Traffic Problems in Western European Countries

Traffic problems on LTRs are caused by changes in the use of the road infrastructure (growing volumes of vehicles in general and of rat-run traffic (defined below), larger farm equipment, and larger and heavier trucks). Through these changes, the actual usage of some roads is not in accordance with their originally planned functions and designs. Therefore, usage should be restricted to what is desirable and appropriate for the layout of the road. Attention should be given to the three major types of traffic problems on LTRs:

1. mixed composition of traffic by mode;

2. high speeds and large differences in speeds;

3. rat-run traffic.

Rat-run traffic is through traffic that uses roads with a lower hierarchical function in order to avoid a longer travel time (e.g., caused by traffic jams) and/or a longer distance on the functional route (along roads with a higher hierarchical function). This can cause several problems on misused LTRs: capacity (especially for LTRs with an access function only), safety (especially for nonmotorized road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, related to higher car speeds), and annoyance and emissions for residents. Relative to the traffic performance, the number of personal injury accidents between fast and slow traffic on LTRs is two-to threefold the number on trunk roads. These problems are still increasing because of the increased volume (and congestion) on trunk roads. The introduction of tolls on the major roads can cause a further shift of traffic to minor roads.

Road administration is used to respond to such growing volumes through an adaption of the road. At first view, this seems reasonable. Damage to the road may result in decreased safety and must be repaired. For management, a broadening of the pavement may be cheaper than a continuous repair of damaged verges. However, the disadvantages of this "following" approach become clear:

• Road improvements frequently attract "new" traffic, quickly consuming the newly reconstructed road capacity.

• The increase in traffic safety, if any, is very modest.

• Diffuse traffic flows are spread over the rural area, resulting in emissions and noise for residents and habitat fragmentation for flora and fauna.

To overcome these shortcomings, another approach needs to be followed [12]: the integral approach to regional rural traffic planning. See Section 3.3.3 for elaboration.

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