This morning I visited the junctions of the A2 with the A251 and The Mall in Faversham, shortly after an accident at nearby Brenley Corner – the kind of event that can create additional demand at these junctions.
However, I found the junction between the A2 and The Mall to be flowing quite freely, and this was at 0815-0845: the height of the peak hour. There was indeed additional queueing at the junction of the A2 and the A251, as would be expected if people were diverting away from Brenley Corner, but vehicles were moving steadily and, overall, without frustration.
What was most notable was the courtesy shown between drivers. I observed that at least one in ten drivers approaching the A251 from the east would slow down to allow traffic to turn right from the A2 into the A251 and/or to turn left in the other direction.
This sort of civility must have added between two and ten seconds to the journey of the person who chose to slow down, but it would have saved a good deal more time for those who were allowed to make their turns.
Such generous behaviour is common and much more likely to happen when traffic is moving slowly through a junction. A roundabout, in contrast, has the effect of speeding traffic up as it moves through a junction, making civil driver interactions not only uncommon but unexpected.
In other words, there is a change of driver behaviour and an overall change of driving culture when vehicles move quickly or slowly.
The presence of pedestrians and cyclists has a further civilising influence – the opposite effect to that of a roundabout. By adding more slow movers to the street, drivers take more care and are more courteous.
What sort of future do we want for Faversham? Velocity or civility?
And, as I’ve said before, slow moving traffic does not necessarily take any longer to get to its destination. One driver might slow to allow others to turn and then find that they can themselves then turn more easily at their next junction.
Like the tortoise and the hare, there are different approaches to moving from A to B. What seems obviously to be the better approach to speed may not necessarily be the right one.