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Slow traffic neighbourhood - a democratic alternative to road closures

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

by Peter McIntyre, St Mary’s Resident


What is a slow traffic neighbourhood?

A slow traffic neighbourhood aims to reduce speed, increase safety, encourage cycling and walking and reduce harmful emissions. It is based on a code of practice agreed between community residents, local authorities, police, and road users, especially those who drive for a living.

The aim of the code is to change behaviour and make life safer for pedestrians and cyclists by agreeing practices binding on all road users. The central right in this ‘social contract’ is to use the roads; the central obligation is to keep to speed limits, use roads safely and treat each other with care and consideration.

The code would be drawn up by the council(s), community representatives including councillors, police officers, professional drivers (delivery firms, taxi drivers, building trade skilled workers, etc) and cycling groups. Consultation is through public meetings, group meetings and on line.

It’s an AGREEMENT – not imposed from above.


What is different in the slow traffic neighbourhood?

  • The 20mph speed limit becomes a priority for local policing (supported by cameras) with zero tolerance for speeding or aggressive behaviour

  • Pedestrians have right of way at crossing points, including at raised ‘humps’ in the road, with clear signs and road markings

  • Cyclists have right of way on internal roads with a requirement for cars and vans to slow down for cyclists, give room to pass and not to overtake on the most narrow roads

  • Residents and businesses that regularly use the area sign up to the code to drive safely and with consideration. They have a voice in agreeing the content.

  • The slow traffic neighbourhood is clearly badged at all entrance roads and large 20mph limit signs on the surface of the roads - there are raised crossing points at all entrances.

Advantages of a slow traffic neighbourhood

  • It makes roads safer and it gives rights to residents and careful users

  • It focuses on changing behaviour, not obstructing roads

  • It supports and encourages cycling and walking and careful, considerate drivers.

  • It works through collaboration

  • Through-routes remain open and accessible to those who use them safely

  • The rules are the same for everyone: it does not set one road user against another or residents against neighbours

  • It reduces pollution inside the area and does not increase pollution outside it

  • It encourages citizens to play a role in education and enforcement

  • This outline can be enriched through local discussion.


NB: I submitted ideas towards the slow traffic neighbourhood in 2020 and sent councillors a proposal in early 2021. I made a formal submission to the County Council Cabinet in July 2021.

There has never been any serious engagement. Councillors did not want to hear about alternatives to barriers. One local councillor told me it would be worse if cars travelled slowly because you could fit more cars into the road!

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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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