So this country spent £75m on the ‘implementation and maintenance’ of traffic calming measures in 2014? Churchill Insurance is claiming this figure was up by £26m on the total spent in 2013.
Funnily enough, I recently spent an afternoon in a garage in the East Midlands, the sort of place where you’re reminded of the realities of motoring for the majority of drivers.
While I was there an AA Patrol van towed in a 10 year-old Fiesta. It had suffered a broken front spring. A quick call to the local motor factors and the repair was underway. The garage owner told me broken springs were increasingly common. ‘I don’t know why, perhaps they are making them out of crappy steel or something.’
It’s far more likely to be a result of speed humps and poorly maintained roads. And speed bumps have to be the biggest problem of the lot.
I often drive along a local road that has a good half a mile of them. The humps that are oversized, crumbling dangerously at the edges and laid out so as to force cars to cross the central white line.
Even when trying to trickle along at 20mph, I wince every time my car thumps over these tank traps as a jolt is sent through the car’s suspension components and the body creaks a little in protest.
It’s been long understood that conventional speed humps also cause serious pollution hotspots as drivers speed up and slow down, braking and accelerating. The situation is made worse when it’s an older diesel car traversing the humps.
Indeed, if you wanted to come up with a way to increase local air and noise pollution, increase fuel consumption and also cause damage to vehicles, speed bumps would be the way to do it.
It is true though that ‘traffic calming’ schemes are becoming more sophisticated. In London certainly, the idea of ‘naked streets’ and ‘shared space’ is taking hold.
Pioneered in Holland, the idea is to remove street barriers, high kerbs and road lines, all of which appear to point to infinity and are thought to encourage the driver to look 200ft down the road, rather than at the immediate traffic conditions.
Removing traffic lights altogether is also being tried - notably outside one tube station in West London, where neither the driver or pedestrian has right of way.
The theory is that rather than only looking out for traffic light signals, drivers and pedestrians have to actively catch each other’s eyes and make a decision about each other’s intentions. Believe me, this scheme slows everyone down to walking pace, even in heavy London traffic.
Still, there’s plenty of ignorant roads design designed to ‘frustrate’ traffic, slowing it and, hopefully, subtly pushing it out of the locale. Tricks include road narrowing, very short dwell times for traffic lights, extending and narrowing junctions and even blocking off side roads altogether.
These techniques were extensively rolled out in London after the turn of the century and - guess what? - air pollution has got no better despite a reduction in the numbers of vehicles.
The philosophy - if we can call it that - was imported from the US. If traffic jams are created and the flow frustrated, over time traffic will steer away from a given area and find a new route.
Of course, when more than half the traffic on the roads during business hours is diesel-fired (unlike in the US), stop-start traffic and manufactured jams only cause massive local air pollution.
In fact, I was so enraged with this I managed to get an audience (thanks to the eminently sensible Isabel Dedring, the London Mayor’s deputy mayor for transport) with senior Transport for London staff to make my case.
Perhaps, if I had a little influence, we’d see speed humps and the other techniques used to cause jams booted out. And if we could persuade London, hopefully, other local authorities would also think again.
Meanwhile, be happy that your taxes are being spent on making some roads noisier and dirtier and damaging your car’s undercarriage to the point of undermining its safety.