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When we were in Britain last October we drove from one of our parents to the other. It was an interesting experience being back on Britain's roads and making a long journey by car. One of the things we especially noticed after our absence from Britain's roads was how attempts had been made to limit speeds on roads through villages, but that they were inadequate. Speeds remained too high, and conditions for cyclists and pedestrians remained unpleasant.
The example above is of the A153 entering the village of Coningsby in Lincolnshire, and that's the example I'll use in this blog post. There are hundreds of villages along similar roads in the UK. but this is the one by which I stopped and took some photos:
The A153 has no parallel cycle or pedestrian path. Anyone who wants to travel the 4.5 miles between the next village, Mareham-le-Fen and this one has to use the road. Many journeys are made between villages separated by this sort of distance in order to shop, use sport facilities, go to school or to commute. Coningsby is a desirable destination from Mareham because there are more shops and other facilities in this larger village. However, because cycling along here means being overtaken by vehicles travelling at 100 km/h, very few people would consider it. We stopped for several minutes to take these photos and no cyclists or pedestrians were seen. Everyone who was making this journey made it by car, van or truck.
This design of road, and this design of traffic calming, is lethal. What's more, given the high speeds that remain through the village, it doesn't even result in particularly pleasant conditions for those who live there.
The reason why this particular feature of the road grabbed my attention was that a few days previously I'd pointed out something very similar in concept to the study tour group from Vilnius when they visited us in Assen.
If you had heard only a description of these two roads and not seen the physical reality then they would probably sound like almost the same thing. However, they are not the same in practice. Here is the "equivalent" traffic calming design in Assen:
Grotere kaart weergweven
The Witterhoofdweg has a speed limit of 60 km/h ( 37 mph ) before the signs and 30 km/h ( 18 mph ) through the village. This is the speed limit through most villages in this area. A third of the Dutch road network now has a speed limit of 30 km/h or lower.
The central reservation is much larger than the British example and requires drivers to change course quite dramatically as they drive around it. You couldn't drive through here at the speeds at which drivers in Britain routinely enter Coningsby.
subjective and actual safety right through this village and out the other side.
Written descriptions of these two traffic calming devices would sound the same. However, in reality they are different. Aerial views of both traffic calming features to the same scale:
Coningsby. The signs are above the top of this view, the central reservation is just behind the truck. No need to divert at all while driving through here. While there is space for a cycle-path, none has been built - View Larger Map
Witten. The signs are very close to the central reservation (see shadows to the right), motorists have to divert from a straight line to cross this point. Cycle-paths lead in all directions, all separated from the road, some by a considerable distance - Grotere kaart weergeven
Now I expect some readers to point out that the A153 is a larger more strategic road than the Witterhoofdweg. They'd be right of course. But larger roads in the Netherlands have rather more care taken to preserve the rights of cyclists and pedestrians to go about their everyday business in peace, not less. A traffic calming feature like this simply has no place on a busy road like the A153.
In Britain, the same ideas have been used as in the Netherlands, but they are often applied in a much weaker way, and often in staggeringly inappropriate places. That is what the blog posts tagged "lost in translation" show.