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Traffic - a census of 1910

With ‘Traffic Calming’ schemes in our rural villages, Congestion Charges in London and the years of controversy over the Hindhead tunnel as just three examples, it is clear that controlling and satisfying the demands of traffic flow must now be an ever-present item on the agendas of Councils, both locally and nationally. One requirement for reaching balanced judgements on such matters is to be in possession of reliable statistics on traffic flows.  

This is not just a recent phenomenon. Nearly one hundred years ago the Borough of Godalming was engaged with just such a problem. In his report for the year ended 31st March, 1911, presented to the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses, the Borough Surveyor, J. H. Norris, included a traffic census in Meadrow and Ockford Road initiated by the Highways and Lighting Committee. It makes fascinating reading, especially when one compares it with the situation that exists today.  

The census was taken on two days, 19th October and 1st November, 1910, and records the total number of traffic movements between the hours of 8 a.m.. and 8 p.m. on both days, a total of 24 hours during which one must expect the majority of the traffic of the day to have passed. The results are shown in the table below.

    Ockford Rd         Meadrow  
Horse-drawn Trade Vehicles 309  548
Motor Trade Vehicles    11   24
Horse-drawn Passenger Vehicles   62   64
Motor Passenger Vehicles 238 176
Traction Engines etc.       4    4
  Animals        7 156
  Barrows      23   23
Ordinary Cycles    886 515
  Motor Cycles      15    7

 There were approximately equal total traffic flows in both streets. Meadrow had many more animal movements; one wonders what the nature of these were. It also saw 70% more horse-drawn trade vehicles than Ockford Road. On the other hand Ockford Road had the greater number of ordinary cycles, again about 70%. Indeed, it is interesting that of all 3,072 movements (an average of two a minute!) 46% were of ordinary cycles. One wonders what the traffic in the High Street was like.  

This census was taken in connection with an application to the Road Board for improvement grants and for the reconstruction of macadam surfaces and the improvement of dangerous corners - but that is another story and worthy of its own separate account.

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