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Traffic cones are a great way to reduce pollution and congestion in the city centre, but there are some serious downsides to installing them, including the cost.
A new study from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds suggests that traffic cones could be a bad idea for the environment.
The study looked at traffic cones in four locations in Dublin, and found that the cost of installing them was the equivalent of a three-metre high statue of the Queen.
“It’s a great deterrent to people driving on the streets, because it means you have to stop at the traffic cones,” Dr Kate McGovern from the RSPB’s Wildlife Conservation Unit told the BBC.
“But the biggest cost to the environment is probably the impact on the wildlife.”
The RSPBs research looked at six different traffic cones located in Dublin city centre and found the average cost to install one was €50,000 per kilometre, while the average was €150,000.
“The cost to our birds is a lot higher than the cost to people, because they’re spending more time at the [traffic] cones,” said Dr McGovern.
“They’re not being able to see their chicks, or go for a walk in the countryside.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen research suggesting that traffic can be a poor choice for our environment.
In 2014, scientists at the University of California at Davis discovered that installing traffic cones can be both environmentally damaging and economically unviable.
“We wanted to test whether traffic cones were economically viable, and we did,” lead author Matthew Henshaw told The New York Times.
“Traffic cones are expensive, but we found that they are also economically unprofitable.”
The researchers found that for a one-kilometre radius of the roads, the costs of a one metre-high traffic cone were equivalent to $30,000 a kilometre.
However, in areas with traffic cones, costs were much lower, with the costs being less than a tenth of the cost for installing a one kilometre-wide lane of traffic.
“There is a potential cost for this, but it’s not significant,” Henshaws said.
“If you put the cost in terms of the birds, you can make a pretty good case for it being an environmental benefit.”
The research, which has been published in the journal Conservation Letters, found that installing road traffic cones was more environmentally harmful than other road design options, such as widening roads, which are generally considered to be less environmentally damaging.