What makes a road better for some of those cadres could make it worse for others.  Should policy makers prioritise the number of roads, or their alignment, their width, their surface, signs and markings, drainage, usage, traffic segregation, safety, lane capacity and flow speeds…or what?  

Is the main problem that we do not spend enough budget on this element of infrastructure, or that the money we do assign is ill-spent? 

Are the unsatisfactory  consequences primarily the result of poor design or construction or maintenance or administration... Perhaps or wayward use by substandard vehicles and incompetent drivers?  

As an example, speed bumps are neither innately good nor bad.  It depends on how many there are, where they are, what  shape they are and more than a few other factors. Such questions are not born of idle curiosity. 

 If policy and planning are to deliver “better roads” – with finite resources and in the face of so many urgent and important wish lists for other things – it is essential that they know what a “better road” means.

Back to the basics.  Everyone, everywhere, always wants good roads.  What  the planners need to know, and the pollsters did not ask, is why, in what way and for whom.  Only when we know that can we cut our suit to fit our cloth;  only then can we prioritise not only what we do but  what we don’t do in working to improve our road transport system; and only then can we hold the designers and managers of the solution accountable. “Better” needs more than sound bites and promises.

 

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