Car traffic has broken through the 500 billion vehicle km per year barrier for the first time according to the Road Traffic Statistics Bulletin 2006 released today.
Despite our increased level of car traffic (a 1.4% increase between 2005 and 2006) the UK has the lowest increase in Europe (standing at 12% on its last measurement between 1993 and 2003). The ‘white van man’ is also more prevalent on UK roads and we are seeing an increased amount of traffic in rural areas.
We also appear to be getting better at obeying speed limits. In 2006 there was a 22% increase in the number of people obeying speed limits, although there is still a large proportion of the population not travelling at the correct speed. Motorcyclists were least likely to obey speed limits and speed limits are most likely to be exceeded between the hours of 6am-7am and 8pm-9pm.
Congestion* has increased 5% on the slowest 10% of roads and journey times have increased by 1.4% between 2005 and 2006. The worst congestion hotspots can be found on the M25, M6 and M1 and the slowest 10% of journeys account for nearly one third of all delays. The M25 is the only place where average vehicle flows have fallen between 2001-2006, with the Western link experiencing the most delays. Traffic on motorways has grown faster than any other road type (27%), but overall road lengths have only increased by 2.6% over 2005-2006 and the majority of this growth has been through increased residential roads in urban areas (5.2% increase).
The picture of 2006 is one of increased traffic, lower speeds and more congestion at key hotspots. It will be interesting to see ten years on whether we will have grinded to a halt altogether. A mix of options is needed to keep the country moving. There has been some progress in encouraging public transport usage in London, but lots more needs to be done elsewhere.
* Congestion is defined as average vehicle delay.