Stop building roads

Image thanks to Highways England

They’re widening the AI around Newcastle, from a two lane dual carriageway to three lanes. There isn’t really enough room and so I imagine they will be narrow lanes. The problem is that it will make no difference to traffic flows. 

I remember when the bypass was built. Before that all the traffic had to go through the centre of town and that the new A1 would solve all the congestion problems. Of course, now for considerable periods in the day the road is blocked both ways, filled with traffic that the new road has, in many ways created. 

New roads create traffic. The more roads there are, the more vehicles there are. The more vehicles there are the more congestion grows and so the more roads are built. It is a vicious cycle, a positive feedback loop. The answer to breaking this cycle is to stop building new roads. I don’t mean all roads, we will still need to have roads in housing estates and new builds for example. I mean trunk roads.

Instead we need to concentrate on three things: maintaining existing trunk roads; investing in public transport; vehicle management technology.

Trunk roads will need to be maintained as they wear out. Public transport needs to be invested in as it is not sustainable for every adult in the country to have its own vehicle and expect to be able to use them.

The real answer is the development of technology. With vastly better reaction times than humans, driverless vehicles could drive in much more condensed traffic than we are used to. This would increase the capacity of the roads enormously. Mapping software and real time information, with speed management could be used to get around bottle necks and even remove them. Shared ownership schemes and spot hire taxis could be merged with public transport to make the whole experience work better.

The concept of individually owned transport is a concept that cannot be viable in the long term, yet continuing to build roads perpetuates the myth that it is. 

We need to take it on the chin now and stop building new roads.

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