AUSTEN COOPER, of the Croydon Cycling Campaign, is familiar with handlebars, and also Twitter handles. And yesterday he noticed something suspicious as some in UKIP decided to attack road safety measures that are proven to save lives
Something out of the ordinary happened in Croydon earlier this month. A debate took place in the council chamber on the merits of introducing a measure that would make our streets safer, cut the number and severity of casualties and reduce the costs of bloody incidents that in 2013 cost us dearly, in both human and financial terms.
The proposal? Having a speed limit on our residential streets.
According to campaign group, 20’s Plenty, other London boroughs, such as Camden, Islington and the City of London have adopted 20mph as their speed limit on all their roads. Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark have voted to follow suit and, subject to consultation, Haringey will join them. Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich are adopting policies to make 20mph the limit on residential roads.
What’s in it for Croydon?
Right now, our borough has the dubious distinction of having more people die last year due to what New York City transport officials label “traffic violence”, than were murdered.
Using the Department for Transport’s method of putting a price “on all aspects of the valuation of casualties, including the human costs, which reflect pain, grief, suffering; the direct economic costs of lost output and the medical costs associated with road accident injuries”, we can calculate that the “value” of 13 people killed and 1,079 hurt, of which 58 had “serious injuries”, in 2013 was in excess of £61 million.
If this carnage were down to drugs or gangs, we could expect universal condemnation and calls for swift and decisive action. Because it is happening on our roads, a proven means of tackling this crisis has been met in some political quarters with outright hostility and half-truths.
At the Town Hall scrutiny meeting, they cited the example of Portsmouth, where a 20mph scheme has been introduced in stages since 2007. Figures there show a modest reduction in overall average speeds and a 21 per cent decrease in road casualties.
A much-longer term study was referred to at the meeting by campaigners in favour of a reduced limit. This was the research published in 2009 in the British Medical Journal, Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006: controlled interrupted time series analysis. What this detailed 20-year analysis found was that 20mph zones were associated with a reduction in casualties and collisions of around 40per cent.
● numbers of killed or seriously injured children were reduced by half
● injuries to pedestrians were reduced by just under one-third
● a reduction in casualties among cyclists
● casualties involving riders of powered two-wheeled vehicles reduced by just under one-third
● casualties among car occupants fell by half
The Department for Transport reported in July 2013 that 72 per cent of the public are either in favour or strongly in favour of 20mph being the speed limit in residential streets; only 11 per cent were against.
At Croydon’s marathon scrutiny meeting, the matters were discussed, the evidence considered and a decision reached to go to consultation on the proposal. It’s not all plain sailing. Conservative councillors seem keen that individual streets should be able to opt out of 20mph, but council officers pointed out that this would lead to an impractical and undesirable “patchwork” effect. Some roads are likely to remain outside the 20mph zones, it being felt this would “impact severely on local transport and movement of goods and services”.
The Conservative councillors at the meeting – who as a group had authorised £3 million being spent in South End to remove cycle lanes to make more space for car parking – wondered whether the cost of implementing 20mph zones in Croydon could be better spent on other things.
Somewhat worryingly, Sara Bashford, recently promoted to become deputy leader of Croydon Conservatives, has since commented that it would cost “£1.5 million to make Croydon a 20mph zone”. This is at odds with the report to the committee, which concluded “in summary, this means the total costs over a 10-year period for implementing such a scheme would be in the region of £100,000”.
Then, over last weekend, Winston McKenzie, UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Croydon North, appeared to take to Twitter, backed up by a number of anonymous accounts, to say “it is wrong to make traffic go as slow as 20”. This despite Transport for London saying that the average motor traffic speed in London is less than that. McKenzie asserted that 20mph zones “threatens major towns” (no evidence supplied).
In an astonishingly cynical and disrespectful outburst, UKIP’s candidate declared that “We know that 2 of the 13 deaths were on Coulsdon Rd where pedestrians just walked out into the road recklessly”.
This was McKenzie’s way of describing how Julie Maudsley, 51, and Robert Prescott, 38, died in 2013, close to the junction with Cearn Way. At their inquests, the coroner, Dr Roy Palmer, said he would consider writing a Prevention of Future Deaths report to get Croydon Council to take action at the spot, which is close to two bus stops but has no proper crossing facility. It was said that neither driver was travelling above the speed limit of 30mph.
According to Peter Staveley, UKIP’s chairman for Croydon Central and South, all UKIP’s Twitter accounts in Croydon, with the exception of his own, “are run by Peter Morgan who is one of @WinstonMcK crowd”. It is even possible that the personal @WinstonMcK account is operated by Morgan.
Staveley publicly disassociated himself with what his party colleagues had been tweeting, stating, “Obviously I disown everything that @WinstonMcK (ie Peter Morgan) has said, certainly on 20mph”.
Peter Morgan had appeared at the scrutiny committee meeting without revealing his party political credentials. Morgan is also a local and regional organiser for the Association of British Drivers, which given that their Roger Lawson was also presenting “evidence” at the meeting, means that Morgan’s organisation had two bites of the cherry.
It was Jonathan Swift who said, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” What does this say about some of those driving the politics, and their vehicles, on Croydon’s roads?
- Chump! UKIP picks McKenzie again for Croydon North
- Making Space for Cycling benefits more than just cyclists
- £3m of riot fund spending in South End is “hostile” to cyclists
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Croydon 10km road race, Oct 19
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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