This film is part of Free

Traffic Island

The tyranny of traffic is given suitably rough treatment in this powerful film sponsored by town planner Colin Buchanan.

Public Information Filler 1963 16 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for London's Screen Archives


Apocalyptic analysis of traffic in the UK, which explores the way cars that have “wormed their way into every aspect of society”. The tone is morbid but poetic, at one point observing traffic at Piccadilly Circus and noting that “one day a bus will lose control and wipe out 100 people.” Includes terrific scenes around London – from suburbs to the West End - and a hugely valuable historic document, as it was sponsored by an influential anti-car town planner.

The film is a dire warning of the dangers of cars that builds to one dramatic section of fast cuts between cars and road signs, set to jagged music and featuring a close-up of a bleeding pedestrian. The film then concludes with peaceful piano and shots from car-free new towns such as Crawley, Harlow and Stevenage, where “courageous radical planning” has saved people from traffic. It was sponsored by Colin Buchanan, the town planner whose 1963 Buchanan Report investigated traffic in cities and came up with hugely influential solutions.