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Introduction to Traffic in Towns

posted on 2015-02-24, 10:07 authored by Simon Gunn
Traffic in Towns, also known as the Buchanan Report, is regarded as one of the most influential planning documents of the twentieth century. The report reflected mounting concern about the impact on Britain’s towns and cities of rapid growth in the ownership and use of motor vehicles. Its purpose was to evaluate policy options for reducing the threat of traffic congestion to urban circulation and qualityof life. Two main conclusions were drawn from the report: firstly, the need for large-scale reconstruction to make Britain’s cities fit for the ‘motor age’, including split-level megastructures and urban motorways;and secondly, the simultaneous need to preserve parts of the city, especially residential areas as car-free zones or ‘environmental areas’. In Britain, successive governments drew back from implementing the full recommendations of the Study Group, despite initial cross-party support. The prohibitive cost of city-centre redevelopment and motorway construction meant a ‘comprehensive’ solution to the problem of urban traffic on Buchanan lines was never attempted. However, local authorities in a variety of British cities, such as Glasgow, Leicester and Leeds took up aspects of the Report. Internationally, too, the Report had a major impact in countries such as Sweden, Italy and Australia. In the longer term, the influence of the Report may be best judged by the incremental changes it setin train such as pedestrianization of city centres, traffic calming, and other measures linked to Buchanan’s concept of ‘environmental areas’. In focusing attention on the effects of mass motorization on the urban environment Traffic in Towns set the terms of debate for a generation, pre-figuring recent discussion about the car and urban sustainability.



Gunn, S, Introduction to Traffic in Towns, ed. Gunn, S, 'Traffic in Towns: A Study of the Long Term Problems of Traffic in Urban Areas', Routledge, 2015, pp. vi-xiv (8)

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF ARTS, HUMANITIES AND LAW/School of History


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This is an introduction to a reprint of a major government report by Colin Buchanan, originally published in 1963. It is part of a series of such reprints currently undertaken by Routledge.


Gunn, Simon

Book series

International Studies in Planning History



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