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14 May, 2006

Who is it for?

A bypass is a higher-capacity road diverting through-traffic out of local road networks (which tend to date from an era when two carts and a stagecoach constituted heavy traffic), hence allowing longer-distance travellers to avoid becoming delayed by traffic lights, tractors in narrow lanes, etc.

It also works the other way: bypasses reduce traffic volumes through small towns and villages for the benefit of the locals, too. The quality of life is drastically improved if the mediaeval market square isn't a through-route for 44-tonne artics, and if children don't have to cross a continuous stream of traffic to get to school.

Despite ridiculing those who unquestioningly follow sat-nav directions, I'm not inherently opposed to the units. However, I am a little concerned that they give members of the herd an illusion of independence.

When traffic on a bypass begins to build up (not necessarily becoming congested, but reaching a point where congestion could be expected ahead), people might seek an alternative route 'just in case' or simply because they want to play with their sat-nav toys. If more than a few people have the same idea, that could generate significant excess traffic on the very secondary roads the bypass is supposed to relieve. Fifty to 100 fewer cars on a bypass would have negligible impact on throughflow there, but could be a problem on smaller roads, especially as the temptation to divert will be greatest during commuter rush hours which coincide with local school runs.

It's a difficult issue. Of course an individual has the right to choose any reasonable route, even on a whim, but out of consideration for others, should that right be exercised so casually?

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