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Roads to Nowhere

Help us transform the ugliest roads

Bridget Fox's picture

Summer’s here, with holiday trips away, or leisure time at home. But is that breathtaking view or local stroll spoiled by an ugly road?

With your help, we want to find the worst offenders, then work to change them for the better. Welcome to our 2017 Ugly Roads competition.

As campaigners, we rightly focus on the function of roads, sharing ideas on how we can make them safer, fund them fairly, allocate space better, and improve conditions for buses, cyclists and pedestrians. 

We continue to highlight the environmental cost of new roads and the need for a green retrofit to existing ones: air pollution, noise, and the impact on wildlife are real problems that we are working with other green groups to address.

But what about the visual impact?  Whether it’s cluttered streets in our towns, ugly stretches of concrete in the countryside or a badly-designed junction, roads are major structures which, like new buildings, can complement their setting or spoil it.  And if a road is badly designed visually, it’s often bad in practice too, fragmenting habitats and communities, hazardous to cross, and generally a negative presence.  

The Ribblehead rail viaduct, built of local stone and the spectacular Millau road bridge are admired and even loved. Removing ‘cattle pen’ railings at crossings has made many city streets safer and more pleasant as well as easier on the eye. But far too many roads are simply ugly – like the dual carriageways that cut across rural views, sever traditional street patterns, and blight communities with noise and fumes. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In 2015, we hosted a celebrated speech by roads minister John Hayes in which he called on road planners "to banish ugly design from new road schemes. And make sure it never returns."  He’s continued to champion the theme of beauty in transport and the importance of good design.

In response, Highways England has set up a Design Panel, which is drawing up principles for good road design.  

While we’ll continue to oppose damaging new roads, we are also keen to champion improvements to the roads we already have.

With that in mind, we’re asking you to help identify the ugliest roads in England & Wales so that we can use them as an example of what needs to change.  There are awards for good and bad buildings: so why not roads? This is about how roads look: although by sorting out ugly barriers or over-complex junctions, we believe we can improve the environment for road users, walkers and cyclists too.

Our ugly roads competition runs until the end of October, with categories for urban and rural roads. So while you are out and about this summer, if you spot an ugly road or already have a horror near you, take a snap, send it in, and tell us how to make roads better, not bigger.


Full details of the ugly roads competition are here