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Debate Traffic humps

Local transport funding is on the increase under the 10 year transport plan. The UK's streets are set for more traffic calming. Not all agree that road humps make streets safer.

This week we ask: Are speed humps making some roads unsafe?


Edmund King, executive director RAC Foundation

Some areas of our towns and cities are becoming no-go areas for the emergency services.

Why? Because the proliferation of sleeping policemen means that ambulances are reluctant to traverse certain neighbourhoods with patients in the back, particularly those with neck or back injuries. Fire fighters are unhappy about traffic calming in effect blocking off some essential emergency routes.

Of course we need to slow traffic down in urban and residential areas as 870 pedestrians are killed on our roads each year. But is the unco-ordinated placing of obstacles on our roads the way to do it?

The so called boy racer slows down so that he does not lose his stainless steel exhaust over the hump, but then accelerates to the next. As well as being an incredibly dangerous driving style, Austrian research suggests five times the amount of pollutants are pumped into the air.

In south west London we have seen humps contributing to structural damage to properties as the skip trucks disregard the humps to race to the depot at the end of the road. Why have humps on the road to the depot?

Also it is ironic that the maintenance of local roads is in such an appalling state when we seem happy to leave the holes in the road and then construct humps adjacent to the holes.

Why not level some of the hump material into the holes?

The best way to limit speed is not a hump but the driver's right foot. We need to educate all drivers to slow down in residential areas rather than just assuming that humps will work.

And where we do construct humps we need to ensure that they are co-ordinated so that there are through routes for essential traffic and emergency services. Road humps are not the panacea for all our ills but many unimaginative planners seem to like getting the hump.


Philomena Bach, chairman AME.

Civil engineers look after the needs of society as a whole. They recognise that roads have to meet many different needs, including movement, storage of vehicles and waste, providing a route for underground services and drainage, and above all, forming a major part of the human habitat where people meet, relax and play. But against the hundreds of billions of pounds society has spent on vehicles, a mere fraction has been spent to enable roads to meet this range of needs. Money spent has largely provided for the needs of drivers, not the community as a whole.

People, especially children, have been designed out of the modern town. A child's safety now depends on it behaving as an adult. But under the age of seven, children are not good at judging speed or distance, they are excitable and enthusiastic.

Britain has a poor record for child pedestrian safety and it is small wonder that we have seen childrens' independent mobility collapse over the past 30 years.

We are creating generations of car conditioned people - child obesity has become a major concern. We need to create a better balance.

Speed is critical. Both the evidence and the underlying physics demonstrate that injury increases disproportionately with the speed of impact. At 20mph 5% of children are killed, rising to 90% at 40mph.

Research shows that drivers are not good at assessing the risks they impose on pedestrians and cyclists. This is why society limits the speed of vehicles rather than leaves it to the discretion of drivers.

Traffic calming is very costeffective. Government figures show that 20mph zones with traffic calming bring a financial rate of return of over 30% per annum. The cost of introducing traffic calming on 80% of suitable urban roads would be about £3bn at today's prices.

Civil engineers are not giving drivers the hump but designing streets for people, which meet the needs of all, not the few.

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