Chief Engineer Lenthall on creating a new highway system for Stevenage
“the opportunity to create a new highway network for an entire town was a very rare occurrence, and when you added to that the fact that we had what was called a green field situation which gave us virtually a free hand, it meant to the original designers of the highway network, this was a very exciting challenge”
What happened was this; If you go back to the beginning of the New Town, the opportunity to create a new highway network for an entire town was a very rare occurrence, and when you added to that the fact that we had what was called a green field situation which gave us virtually a free hand, it meant to the original designers of the highway network, this was a very exciting challenge. Not only could they put into practice the well-used and proven methods of highway design, but there was the chance to introduce innovations. And so a highway system was created for Stevenage which I think was full of novel and subsequently turned out very valuable features. For instance the industrial area sits between the A1(M) and the railway, and it has two accesses, one at the north, one at the south, to the A1(M), so that your nation’s traffic bringing raw materials in and taking finished products out from the industrial area aren’t being trailed through the rest of the town. We managed to persuade the industrialists to apply a voluntary system of staggered working hours, which meant that the peak flows on the primary roads were spread over two and a half hours. We installed a completely segregated system on all the primary roads. Each primary road has its separate cycle way and footway system, and at the intersections where normally one had trouble with mixed traffic – cyclists and pedestrian meeting cars – we lifted the, generally speaking, we lifted the cars up and over the segregated system, so that in the town I think it’s fair to say even today the fastest journey, if you want to make the fastest possible journey during the peak hour, the best thing to do is to take a moped and ride on the cycle way. You get a completely uninterrupted journey. We tried in the housing areas to limit the accesses to the primary roads so that there wasn’t a lot of through traffic going through the housing areas, and we tried also within the housing areas to keep necessary activities contained there, for instance the primary schools within the hearts of the housing areas so that the children weren’t crossing main roads.