Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Social Policy Advice and Research Associates (IT 4)


A Blueprint for Urban Transport


  The problems of urban pollution and congestion require a radical solution. An alternative road and transport management system is needed which will be:

    —  cheap (in terms both of infrastructure and individual transport costs);

    —  non-polluting;

    —  capable of carrying large numbers of people quickly, safely and comfortably to their destinations;

    —  a favourite with users.

  Modern technological developments have recently brought about the introduction of some entirely new means of achieving mobility—roller blades are one example, and a whole range of small electrically driven conveyances are beginning to come on to the market: electric wheelchairs, buggies, bicycles, scooters (the kind normally foot-propelled), shopping trolleys, etc.

  Together with cycles, these conveyances:

    —  are capable of travelling, in town, at the same average speed as private cars;

    —  have all the advantages of manoeuvrability, of taking up minimal parking space and of providing door-to-door access;

    —  can be used, in one form or another, by the whole population, from small children to the elderly and infirm.

  They therefore have the potential to become everybody's favourite way to get about town.

  If all towns and cities were to provide a newtwork of Rapid Rider Routes (RRRs) dedicated to allowing such self-propelled and small electrical conveyances to proceed safely and rapidly from any starting point to any destination, then people would experience an unprecedented freedom of movement, in a pleasurable unpolluted environment, at minimal cost.

  In order to attract users in large enough numbers for RRRs to provide an effective and efficient alternative to travel by car in urban areas, they need to be:

    —  fast;

    —  part of a comprehensive city-wide network;

    —  safe;

    —  smooth-surfaced;

    —  unobstructed;

    —  pollution-free;

    —  visually attractive;

    —  routed alongside amenities (shops, stations, schools, colleges, pubs, parks, libraries, park-and-ride depots, etc.);

    —  amply provided with parking for bikes and buggies.

  It is not sufficient to create cycleways which are squeezed (in competition with bus lanes) into the side of roads designated primarily for motor vehicle use. Experience has shown that such cycleways will only ever attract a relatively small number of brave users. They cannot get children to school, or make a significant contribution to relieving urban congestion and pollution.

  Nor, on the other hand, can riders of pedal- and small electric-powered conveyances travel safely at convenient speeds if they have to share path-space with pedestrians, toddlers, pushchairs, dogs on leads, etc.

  To be an effective way of carrying a large number of travellers, RRRs must take over part of the road system to create a comprehensive independent network, as shown on the map overleaf, reaching to all parts of the city and based on the principle of equal provision and equal ease of access for all road users.


  RRRs are not just cycleways. The joy of them is that they are suitable for a large number and variety of road users who at present are unable to take to the streets as they might wish.

    —  Many people will love travelling in their own electric buggy, right to the door of their workplace, and will be only too glad to leave the car at home.

    —  Roller-blade travellers and joggers can speed along.

    —  (Electric) wheelchair users can travel door-to-door, giving a new lease of life to the elderly and disabled.

    —  Fitted with light-weight anti-weather bubbles and quiet motors, electric cycles and foot-scooters will allow riders to arrive perfectly cool and unruffled at their destination.

    —  People with luggage, shopping or small children on board can use pedal- or electric-powered carts and buggies.

    —  Riders of all types can speed to and from the bus stop, station or park-and-ride.

    —  Besides cycling, children can invent their own conveyances to get to school.


  It is anticipated that once the joy of using RRRs catches on, rental firms and manufacturers will soon come up with ideas for vehicles appropriate to these routes and for devices to shield the users from adverse weather.

  Buggies could be sold in the millions, or made available for hire, with (removable) coverings to protect against rain and cold.

  A taxi service could be provided by cycle rickshaws, sedan chairs, etc.

  Supermarkets could provide electric shopping trolleys to hire or buy: hop on to the trolley's running board and ride it home!


  The network of Main Motor Vehicle Routes in towns will remain relatively unchanged. A network of other roads and streets will be designated Rapid Rider Routes, and the remaining minor roads will be used jointly by all vehicles (Joint Vehicle Routes), with certain safety measures in place.

  Crucially, if they are to be a success, RRRs must be able to get travellers to their destinations at speed and junctions must therefore be managed with this in mind.

  Where an RRR crosses a Main Motor Vehicle Route, traffic lights will be required. But where only a Joint Vehicle Route is crossed, or where RRRs cross one another, the traffic need barely pause: mini-roundabouts, give-way signs or zebra-style crossings would all be adequate to ensure safety while keeping traffic moving.


  A population arriving on pedal cycles, roller blades and small electric buggies poses a very small parking problem compared to that created by conventional motor vehicles. Underground and multi-storey car parks could be adapted to take, not just cars, but many thousands of bikes and buggies as well; these would also fit in great numbers at any designated kerbside; and schools, colleges and certain employers, could be required by law to make provision for them.


  Because the principle is that RRRs should occupy whole roads, separate from those used by conventional motor vehicles, clearly there will need to be access for deliveries to premises lying along these routes and including, where appropriate, kerb-side parking for residents' cars.

  However, use may be made of ramps, chicanes and pinched access points to remind drivers of large motor vehicles not to try to proceed any distance along these routes, while preserving safe sight-lines and keeping a clear, unobstructed way free for riders.

  On very busy RRRs (just as on Main Motor Vehicle Routes) and on RRRs passing school entrances, roadside parking and deliveries could be restricted to certain times of day.



  All roads must be accessible to emergency vehicles at every point, and the layout of chicanes, etc. should not impede their speed along Joint Vehicle Routes and RRRs when necessary.


  Each town and city has a unique road layout and the above map is only a representation of the principle of RRR design. The decision as to which roads should be for riders, which for cars, buses and lorries, and which for joint use, will have to be made with the participation of local residents, shopkeepers and road users, to create the best fit with local topography.

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Prepared 28 April 1999