Azara Blog: Stunts to reduce road traffic speed

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Date published: 2005/11/22

The BBC says:

A campaign is under way to lower speed limits to 20mph in urban areas, but what's going to make drivers slow down? A bossy road sign, a hump in the road or a three-piece suite parked in the road?

There's no reason that traffic calming should be boring or without a sense of humour, says children's author and traffic campaigner, Ted Dewan.

And using his Oxford residential street as a test laboratory, Mr Dewan has been working on more creative ways to reduce traffic speed.

"People are too used to being scolded by warning signs telling them about lethal speed and driving. It's like 'tell me something new'. But they're not used to having their wit engaged," he says.

So in a spirit that combines a sense of entertainment with a serious intent, he has come up with the idea of "folk traffic calming".

This is where art installations meet road safety, a kind of sleeping policeman that's been influenced by Damien Hirst.

These type of "DIY traffic-calming happenings" are described by their creator as "roadwitches" and have included an 11-feet high rabbit, a big bed (for a sleeping policeman), a Casualty-style fake crash scene for Halloween and the setting up of a living room in the middle of the road.

"There's an element of fun and mischief, but underneath is the ambition to encourage people to re-examine how roads are used," says Mr Dewan.

"With the living room, it was the most direct way of saying 'We live here. This is our living space.'"

And he says that residents really enjoyed the strangeness of being able to relax outside in their own street, rather than feel it was a place only belonging to the cars that race up and down it.

Residents had forgotten what it was like to have a street without the usual high-volume and low-courtesy of passing traffic.

Oh for the good old days, when the peasants had to take the bus or walk or cycle to work. It's amazing how the non-working class always object to the working class scurrying around getting to work in order to pay enough taxes to keep the non-workers going. All these stunts probably make the roads much less safe (too distracting for the drivers), except of course "setting up a living room in the middle of the road" which would have stopped traffic completely. And unfortunately, Mr Dewan does not "live" in the middle of the road, he lives in his house. If he wants more space around his house then he should buy a house with more space around it, not assume that he can appropriate public space for his own private purpose. If he so objects to people driving cars in front of his house then he should never drive his car anywhere near anyone else's house. (Well there are two kinds of people who object to other people driving cars: those who themselves drive, who are hypocrites; and those who do not themselves drive, who are selfish -- "I don't need to drive so why should anyone else?".) Needless to say there are plenty of roads in urban areas where the speed limit should be 20 mph, and it is ridiculous that the politicians and bureaucrats find this so difficult to achieve. The speed limit should also be reduced near schools when students are arriving or leaving. Unfortunately so-called traffic calming implies that people should drive at 5 mph or less (the only safe speed over many of the speed bumps, if you don't want your car trashed). So instead of putting in sensible speed limits the ruling elite have decided to wage war on their own citizens. They are far too influenced by the non-workers and the safety nutters.

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