Unintentional Traffic Calming

From the BBC: “An Essex parish council wants potholes to be left unfilled for longer to act as a “natural traffic calming” measure.”

This doesn’t shock me, as this is actually the natural state of affairs, through benign neglect or otherwise, in New York City — take Chambers Street, for example, a buckling roller-coaster of a ride in lower Manhattan. I’m of two minds about it, as, first, they are annoying; but second, I do notice the slowing effect (also from those big metal plates the utility companies throw on the street), which is useful in pedestrian heavy areas (i.e., most of the city). And I myself know the potholes and know when to slow down, and have thus never damaged my vehicle. How many insurance claims are filed against the city? How many are successful? What’s the burden of proof? Is the time and money that goes into filling them the best use of social resources (particularly when drivers are undercharged for the road-wearing driving they do)?

(Horn honk to Christian)

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 19th, 2009 at 1:15 pm and is filed under Roads, Traffic Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Unintentional Traffic Calming”

  1. patrick Says:

    Potholes are very dangerous to motorcycles, especially to those who do no know to expect potholes. Similarly, if they are in a bike lane, or near the curb with bike traffic, it can be very bad.

  2. Charlie D. Says:

    I can appreciate the desire to slow down traffic, but as a bicyclist, riding on one of these pock-marked roads is a painful experience!

  3. Nick Says:

    We call potholes “traffic calming depressions.”

  4. Vincent Clement Says:

    Guess it depends on the size of the potholes. If one was in an ambulance, they might not be all that fun. Fire trucks may look strong and tough, but because of their weight, substantial damage can be done if their tires hit the potholes the wrong way.

    Just fill them in before they do more damage and require an even bigger use of “social resources”.

  5. Vin Says:

    Maybe put those metal plates over potholes? It’s probably cheaper than filling them in, calms traffic, and doesn’t damage vehicles.

  6. patrick Says:


    Metal plates are hell for our two-wheeled friends. No very good for quick stops with four wheels either.

  7. Adam Says:

    As a cyclist, I’d like to see high quality, pothole-free roads. In my day-to-day experience narrowing a road (full length, not just at pinch points) seems the best way to slow speeding traffic without inconveniencing cyclists and motorcyclists.

    I’ve seen first-hand that slower roads through villages and towns do encourage drivers to avoid these roads where possible. And hence the road undergoes less wear and tear and garners fewer potholes.

  8. Bob Bigboote Says:

    If they were in the U.S., Essex parish could be setting themselves up for a lawsuit if a pothole contributed to a motorcyclist or bicyclist being injured.

    This would be in even more true if the specific condition which caused the injury had been reported to the parish.

  9. Lee Watkins Says:

    I’m a big fan of brick roads. It’s enough to calm auto traffic, but not so much you can’t ride a bicycle.

  10. aaron Says:

    I’d think the potholes would be distracting and up the accident rate relative to the amount of traffic.

  11. aaron Says:

    Depression is the right word.

Leave a Reply

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