Letter: Slow the car down

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I agree with Ben Plowden, Director of the Pedestrians Association, that a range of alternatives must be developed to match the range of needs which the private car satisfies (letter, 30 January). In parallel to this, the impact of vehicles on our roads is due for taming. A 20mph speed limit is the key to a more people-friendly urban environment.

What we should be aiming for is a civilised use of vehicles, with a slower, safer and more even flow of traffic. The psychological effect of not expecting to be able to travel at any real speed would be enormous. More eye contact and interaction generally would help humanise our relationships as drivers and pedestrians. Drivers would be much more willing to keep the traffic flow moving by giving way to each other. Most signal-controlled pedestrian crossings could revert to ordinary zebra crossings. Lower speeds reduce accidents and the damage to the human body when they do occur.

Children could walk or cycle to school without suffering the casualty rates which have confined them to cars in recent years. By reducing the differential between journeys by car on the one hand and by bus and bike on the other, people would be encouraged to use their cars less. Smoothing traffic flow with less braking and accelerating would reduce pollution levels.

The 20mph speed limit would not be cost-free - there is no such thing as a free lunch - but curbing the impact of traffic has an important part to play alongside curbing the numbers of vehicles on our roads.