How can smart roads change the way we plan for future development?

14 Jul 21

Whilst the implementation and display of this information is still being finalised, it is impossible to deny the potential that smart roads can give us. We can plan better developments and spaces that prioritise sustainable modes of travel and create safer places for people to live.

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Local and central government policies continue to lean towards more sustainable developments based on 15-minute neighbourhoods with high-level place-making supported by better quality public transport and exemplar walking and cycling facilities. Despite the drive to favour sustainable travel, we need to remember that car travel won’t disappear overnight. As such, we need to consider how roads can complement this, rather than become a barrier.

One answer to this problem could be the implementation of smart roads. We are all familiar with smart motorways, which respond to changing traffic conditions on a macro level. Smart roads work by the same principle, by controlling lane usage based on the needs of the local network.

How would this affect my development I hear you ask? Well, the flexibility this technology provides means planners and master planners could change the way they plan and build developments as we move from a rigid to fluid road hierarchy. For example, many medium-sized sites now require two points of access. However, if an access and its internal road were to be closed for vehicular traffic outside of peak hours, does this open up opportunities for bringing community spaces together by not having the permanent severance of a carriageway?

Could smart roads allow a promenade of shops or cafes to have extra frontage areas in the summer months? Could you implement a one-way system through a development during the weekend and allocate a lane to cycle users? Could it allow for areas of carriageways outside schools to be closed during pick up and drop off hours? Once in the hands of talented planners and master planners, the possibilities are almost endless!

Whilst the implementation and display of this information is still being finalised, it is impossible to deny the potential that smart roads can give us. We can plan better developments and spaces that prioritise sustainable modes of travel and create safer places for people to live.

Mitchell Gregory Senior Engineer,Transport