Traffic in Towns (1963)

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This document is also sometimes known as The Buchanan Report.

Owned byChris5156
TypePublications (see all artefacts)


Despite its age, this remains one of the key documents in determining policy where town planning and provision of roadspace are concerned, and is much in demand even today among students of town planning and urban regeneration. The committee that produced it for the government was led by noted civil engineer Colin Buchanan.

From a flick through the diagrams, it might first seem that it is arguing for a stereotypical sixties dream of totally rebuilt towns with absurdly dense networks of motorways carving through them. That's certainly what all the pictures seem to show. In fact, the opposite is true.

The thrust of Buchanan's argument is that setting out to provide roadspace for all traffic needs is ultimately pointless and that some level of traffic restraint will always be necessary. To prove the point the report takes four case studies - Newbury, Norwich, Leeds and an area of central London around Bloomsbury - and for each of them assesses what traffic demand would be with no restraint and then attempts to provide sufficient roadspace for all the journeys that would be made. In every case the result is destruction of the existing town on an untold scale. In Bloomsbury the only available option is to completely demolish the whole area and rebuild it on multiple levels, with parking below ground, roads at ground level, pedestrians on a suspended deck and high-rise towers above.

It is, in fact, responsible for tempering the "let's build roads" attitudes of the sixties and makes for a fascinating read. Just don't look at the pictures and get the wrong end of the stick.