, as highlighted in Mayer
Hillman's classic 'One False Move' study".
The memorandum quoted Mr Hillman:
"There appear to be alternative responses: either we can
continue to with draw children from the growing threat that is
posed, and inculcate fear in parents and children about the risks,
or we can withdraw that threat from the children by 'taming' traffic."
30. There are serious indirect health effects of inappropriate
traffic speed. Fast-moving traffic plays a part in discouraging
physical activity by inhibiting walking and cycling in urban and
rural areas. We recommend an increase in the number of dedicated
cycle routes. Moreover, vehicles travelling at speed are noisy,
sever communities and undermine urban regeneration.
31. Measures put in place to protect pedestrians from traffic
travelling at speed such as railings, barriers and staggered crossings
make matters worse and discourage walking. In its memorandum to
this inquiry, the DTLR states
"Physical separation of traffic and pedestrians is appropriate
in certain circumstances. For example barriers are erected on
fast stretches of road to prevent pedestrians crossing at dangerous
Unfortunately, barriers are not used in this limited way, but
appear often to be a measure of first resort. In its inquiry into
Walking in Towns and Cities, our predecessor Committee
in the last Parliament concluded that barriers were employed to
keep pedestrians off the road and to maintain traffic flows. It
argued that if walking were to be encouraged there had to be a
different approach to pedestrian safety based on danger reduction.
The Government replied that it would meet the Committee's objectives
by issuing new policy guidance to local authorities which would
"encourage them to develop the most pedestrian-friendly environment
which can be achieved consistently with meeting the local casualty
reduction targets and with properly serving the interests of other
It is by no means certain that this will be adequate or that local
authorities will make sufficient effort to humanise 'the traffic
environment'. Pedestrian railings, barriers and staggered crossings
are designed to maintain traffic flows and restrict pedestrian
movement. They do not deal with the root of the problem which
is that traffic is sometimes moving too quickly. The Government
has failed to change this situation; it must advocate a policy
which does not create urban areas where cars can speed and pedestrians
are corralled behind barriers, but rather places where pedestrians
can walk safely because traffic speeds have been reduced. The
proposed guidance from Government on designing 'pedestrian-friendly
environments' should reflect this policy.