When roads close does the traffic really disappear?

The Centre for Transport & Society required a series of residential quantitative surveys to be undertaken to help evaluate an experiment which would introduce a pedestrianisation scheme which would remove through traffic from a town centre for a period of 18 months.


This work was undertaken pre COVID19, but many of the key metrics measured related to the changes that take place in people’s behaviour when existing road networks are changed by widening walkways or creating new pop up cycle paths and closing the road to motorised traffic – something which many towns and cities have witnessed in the months after lockdown.

Projects that close roads or disrupt traffic flows are often implemented or planned by urban local authorities. Such plans can often cause concern about traffic displacement, congestion and reductions in road capacity. But the consequences of such changes are not yet fully understood.


UWE wanted to measure displacement and modal shift which occurred as a result of the road closures to traffic and to assess whether any “disappearing traffic” across the town centre cordons was also reflected in local trip generation/attraction. In particular they wanted to look for any evidence of journeys previously made to or through the town centre, which had been replaced by journeys to different destinations, away from the town

UWE needed a methodology that would deliver a sample of residents living in self-contained measurement areas (in effect discrete neighbourhoods) identified as being the areas affected by the new road closures.


Over the 2 years of the project we completed intensive door stepping (Interviews conducted outside a person’s residence) as the main data collection method, supported by a postal and on-line survey to maximise accessibility and engagement with all potential respondent in each of the self-contained measurement areas.

The surveys were completed in two phases covering circa 200 households in each phase. The first “pre” phase was completed before the planned intervention (road closures). The 2nd “post” phase was completed circa 18 months after the intervention to measure any change in travel behaviour (Modal shift) or attitudes towards travel choices in the town.


UWE were able to use the research findings to build on their understanding of the impact of this type of intervention and test a number of hypotheses. The results were combined with other measurements to be used in a report published on the University’s website.


  • Transport


  • Behavioural and attitudinal research

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