One of Croydon’s Labour council’s flagship policies appears to have been driven down a dead-end road.
The local Labour group’s 20mph proposal for residential streets is in a state of crisis, faced with energetic opposition from the motoring lobby, otherwise general apathy towards its public consultation, and with a senior Alderman from their own party openly speaking against the policy.
The public consultation, seeking residents’ views on the move to make some roads in the north of the borough subject to a 20mph limit is due to run for just another fortnight. The proposed 20mph limit would be applied not on major routes, but just on residential streets.
But Town Hall sources suggest that Peter Morgan, the Coulsdon-based UKIP member, has so far dominated the consultation responses, having fly-postered streets in the north of the borough, utilised multiple Twitter accounts under false names and aliases, and lobbied through his close links with the council-funded Croydon Communities [sic] Consortium.
While the anti-20mph group has been active – with some even claiming that cars driving slower are more of a danger to pedestrians and cyclists than vehicles travelling at faster speeds – it seems that few of those who might support the commonsense measure have so far bothered to respond.
The Croydon Cycling Campaign, which is strongly in favour of the 20mph limits, has told Inside Croydon that its responses to the consultation – as an organisation and from individual members – are expected to be lodged before the consultation deadline on June 24.
But according to former Labour councillor Adrian Dennis, residents in one of the borough’s most notorious accident black spots, Grange Road, are actively opposing the proposal, apparently on the grounds that as the police can’t enforce the current 30mph speed limit, having a 20mph limit would make no difference.
Grange Road, which runs through Thornton Heath from Norwood, is notorious for the horrific car accidents which regularly occur along its length, as cars speed along the undulating and narrow road, dodging between residents’ parked cars.
With an awkward hillside camber, drivers frequently lose control. Parked cars are often “dinked”, but worse, some speeding vehicles crash, over-turn and even smash through residents’ houses. Last year, there were four accidents in the space of just two weeks.
Residents have pleaded with the Town Hall for traffic calming measures, but under the previous Conservative-controlled council, there was an outright ban on the introduction of new speed humps. Meanwhile, police enforcement of motoring offences in London has been a much-reduced priority as cuts have reduced manpower and the Met’s traffic division has been all but phased out. Joy riders have learned that on some roads, they can break the law with impunity.
According to Alderman Adrian Dennis, 20mph speed limits, “… do not work on main roads, which why the Thornton Heath Neighbourhood Association has objected to the proposal in the first area as it includes the A212 (Grange Road), but support the 20mph limit in residential roads. This is also the view of the local councillors.”
Thornton Heath’s current councillors, all Labour, are Pat Clouder, Matthew Kyeremeh and Karen Jewitt.
“Imposing a 20mph limit on main roads devalues the restriction elsewhere,” Dennis argues. “You only have to go into Lambeth to see that the 20mph limit on main roads is ignored and there is a growing trend therefore to ignore it everywhere else. Their decision to limit main roads to 20mph was a political gesture that nobody agrees with and it has failed.” The 20mph zones in Lambeth were introduced when Steve Reed was the council leader. Reed is now MP for Croydon North, including Thornton Heath.
Rather than calling for speed limits to be properly enforced to make our roads safer for all road users, Dennis appears to be saying that because of a lack of enforcement, therefore the speed limits do not work. By the same logic, because the police do not always catch thieves, should we make shop-lifting legal?
Dennis also focuses on something which is not being proposed in Croydon: 20mph on “main roads”. And Dennis does not see Grange Road as a residential street.
Dennis spent 20 years on the council’s highways and traffic management committees. The 20mph limit would not work on Grange Road, he claims: “Some councillors added [Grange Road] because they knew there has been a long-running campaign to get speeding traffic to abide by the 30mph limit, with limited success. If they can’t get 30mph enforced, then imposing 20mph limit will mean that many more will ignore the limit and it is likely that more will exceed 30mph as it is no longer the limit.”
Maybe next week, Inside Croydon will carry a column from the National Rifle Association from America, in which they put forward the case that having more guns makes the US a safer place to live…
Dennis isn’t wholly opposed to 20mph zones, it seems. “20mph zones are fine in residential streets though best where roads are near schools or narrow (as in Thornton Heath),” he told Inside Croydon. “Like all rules and laws, people will comply with them if they seem reasonable. They are not really enforceable, so they rely on people agreeing that the speed limit is a reasonable and sensible restriction.”
And meanwhile, families living a life of danger along Grange Road, who have been pleading for years for something to end the car-driven carnage, could soon find themselves failed by yet another council.
With such dissension within Labour’s ranks, there’s hardly any need for an opposition. But it means that Labour’s cabinet member on transport, Kathy Bee, faces an uphill battle if she is to deliver on the 20mph manifesto commitment.
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