Council’s 20mph consultation looking like a political car crash

One of Croydon’s Labour council’s flagship policies appears to have been driven down a dead-end road.

20mph zoneThe 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.

The outcome of one car crash along Grange Road last year

The outcome of one car crash along Grange Road last year

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?

Former councillor Adrian Dennis: opposes speed limit on a dangerous road becuase it is not being enforced

Former councillor Adrian Dennis: opposes speed limit on a dangerous road becuase it is not being enforced

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.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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15 Responses to Council’s 20mph consultation looking like a political car crash

  1. “Residents in one of the borough’s most notorious accident black spots, Grange Road, are actively opposing the proposal”

    A resident, singular. I personally know eight or ten on Grange Road who’ve responded in favour of the scheme. Some of them are even out flyering about it, to counter Coulsdon resident Peter Morgan’s lies.

  2. KristianCyc says:

    Any evidence this “Thornton Heath Neighbourhood Association” actually represents any residents above and beyond Adrian Dennis?

    Thornton Heath has a residents association in the form of “Thornton Heath Community Action Team” that is resident led and many residents participate in its activities. I’ve never heard of this other one before today.

  3. 20mph restrictions have a place where they are “justified and reasonable” and maybe Grange Road is in this category. It’s a road that I’ve driven down now and again (and a few times up) for about 50 years and would support such a move. However, having a blanket restriction over a wide area which could (and probably would) be used by the council as an easy money generating exercise is not acceptable

    • What’s proposed are 20mph zones. There’s no mention of toll roads, Roger.

      “…an easy money generating exercise is not acceptable”. Or do you object to people who break the law paying the fines that are due?

    • It can’t generate money for the council – speeding fines, unlike parking fines, go straight to the Treasury.

      This is why councils are so keen to enforce the tiniest of parking infringements, but allow speeding to go almost entirely unchecked. Overstay two minutes? £60 fine. Drive at 60 past a school? No penalty. Follow the money…

  4. Nick Davies says:

    I was under the impression that the council is threatening the Croham Clux Clan with m’learned friends in an attempt to retrieve their funding before any more of it gets misspent. Who exactly is paying to flypost Thornton Heath?

  5. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    Traffic in Croydon is slow enough as it is, all very well but who is going to make sure they do 20!

    • KristianCyc says:

      It’s the council’s job to set the speed limit, and the police’s job to enforce it. Don’t ask the council to ignore their job just because the police aren’t doing theirs. You end up with a ridiculous situation where the police say they won’t enforce because the council won’t set appropriate speed limits and the council won’t set appropriate speed limits because the police won’t enforce.

      • sed30 says:

        Not asking them to ignore just enforce. We have a 20 limit down my road not that it is observed by the majority even when the schools in

        • mraemiller says:

          I think it was Sir Robert Peel who said the ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions. So yes the Council can set what speed limit it likes but if there is no real public approval for a 20mph zone it’s very unlikely to be enforced even by a camera. People aren’t thick they know the primary motivation for this legislation is social engineering … to attempt to get people out of cars.

  6. Not unlike the relationship Local Authorities have with TFL. Not me guv.

  7. As a resident of the area, a 20 mile per hour limit is laudable, though probably pointless. Let’s be frank, the most dangerous drivers aren’t the ones who may nudge 35 mph here and there (though they are breaking the law). It’s the people who see an empty bit of road as an opportunity to floor it and generally drive like they believe they’re racing drivers – a few well placed signs and flashing sad faces as they hurtle past at 50 won’t deter these people. Enforcement and bloody great speed bumps will. With the current level of road policing in the area this speed limit won’t make a jot of difference. I imagine that’s why it has been met with such apathy.

    • KristianCyc says:

      It’s a modest proposal that tests the appetite for road safety measures. Those who don’t respond in support because it isn’t an ambitious enough initiative are shooting themselves in the foot because if the council can’t pass something this modest, they aren’t likely to try something more ambitious.

  8. Lewis White says:

    Why has no one thought about a 25mph limit?

    In a 30 mph limit, in any typical medium sized side street, I try to keep my speed to 25mph. It feels right–not too fast : 30 mph is too fast in any cases. But I find that to drop a further 5 mph to 20 mph is far too slow. All I see happening from its imposition, is a huge number of angry motorists who will get deeply frustrated, very angry even. It is unenforceable, as well.

    Any actually driving at 20mph will find themselves tailgated by a car driven by someone who wants them to get a move on. .

    A law that makes the reasonable majority want to break that law is probably not a good law.

    I just wish that Croydon would dare to be different–go for 25mph. You know it makes sense!

    The one place that I really would support a 20mph limit on is any road alongside a school, and Brighton Road within Coulsdon Town centre only– to many boy racers of all ages fly through here. It is not right!

    Lewis White– Coulsdon (motorist, pedestrian and sometimes a cyclist!)

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