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The JRtB guide to... vision and validate

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What on earth is vision and validate? And why is it a big deal all of a sudden?  

In the past, transport planning was derived from what is called a ‘predict and provide’ approach. This concentrates resources on road traffic by forecasting peak hour traffic levels, plugging those forecasts into models, and then designing roads and road junctions to account for this level of traffic being able to flow. In short, we predict what road space will be needed in a rush hour, and then provide road space to try and account for those numbers.

We know now that the more road space that is provided, the more traffic fills that road space. Whilst it might seem counter-intuitive when you’re sitting at a junction that is snarled up, making that junction bigger does not, so every scrap of evidence clearly shows, stop the jams. This is simply because bigger roads (or greater road capacity) produce more traffic.

Whilst this approach is still being pedalled by the big consultancies, who have built their skillsets and reputation (and profits) around the unbelievably expensive ‘solution’ to traffic issues of road building, there are some more forward-thinking departments and authorities who are moving away from this approach.

In light of climate emergency, this road-focused approach increases carbonisation when we need to be doing the opposite. Hence the new approach with is ‘vision and validate’. The concept is straightforward. Decide upon a vision, for a decarbonised, liveable, active travel-focused, area. Then design for that vision. We can then use road capacity as a tool to be turned up or down, to support the vision, rather than the other way round.

This drastically reduces the dominance of the commuter peak and prioritises people’s lived experience of their places; where they live, where they work, where the attend education. Once we move away from this car dominance, we can look at how people live in the spaces they occupy and drop transport down the priority list.

Vision and validate means we can develop a vision, say of the 20-minute city, five-minute town, and then see how we need to use transport networks to support our vision. If we want to a) decarbonise b) support a levelling-up agenda and c) improve place making, then this is likely to be by starting with the premise that active travel journeys are the primary transport arrangement. There are, then, plenty of excellent examples about supporting an active travel-led area.

All of this does, of course, depend on the vision you decide upon. If you decide that your vision is of climate change denial, that you are interesting only in a place where transport produces substantial amounts of carbon, where no-one can do anything online, where residents live in horrible places, cut off from other places and services by large roads (which are always being made larger), and those without disposable income levels high enough to buy, maintain, tax, insure and run a car, then clearly you are looking in a different direction. It doesn’t really seem like a vote winner anymore.

Contact Andrew Brown on 07795 547069


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Contact 07795 547069

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