Traffic reduction

Examples: how heavy traffic harms us

Heavy traffic causes many problems for people and the communities in which they live. Below are just a few of the stories people have told us of how heavy traffic hurts them. Tell us your story.

"Almost every Friday traffic is snarled up by the toll booths on the Dartford Crossing. This then brings all local roads in the area of Thurrock to a standstill. I remember one particular instance a few months ago when it took Bus Route 372 one and three quarter hours to do less than a mile on the A1306. The bus had a great number of standing passengers and became very uncomfortable for those people."
- Bryan Broom.

"As an elderly, registered disabled, electrically-assisted pedal cyclist, I use trains to link myself and cycle with the various venues for meetings I attend.  The problems caused to cyclists by heavy motor traffic on urban roads leading to local railway stations, are quite obvious. The journeys, after leaving the train, if I'm cycling in rural areas, can be extremely hazardous. Many roads which were familiar to me a few years ago, and even in childhood, have, in recent times, become, 'no-go areas', and the few which are still available have been robbed of their peace and tranquillity - the cyclists' and pedestrians' relaxation stolen by motor vehicles' power and speed. Those motor vehicles, which are only permitted to use our roads by licence, endanger and drive off those of us who exercise our free right to travel on our public highways."
-Brian Witty

"Heavy traffic pollutes where I live, makes it dangerous to use the roads in my locality without constant deference to the car driver, makes it impossible to plan simple journeys by public transport into the centre of Bristol as well as outlying areas and other town because of traffic jams and makes me have to leave enormous margins of time on either side of my journeys because buses are late or get caught up in traffic jams.

Heavy traffic causes drivers to become careless and rageful and take it out on pedestrians to the point of not obeying the rules of the road, such as stopping properly at pedestrian crossings etc. School run times are impossible wherever you are in the city because of parents deeming that they must pick up their kids. This slows down everyone and makes bus journeys intolerable.

Heavy traffic makes our streets noisy and crowded and takes away all peace and quiet. During the snow storms when people couldn't travel in their cars, our neighbourhood was blissfully tranquil and it made you realise the level of noise, pollution, and unneeded business that is about just due to private car use."
-Nancy Frankel

"During the snow storms when people couldn't travel in their cars, our neighbourhood was blissfully tranquil." 

"The heavy traffic makes my bus journey longer and means those who live away from the town and genuinely need a car (which they wouldn't if bus links were more sensible) take far longer than they should to get to/from work – it is crazy really and must affect the local residents and indeed air quality. In-fact since moving from a medium sized market town into Northampton my wife and I have suffered more colds and illnesses and notice a lower air quality too."
- J Moore

"I am a cyclist, and breathe in car exhaust fumes while cycling, have to take evasive action to avoid careless drivers, but can also see the detrimental effects of excessive car use on "communities": which are cut up, local shops are displaced to (car necessary) shopping centres on the outskirts of towns, and all the time increasing numbers of cars leads to increasing fear, on the part of parents to let their children walk, let alone cycle to school."
- Robin

"I have an issue with my pedestrian crossing. Very simply, drivers do not stop even when you have one foot on the crossing! The crossing must be made more visible. More road signs further up and down the road to make drivers aware that they are approaching a pedestrian crossing and that according to the UK road laws, they should be prepared to stop in the event that a pedestrian is on or about to use the crossing. Alternatively, since there is a primary school in such close proximity to the crossing perhaps we could consider putting up signs warning that children may be crossing."
- Annabelle 

"We have three schools which are all accessed from our lane, within a mile of each other. The lane is also used as a rat-run by local traffic, who use it as a shortcut getting to the M1 and M25. There are a couple of natural pinch points, however the 30mph limit is frequently ignored and this combined with the pinch points has often caused road rage incidents. At school start and finish times it can be almost impossible to pull out of our close into the lane, and combined with speeding traffic using the rat-run, can also be dangereous. I would welcome a 20mph limit but considering how useless the 30mph limit is, I fear this would also be useless. I have emailed our local police recently, but received no reply or acknowledgement".
- Robert  

"I live in Birmingham, infamous for its heavy traffic. Communities such as Edgbaston are cut up by trunk roads 4 or 6 lanes wide, with immense noise and pollution arising from them. Walking and especially cycling to the city centre is a hazardous and unpleasant ordeal; a constant battle to survive against hordes of mostly singly occupied cars zooming past. Yet the cars squeeze the safer and more sustainable methods of transport such as the bus, train, and tram into obscurity, resulting in turn in public transport suffering from under-use and lack of funding, and being far from the network it should be."
- Mark

"I have no illness from heavy traffic that I know of but in York the congestion at and around rush hour is terrible, nigh on complete gridlock at times. I am a confident and experienced cyclist but I have scares and near-misses every single week to and from my house and the station. This week a car driver, so desperate to get into the opposite lane of busy traffic from his junction, simply pulled into the road, seemingly oblivious to me and other cyclists. I braked sharply and hit his car softly, thank goodness. If it had been one single second later, things could have been very different. This isn't particularly extreme, I have to be fully aware of everyone in York in certain areas, the traffic is simply out of control."
- Sam

"I live in what was once a pleasant housing estate in North London. Unfortunately, the road in which I reside has become a 'rat run' which has resulted in much excessive speeding and noise.  I truly wish that someone would take the political and environmental initiative and make all of London's suburban residential areas 20mph zones. I believe in the long run the majority of people would thank them for it."
- Andrew

"Cycling between the hours of 4pm and 6pm is very difficult in my area (Bury, Lancashire) because of very intimidating traffic. There is no way I would regularly commute by bike, particularly when the evenings are dark in winter.  Therefore I commute by car, which adds to the general congestion."
- Martin

"As children we used to cycle along the A25 a few miles and return along the lanes. Now there is no way I would cycle along that road as an adult let alone let young children do so."

"The growth in traffic gradually and insidiously spoils lives. The main impact on me is that I have to really think about where I can cycle, whether as recreation or for commuting or shopping. There is no way that my children can safely cycle to school here in the Glasgow suburbs. But to illustrate my more general point: I'm 55, and I  was brought up at the foot of the North Downs in Reigate, Surrey. To walk up on to Colley Hill was where I could work through the angst of being a teenager and find spiritual and physical peace and refreshment. But now, just half a mile or less the other side of the beautiful escarpment runs the M25. The roar of traffic is continuous, varying only in intensity with the wind direction, and there is no longer that sense of tranquillity and of being a step from heaven. Similarly, as children we used to cycle along the A25 a few miles and return along the lanes. Now there is no way I would cycle along that road as an adult let alone let young children do so - the traffic is heavy and continuous, and of course just as heavy as immediately before the parrallel motorway was made in the '80s, disproving the notion that a motorway reduces traffic. All that has happened is that many more people travel much more as part of  their daily lives, journeys that they would never before have considered as being possible. Perhaps a number of people's lives are thus enriched, but it's at the expense of the environment. And that's the story throughout Britain, and now the whole world is copying our wonderful example."
- Julian

I suffer from asthma and the dirty air caused by heavy traffic affects me daily,and the fact that many local roads are struggling to cope with the increase in traffic."
- Terry

"It often makes it dangerous for my son and myself to cross the road.

"The more cars on the roads, the more parking of cars on the pavements.  This would be inconvenient and dangerous to me anyway, it's made more so by the fact that I have a child, am often pushing a push chair and have a dog. We often have to walk in the road, even busy roads, and on a number of occasions we've had cars nearly run into us on the pavements.

"Makes roads unsafe for myself and my 7-year-old son as cyclists.  Car drivers are not very observant or respectful of cyclists in my experience, so the more of them on the roads, the more dangerous for us." 
- Kathryn

"My village (large but rural!) had its High Street designated an A road some years ago, and it is a popular route between Immingham (seaport) and the A1 and A46 despite a chicane and several bends. We are campaigning for a 20 mph limit, but the county council is not keen. Houses on the High Street face all-night fast, heavy lorries causing vibration and disturbance."
- Bob

"I commute daily by bicycle, a round trip of some seven miles, perfect for cycling. I have been doing this for many years, although I also drive regularly, and I walk frequently. So, I regard myself as I regular guy, I like to think I can see all sides of an issue. However, I do feel that heavy traffic is blighting our country more than ever. I believe the biggest deterrant to increased walking and cycling in this country is heavy road traffic. I would like to see more rights for walkers and cyclists and less for drivers. I would also like to see vastly more resources allocated to non-motorised transport, preferably by re-allocating resources away from road transport. Heavy traffic causes noise pollution which wrecks what could otherwise be calm peaceful neighbourhoods. I could go on, and on, and on. My dad, a keen cyclist, always said he had been born at the start of the car boom and he hoped to live to see the end of it. I don't think he will quite make that, but I'm certainly hoping that I and my children will do."
- Paul 

"Every day on my trip to work (on foot) I pass by a busy road. I find the air thicker and find it more difficult to breathe. I live in the town centre and also find the air thicker where I live. I have to walk into the park next door to experience what a normal breathing experience is like. I find that as soon as I am close to a number of trees, the air is lighter, I get in more oxygen and feel better. Thankfully, I'm not asmatic but I worry about our child developping asthma. There are far too many cars in my town centre in Colchester and far too many SUVs. I don't think the town was ever designed to accomodate so much traffic. "
- Alex 

"Thanks to Boris Johnson's reversion of the C-charge and his abandoning of the project, more and more cars enter London and the tributaries. Noise, and exhaust as well as microscopic dust from cars, diesels and other traffic affects my breathing and general healthiness. Also more cars mean more injuries to cyclists and pedestrians as more drivers impatiently try to get through increasingly congested roads." 
- Alex

"Since coming to live in this house more than 25 years ago the volume and speed of traffic has increased tremendously. Cars overtake outside of my house, on a blind hill, elderly people are afraid to cross the road because of the speed of the traffic. People park their cars on the footpath to avoid them being hit by passing traffic, pedestrians then have to walk on the road to get past them. Many people have had their cars damaged by passing traffic, we have had three cars written off outside of our house. Cyclists use the footpath rather than the road because of the speed and attitude of drivers towards them. We have had the police and the county highways department out on various occasions but nothing gets done. It seems that the motorist is more important than the quality of life of people in our village. We think that motorists need to be educated about quality of life as well as road safety, many people will argue that they can drive safely at high speeds, but it is the noise that causes nuisance. Motorists passing through our village should be aware that we live here, they are merely passing through and as such should have some respect for locals."
- Marion  

"The pavements are excessively narrow in many places and the noise and pollution make it an unpleasant place to be."

"In Prestwich (North Manchester) the busy Bury New Road forms a physical barrier cutting the community centre in two. The pavements are excessively narrow in many places and the noise and pollution make it an unpleasant place to be. This has a very negative effect on the local shops and what should be a vibrant community is blighted as high street shops struggle to cope against competition from large stores with free off-street parking."
- Dominic

"I lead health walks in and around Frome in Somerset. It is a lovely rural area with a good network of public footpaths through varied countryside. But long stretches of these paths are not usable except by those willing to take risks in crossing busy A roads with heavy traffic. In some ways the rural roads are more dangerous for pedestrians, as speeds are high, visibility can be poor and drivers don't expect to see walkers. It doesn't seem fair that our age-old right to walk on these paths, which were there long before the motor car was invented, is compromised to such an extent. We need more traffic calming and safe crossing points and speed restrictions."
- Tricia 

"Occasionally I visit a friend whose address is in Hampermill Lane, Oxhey, Watford and generally travel there from central Watford by bus. The road he lives on is single carriageway in both directions and was originally a country lane. There is a 30 mph speed limit but the traffic does not heed this. Speeds are generally in excess of 50 or 60 mph and the traffic flow is continuous and heavy throughout the day. My friend tells me that numerous accidents occur along this road. At the part of the road where he lives there is a pavement only on the opposite side of the road and so if we wish to cross the road to get from his house to the pavement we have to watch for a slight break in the traffic and take a run for it. It is not very feasible for delivery drivers to make deliveries and I believe that the postman only delivers letters every few days because of the danger involved in making deliveries. Cyclists along this road have either to be very brave and possibly foolhardy, or use the footpath in preference to the road. I have rarely seen a traffic situation as bad as this one."
- Mark

"As a cyclist in Manchester I feel I am constantly battling for my space on the road. It's not just a matter of cycle lanes etc either - often they are blocked with parked cars anyway, but there needs to be a much greater awareness that driving everywhere is not ok and that there are alternatives (although if I didn't cycle I would be stuck with an extremely costly bus option - too many buses, too expensive, clogging up the main routes and cutting up the a proper integrated subsidised public transport system needs to be part of the planning).  People won't cycle because of the traffic, which would be vastly reduced if more people cycled..."
- Sheila

"It is dangerous to walk by a road of heavy traffic and that is not mentioning the bad affect to health from the fumes. The country is grinding to a halt as heavy traffic is going slower and slower. There must be an alternative method of travel, ie trains"
- Mary Ann

"I am a Bikeability cycle instructor and I train children to ride bikes more safely on the roads of Bristol. Heavy traffic harms my life because it puts the children I teach in danger and deters them (and their parents) from going by bike instead of by car."
- Sarah

"Taking a car into Norwich is a decision that is not taken lightly. Traffic is often very heavy and long periods can be spent idling at road works which seem to be omnipresent - as soon as one section of road is dug up and repaired or whatever, another one suddenly appears. The city centre has many narrow streets which are not suited to cars and so seem best suited to pedestrianisation but this has not been done (except for the area at the market. The onset of school/college holidays brings less congestion which is a welcome relief. My biggest concern is the number of very heavy lorries that thunder up and down the road behind our house. We have ring roads and dual carriageways so why do we have lorries navigating their way through basically suburban streets? I know that shops etc require deliveries but can't we come up with less intrusive delivery methods?"
- VJ

"It makes it more difficult to cycle my son to school a mile and half away from my home near Braunton, North Devon. I avoid cycling on roads where there is a 60mph speed limit. The speed and closeness that some drivers pass me on these roads is very unnerving. The traffic during holiday periods makes it difficult to be on time, and makes even short distance journeys very frustrating (by car, bus or bike)."
- Adrian

"Lorries from High Common Lane are not supposed to short cut through our small country town of Tickhill but they do. There were lorries thundering through as early as 6:30 this morning. Instead of going to join the  A1 at Blyth they prefer to reach the M18 at Wickersley. I would like to buy a bike on retirement to avoid using my car for shorter trips but am afraid of all the lorries."
- Diana

"It gets in the way on my cycle to work! With everyone squeezing for space on the road, the drivers creep forward every inch they can - blocking off spaces for cyclists to get through the traffic, sometimes even when there's a cyclist in the space at the time! Also, the heavier traffic is, the more aggressive drivers get, which is bad news for those of us who aren't in big steel cages."
- Judith

"The Government's transport and education policies are at complete odds. On the one hand they are encouraging families to walk and cycle to school, but on the other they are encouraging families to shop around for their education, thus almost encouraging journeys that cannot be made by means other than the car. This is almost endemic in affluent [...], where it is not uncommon for schools to have more than 80% of pupils living outside the catchment area. Kids are growing up in a car culture and do not have the road skills to be able to travel independently and safely. They also do not feel part of their local community. We need to encourage people to use their local school. If it's crap then empower parents and pupils to put things right and keep the school at the heart of the community. Choosing a school other than your local one should be the exception and not the rule!"
- Gordon

"I would like to buy a bike on retirement to avoid using my car for shorter trips but am afraid of all the lorries."

"At a recent regional Neighbourhood Watch meeting, most people's main concern was traffic speeding through our villages. In South Devon we are in a low crime area so did not have many other matters to raise with police. What concerns me when I drive is tail-gating. It is very dangerous, very common and scares me, yet nothing much is done to stop it."
- Janet

"I mostly travel by bicycle or train. (I wish train companies welcomed cyclists more) I share a car with 2 others and only use it for essential purposes. Heavy traffic affects the air I breath and careless and aggressive driving  threatens me with death or injury. The government still doesn't recognise cycling as a serious transport alternative."
- Georgina

"First I love cycling and do as much as I can by bike, including riding around Oxfordshire for leisure. It is difficult to do without going on main roads sometimes, where the fast and sometimes heavy traffic scares me. I don't like the way cars pass so close to a bike. Around Oxford I'm wary on my bike, as nearly all cyclists killed in Oxford are killed by HGVs or similar, and are mostly women - I don't know why.

"The centre of Oxford is packed with people because the County Council won't bite the bullet and stop people coming in by car and will not restrict delivery times (eg to before 11am), so there is not enough space for people on foot as vehicles have to go everywhere. I have to cross a busy road to get to the shops, the lights don't give one enough chances in the cycle. The majority of cars in Oxford have just one person in (ie are empty - a bus with only the driver is called an empty bus, so a car with only the driver is also empty). Oxford is also very polluted, less traffic would help."
- Ros

"I chair the school travel plan implementation group at Ann Edwards Primary School. I cannot get the school to encourage cycling as they see cycling as too dangerous. We live in the village of South Cerney in Gloucestershire. The traffic here would not come up as heavy on any measure comparing us with a city but the speeds are such (30 - 40 mph) that it is seen as potentially dangerous. No child regularly independently cycles to school at this school. This harms the community as children are less fit, more obese, less independent. Also the volume of traffic increases risk of accidents, and causes noise and unnecessary CO2 emissions."
- Peter 

“I live in a picture postcard town, Yarm on the River Tees. I moved here because - as a car-free person - I wanted to be able to shop locally but at the same time have good public transport links into the regional and national network. The town won a BBC poll as the 'best high street in the UK'.

“The town has been destroyed by heavy traffic on the High Street. This isn't just through traffic, but people using cars to come to the town to shop and to work. The local council is unwilling to take any action to combat the traffic or to make those people who choose to come into the town by car at the very least pay to park their vehicles. As a result the High Street is a sea of cars, and the residential streets leading off it have cars parked everwhere, on pavements, on Keep Clear signs, on the few remaining grassed areas, in clearly defined parking belonging to residential developments ... Daily life is one of constant aggression when faced with motorists who claim the right to park. Businesses will not countenance anything 'anti-car' because they claim their trade will be hit. Because the town is popular, the Council approves endless developments of flats, all of which will bring yet more cars into the town. Yarm has the highest pollution levels in the North East - which is saying something - but still nothing is done. There is no leadership, and most of all there is no support at all for people who choose to be car-free. Bus services are patchy and constantly reducing and the train station is conveniently placed for car drivers, but not for people walking or getting a bus. Walking to the local surgery, patients have nowhere safe to cross the constant stream of traffic and then have to negotiate cars parked over yellow lines and on the pavement.

“I accept the right of anybody to have a car, as I hope they accept my right not to have one. It seems though that although I accept the problems my choice brings and that I will have to forego certain things, car-drivers are not expected to do the same as a result of their choice. “
- Pat

Last updated: 24 October 2011
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