Building more roads will not cure congestion, says Sustrans

New government statistics reveal that motor vehicle traffic has risen by 1.4 percent to 77.1bn vehicle miles.The data was released within the Department for Transport’s Quarterly Road Traffic Estimates. Another report – Congestion on local A roads – reveals that average speed on local A roads has dropped to 24.4mph, down 0.9 percent on this time last year.

Allan Williams, Policy Advisor for Sustrans said:

“Traffic is a major headache for everyone but we can’t build our way out of road congestion. According to the Government’s own analysis there’s little evidence of wider economic, social or environmental benefits either.’

“The key to unlock road traffic congestion is to give people a choice about how they travel by providing safe, convenient and affordable alternatives to driving.

“Investment in public transport, cycling and walking will increase capacity on our roads for those who need to use them most, while increasing road building will just continue to put more cars on our roads, increasing congestion and harmful emissions.”

Induced demand, the theory that the creation of new roads does not reduce congestion, has been known about since the end of the 19th century. And, in 1955, the urban planning specialist Lewis Mumford, writing in The New Yorker, suggested that “people … find it hard to believe that the cure for congestion is not more facilities for congestion.”

He added:

“Most of the fancy cures that the experts have offered for … congestion are based on the innocent notion that the problem can be solved by increasing the capacity of the existing traffic routes, multiplying the number of ways of getting in and out of town, or providing more parking space for cars that should not have been lured into the city in the first place. Like the tailor’s remedy for obesity – letting out the seams of the trousers and loosening the belt – this does nothing to curb the greedy appetite that [has] caused the fat to accumulate …”

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