Road to 2050

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Road to 2050: Roads Aren’t Just For Cars.

Our roads need to balance the needs and movement of all who share the road space...

The world is becoming more urban focused. It’s estimated that by 2050 around 75% of the global population will be urban dwellers, placing extra stress on already strained city systems and infrastructure. As cities expand and people become more prosperous, the desire for individual mobility will grow, potentially leading to gridlocked streets. 

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Planning how we all share road space is important to reduce disruption and accidents.  Many of the urban roads we use today were originally planned for horse and carts, and haven’t always been able to adapt to meet 21st century usage patterns.  What might have been a wide high street with plenty of room in Victorian times, today has to accommodate cars, buses and lorries, and not forgetting pedestrians. 

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With more and more vehicles on the roads, pedestrians and cyclists are at greater risk, particularly in urban areas.  There are however some great new initiatives that could change the way roads are shared by everyone in the future. 

Let’s take a look.

1) Speed limits

Road planners are working with an aim of making it impossible to be injured on our roads.

An easy way to make roads safer for everyone is to simply reduce traffic speed.

Many urban areas now have low speed zones, no more than 20mph.

Speed humps and curves in the road can also help reduce speeds.

It’s important that all drivers are encouraged to keep within the road safety rules, not just regarding speed but that all wear their seat belts in any car.

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2) Shared space street

Another innovation is to build Shared Space streets.

These consider the needs of all road users, not just driving vehicles, and prioritise the most vulnerable, like pedestrians and cyclists, especially close to schools and in areas around shops and attractions.

Such as Exhibition Road in London outside the museums.

The priority in some Shared Space streets can change depending on the time of day.

Designers might also widen pavements and pedestrian islands to keep everyone safe.

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3) Cycle networks

Well-designed roads will accommodate dedicated cycle networks.

As well as providing more convenient and efficient ways to travel through urban areas, studies have shown that injury rates go down when more people use dedicated infrastructures like off-street trails and bike lanes.

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4) Reduce risk

Using data can help planners identify problem areas, locations that pose significant risk to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and re-design these to get rid of those risks.

In the future, it’s possible that artificial intelligence will create models that more accurately predict where accidents are likely to happen, helping us take measures to prevent them.

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5) Mobility issues

Pedestrians aren’t all the same size and shape, and some have greater needs than others.

Road designers need to make sure people with mobility, sight or hearing impairment, as well as those with other differences, will need to have their needs taken into account.

This might mean wider pavements with more places to sit down, safer signal crossings whether using sound, lights or textured road surfaces, and kerbs that make it easy for those in wheelchairs and mobility scooters to cross-and easier to board buses and trams.

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Everyone is important when it comes to using our roads – and now our youngest, and youngest at heart, road users can stay even safer – whilst having fun.

New colourful electronic paving slabs are recreating computer games like Tetris, hopscotch and even dance battles – encouraging you to stay away from the traffic zones. Even better, energy from the movement is being captured and used to power street lighting!

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Sounds like a win win! As you can see, we want the future to be a place where everyone is comfortable and safe using our road network – and many of our existing roads will have to change to make this happen.

You could be part of the change. We want you to use your imagination and think about how else we might make it safer to share our roads.

Enter here!

Have a go at our Road to 2050 Word Search!

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Find out more about the history and future of our roads

Created with support from Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.

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Road to 2050

Find out more about why roads are built and how they help us get around the country.

More From Road to 2050