Croydon resident ANTHONY MILLER is concerned about speed limits. What’s worrying him are suggestions of reducing the speed limit to 20mph
Afraid a policy may stink nationally? Delegate the powers to local authorities, then pick off the lobby groups authority by authority … This is called localism (or “salami tactics”).
So I was perusing Twitter the other day when I spotted Labour councillor Sean Fitzsimons of Addiscombe plugging the alliterative and patronising slogan “20 is Plenty”.
He followed this up with a new and interesting mathematical conundrum – that “20 is the new 30”. For those of you who don’t know…
… see this video in which Rod King, the founder of “20’s plenty where people live” and his acolytes explain to people like me who “tell him they drive fast but haven’t hurt anybody” that “speed just becomes greed”, while simultaneously arguing that it’s a good idea for local activists to lobby their council to bring in 20mph zones because it will “increase the value of our homes”.
He also explains the difference in survival rates between collisions at 30 miles an hour and 20mph with the help of a film about collisions at 40mph and 20mph.
So, on Twitter, I asked Councillor Fitzsimons derisively, “And I’m meant to get to gigs on time how? Maybe I should get a man to walk in front with a flag too?” After all there have been so many accidents since the Locomotive Act of 1865… let’s bring back horses? I feel I have the authority to be this sarcastic as while I might not be the funniest comedian on the circuit, I do have 36 less points on my licence than Omid Djalili.
Fitzsimons responded that I could still get to my gigs, “Hopefully by public transport. Seriously, main arterial routes would be exempt as run by TFL”.
I can’t travel to my comedy gigs – which see me at work until well past 11pm many nights – by public transport. By the time most out-of-town gigs are finished, Thomas the Tank Engine is curled up in his sidings with a warm mug of hot engine oil.
Fitzsimons assured me that “20mph zones would only apply to local residential roads, not motorways or major routes”. But what is a local residential road and what is a “major route”? Tricky question on such an overcrowded island?
For example, when road humps came in we were told they were only going to be on minor roads. So what are they doing on Gypsy Hill Road? True, it is a steep hill, but looking at the 20 is plenty website, I saw that actually, while there’d been injuries along there, there hasn’t actually ever been a fatality ever?
A similar conundrum that I haven’t understood for years is how Stoats Nest Road in Purley is regarded as a B road and therefore has no humps but adjoining Hartley Down Road, which connects to the end of Old Lodge Lane, is not regarded as a B road. Neither road has any fatalities. I think it’s completely random.
Lots of our road network is a complex mess of inter-connecting webs of roads many of which were not designed as “main arteries” or “residential streets” but …well… just another road? Look at central London with it’s what-was-once-a-grid-structure on top of which was added on half a gyratory. Why isn’t The Mall a residential street? It clearly has palaces on it.
When I started down these lines Fitzsimons came out with his killer one-liner “and what about the additional lives that will be saved? That’s not an issue for you”.
The study in Portsmouth to which Fitzsimons referred me actually showed that the number of deaths went up following the introduction of blanket 20mph zones although the number of accidents went down. I’m sure there’s a Harry Hill routine in that. I like children living but I dislike accidents … Still what do facts and data matter when children might die?
As Fitzsimons informed me, “glad to know your views on this issue. Self interest trumps community need”.
Truthfully, conclusive statistical analysis either way is probably impossible on the small data samples currently available but local traffic authorities now have the power to introduce 20mph speed limits and zones without obtaining consent from the Secretary of State LibDem Norman Baker, who doesn’t want to get his hands dirty in case it turns out to be a disaster so…
So I raised the suggestion that maybe I would be willing to drive at 20 if the government were willing to compensate me for the extra man hours it would take to get places? Yet to be offered a rebate on my Council Tax.
Even if I was to agree with Councillor Fitzsimons’ point that there is “conclusive proof 20 zones work”, there’s still the question of what do you mean by “work”? Surely we should be aiming to drive quickly and safely, not just safely?
The 20’s plenty website seems to know that this is it’s Achilles heel because it amusingly reassures motorists that “it is very rare that you can travel at a constant speed of 30mph. Bends, blind spots, parked cars, junctions, pedestrian crossings, cars turning right, traffic lights and many more things mean that you have to slow down or stop very often”. So what other freedoms that I am unable to enjoy do they wish to delete? According to 20’s Plenty, “40 seconds is the maximum expected increase in journey times”.
Even if that’s true it’s not insignificant – imagine if a politician said train journeys would all now be 40 seconds longer?
Never mind… as their Professor Danny Dorling explains of 20mph zones “it’s the cheapest possible thing you can do”. Clever man – he knows his politicians.
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