Traffic Calming

A General Guide


The term 'traffic calming' covers a range of traditional and new techniques designed to reduce the adverse effect of traffic in urban streets. Measures may include elements such as road humps, speed cushions, narrowings, chicanes, gateways and parking management.

In order to achieve safety and environmental improvement, the application of traffic management techniques on an area wide basis has been developing since the 1960’s. Traffic calming has been shown to be valuable in modifying the speeds at which drivers choose to travel, and thus reducing levels and severity of road accidents.  

Main Objectives

The main objectives of traffic calming include:

  • Improvement of the environmental quality of streets
  • Improvement of highway safety and reduction of accidents
  • Improvement in safety and convenience specifically for vulnerable road users
  • Reduction in noise and disturbance.
  • Restoration of communities divided by speeding traffic
  • Discouragement of the use of unsuitable routes by heavy vehicles and ‘through’ traffic
  • Changes to the attitude of many drivers towards speed and a tangible demonstration that streets are for people as well as traffic

Traffic calming in the UK owes much to earlier continental European practice and experience. It can be a way of resolving potential conflicts and competition for road space but it has to be developed in an integrated way, taking account the needs of all road users.  

The Design of Traffic Calming

Specific points to consider in the design of traffic calming schemes include:

  • The necessity to maintain good access and support rapid response times for emergency vehicles;
  • Buses need to be able to negotiate traffic calming features safely, without undue discomfort to passengers and at a reasonable operating speed;
  • Measures should not deny access or adversely affect servicing or regular delivery vehicles;
  • Provision for pedestrians and cyclists should be of a high quality to promote the shift from the private car to more sustainable modes of transport. Adequate widths and carefully considered routes and priorities coupled with arrangements to make access for disabled people as easy as possible are required;
  • Signing to ensure that Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and other ‘through’ traffic choose suitable routes that reduce the environmental impact of their journeys.


Consultation forms an essential part of the design of a successful traffic calming scheme. It is necessary for local residents and traders to feel ‘ownership’ for the scheme and perceive its presence as an asset not a liability. During the conception and design phases of schemes many interested parties may be consulted including, local residents; traders or business people; schools; the ambulance service; the fire brigade; the police; bus companies; taxi operators; cycling pedestrian and disabled organisations; road haulage associations; civic societies; and the chamber of trade and commerce. Schemes that fail to get wide-spread support are unlikely to be implemented.   


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