Could trees replace speed cameras?
Norfolk County Council has hit upon an idea that could potentially please everyone - planting trees to replace speed cameras. And so far it seems to work.
The council reckons that drivers feel they are going faster when driving down tree-lined streets and instinctively reduce their speed. To test the theory it planted a series of avenues on the approach roads to four rural villages.
Provisional results show that drivers reduced their speed by an average of two miles an hour when driving down the four roads, which tallies with the council's goals. As well as the reduction in speed, the authorities are also hoping to drop the accident rate by 20 percent, although it is too early to tell whether that has been a success yet, as there had been 20 crashes in the rural areas over five years.
The council planted 200 trees in all, at a cost of £70,000. They were spaced in various ways in order to reduce drivers' speeds, with some planted increasingly close together on the approach to the village to give motorists the impression they were speeding. Others were set on a "lazy diagonal," where the trees got slightly closer to the road on the way into the village.
"If you are staying at a constant speed, your peripheral vision [which takes in the trees] is giving you the impression you are going faster," explained Stuart Hallett, Norfolk's casualty reduction manager. "People hit the brakes before they hit the village."
Hallett insisted that the scheme would not replace speed cameras, saying that it was more appropriate for smaller roads rather than large A-roads.
"What we tried to do in some locations was get over this idea of the village dominating the road environment, not the road dominating the village, so the driver's perspective is 'I am travelling through a community, I need to respect that and slow down'," he said.
If the scheme works, it could be trialled in other areas as well, something that will surely please all but the staunchest defender of speed cameras. Not only do trees look more attractive than yellow boxes, they are also cheaper to maintain and obviously better for the environment.