SLOWTH: Or why it is so very important (and so very easy) to slow down traffic in cities

It is the consistent position of this journal that much of what is wrong with our current transportation arrangements in cities could be greatly alleviated if we can find ways just to slow down. It is very powerful — and it’s just not that hard to do.  Get comfortable and have a look.

On “slowth”:

The use of a strange not to say rather ugly word like “slowth” in an attempt to draw attention to the importance of slowing traffic in cities, and why it is such a very good idea, may be counterproductive. Only you, the reader, can make that decision. But I do hope you will bear with me for the moment at least, and if you cannot come up with something better for the time being, it would be great if you would take pen in hand and add to and improve what follows here on this important subject.

Here is an entry we made some time back in Wikipedia on the concept of slowth to get the ball rolling. (WP did not like it, saying that it is a neologism that had not yet entered into the mainstream.  Correct!)  Have a look and if you are up to it, please complete and improve.


* From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

Slowth is a new mobility transport policy concept, usually deployed in congested urban environments, where transport is calibrated for lower top speeds, but the result is shorter overall travel times across the entire system.[1]

The concept of slowth is sometimes compared to the story of The Tortoise and the Hare; the paradoxical notion that slowing the top speeds of transport will when properly engineered allow more people to get to their destinations more quickly. An example is that where there is sufficient traffic congestion, a bicycle may get to its destination more quickly than say a Ferrari. When a city adopts a policy of slowth, the top speeds will be lower, but congestion decreases because the slower speeds result in steadier traffic flow.[1]

This is a powerful model which urban planners and traffic engineers, with a few notable exceptions, are only recently starting to take seriously. An important new mobility concept, it is also referred to as “slow transport”, “slow mobility”, or in our case Slow City.

In the report “Speed Control and Transport Policy” (Chapter 10, on speed limits in towns, Policy Studies Institute, 1996) Mayer Hillman and Stephen Plowden describe an experiment in Växjö, a Swedish town of 70,000, which showed very small time penalties arising from some fairly substantial speed reductions at 20 junctions. The Swedish researchers used the results to simulate what would happen if similar speed-reducing measures were introduced at 111 junctions throughout the town and concluded that there would probably be a small net time saving.[2]

In recent years it has gotten steadily increasing attention both in the literature but above all as part of the on-street sustainable transport strategies of a growing number of leading programs and projects around the world (Here is a first listing which we hope you will improve and complete).

Again, please consider adding to and improving this article.

(If you click here to you will have before you all of the postings thus far published in our “slow it down” series.)

And in closing consider this:

At a bare five miles per hour over the speed limit on a city street, and . . .

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2 thoughts on “SLOWTH: Or why it is so very important (and so very easy) to slow down traffic in cities

  1. Thank you, Eric, for recounting the (rather slow) growth of the slow-cities movement, and its probable impact on quality of life.

    Slower traffic actually increases through capacity, because of the reduced space needed for safety ‘cushions’ is greater than the reduction in time to complete a trip. So when people speed, they are realizing a personal good, at the expense of a public bad. Since the roads are owned by the public, it should be a no-brainer: slow it down.

    Also, slower traffic is more social and civic, qualities that also should be favoured by local government, so often plagued by citizen demands that reflect only the me-centered interests.

  2. Pingback: SLOWTH: muy importante (y muy facil) disminuir velocidad del trafico en ciudades | SalvoLomas

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