Making our roads a safer place needs enforcement action

CROYDON COMMENTARY: One of our MPs has written to constituents expressing his disappointment at council proposals for 20mph speed limits on residential roads. On one matter, AUSTEN COOPER agrees with the MP

An everyday traffic offence in Croydon, as spotted yesterday by Austen Cooper

An everyday traffic offence in Croydon, as spotted yesterday by Austen Cooper

I took this picture, left, yesterday, and tweeted it as a complaint to Parcelforce, the owners of the delivery van which had been driven along pedestrian pavements, taking a short cut out on to George Street, seemingly after making a delivery to Croydon College.

The use of this off-road route, of itself, was a driving offence.

Now zoom in on the picture. What I didn’t notice until much later was that the driver has a cup of coffee or tea in his hand while driving over the pavement.

It is typical of the sort of careless driving, and offence, which occurs daily on the roads in and around Croydon. And which are rarely subject to any enforcement action.

I took particular interest when, last week, I read about an email from the MP for Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, sent to his constituents with his considered opinion on the council’s latest proposals to extend its 20mph zone to a second part of the borough.

“There are some roads in my constituency where speeding is definitely a problem and I am confident residents will support the proposal, but there are other roads where 30mph is perfectly safe,” Barwell said in his email to those on his circulation list.

“I am therefore disappointed that the council has adopted an ‘all or nothing’ approach whereby either the speed limit will be reduced in every residential road in the area or it will be kept at 30mph in every road. More importantly, I am not convinced that reducing the speed limit alone without taking any action to enforce the new limit will make any difference – plenty of drivers already break the 30mph limit.”

Now, if “speeding is definitely a problem” on roads that currently have a 30mph limit, as Gavin Barwell is suggesting, then the police should already be tackling this.

If “there are other roads where 30mph is perfectly safe”, it would help to know which roads are being referred to, and for whom they are safe.

An occupant of a modern car with a top safety rating is often immune from the consequences of a collision – the same can’t be said for the vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists, whom they may strike if driving carelessly or too fast.

The collation of clips from YouTube, below, offers an illustration of the sort of reckless driving, at speed, which occurs daily on the roads around Britain. The clip towards the end, of the motorist losing control while driving too fast around a roundabout might be particularly shocking – consider how the car ploughs through the roadside barriers, and think about what might have happened to the bystander, a child, had the car come off the road just a couple of yards earlier.


Here in Croydon, the focus of attention on John Page, the car driver who killed Lillian Groves, was that he had been smoking cannabis and was not tested until nine hours after his arrest.

Comparatively little was made of the fact he was doing an estimated 43mph in a 30mph zone.

Croydon gteenager Lillian Groves: was killed on a residential street by a speeding driver

Lillian Groves: was killed on a Croydon residential street by a driver who was speeding

Nor that the New Addington road on which Lillian Groves was killed is a residential one.

Some time after the 2006 local elections, at one of the council’s Cycle Forum meetings, a council official casually remarked that Phil Thomas, the Conservative councillor and cabinet member responsible for roads, maintenance and safety, had told council staff that they would face disciplinary action if they proposed traffic calming measures. There would be no more speed humps in Croydon. The remarks weren’t minuted or repeated at a subsequent meeting.

Whether the tale was gospel or apocryphal, the impact was the same; an important tool for promoting road safety was being sacrificed to benefit fast drivers’ convenience.

Gavin Barwell’s claim, in his recent constituency email, that the 20mph zone is an “all or nothing” approach isn’t quite the case. As with the first area to have 20mph zones introduced last year in the north of the borough, “main roads” aren’t included.

The patchwork effect of having some roads limited to 20mph, while others are not, is considered to be less effective and more expensive way of reducing the speeds of road users.

The cost of a patchwork scheme can be found in the council’s own report on this matter – you can link to it here or read it in pdf format here: 20mph speed limits report

The committee heard that the proposed area-wide approach to 20mph speed limits was supported by the representatives from 20’s Plenty for Us, the Croydon Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. It also heard from officers of the council that the alternative (road-by-road approach) would result in a patchwork effect which would be confusing to road users, expensive to consult on and implement, and would be difficult to enforce.

But on the matter of enforcement, Gavin Barwell is correct.

What would be good to see is support from local political leaders of all parties to reduce the death, injury and damage we have come to tolerate on Croydon’s roads as a consequence of a lack of enforcement of speed limits and other breaches by drivers.

  • Austen Cooper is an active member of the London Cycling Campaign, but is writing here in a personal capacity

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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
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3 Responses to Making our roads a safer place needs enforcement action

  1. cassianj says:

    What annoys me as a former cyclist and a pedestrian is that 20mph speed limits clearly save lives.
    That said we have them in my home borough and if they are not policed then they are not adhered to.
    I used to cycle through Croydon on a daily basis and the aggressive nature of Croydon drivers sent me to hospital twice and eventually stopped me cycling.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    Oddly I have some sympathy for Gavin Barwell caught between constituents who expect to be able to use all and any roads in inner Croydon as rat-runs, and other constituents who live in inner Croydon. He also faces the attention of lobby organisations like the “Alliance of British Drivers” and “Say NO to 20mph in north Croydon” that have the resources to print colourful leaflets and distribute them to every household. If he offends either he loses their vote in the next election.
    Here in the ECCO area we have been reviewing traffic since the inception of One-Way on Lebanon Rd, and were aware that the Council intended to start consultation about the 20mph speed limit.
    By and large most drivers drive well in relation to the environment and are observant of their surroundings. It is thus not evident that the change to 20 mph will be particularly onerous.
    However there is a minority that drive without any regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Typically they turn off the main roads into the minor roads at speed; they rush up to the first speed hump and abruptly slow down; once clear of the speed hump it’s “pedal to the metal” as they speed up and race to the next speed hump. This cycle repeats itself until they find their way to the next main road. Besides being dangerous, it creates a lot of noise and pollution.
    In inner Croydon we must now bear in mind that in many of the new developments (Menta-Redrow) there are severe restrictions on car ownership, and due to the density there is a great likelihood that the inner Croydon population will have few owner drivers. It is entirely reasonable that this population should be able to enjoy residential environments free of drivers & cars that come from the outer areas of Croydon.
    This measure is first and foremost about getting cars back onto the main roads that have a speed limit of 30 mph.
    There are ,major issues about the management of the main roads and the flow of traffic. This, I understand, is the responsibility of TfL and about a decade or so ago Council officers were talking about a promised TfL traffic survey and programme to address Croydon’s issues.
    I assume that Boris has been too busy to consider Croydon. It might of course be that Boris doesn’t like the Tory whip and Europhile Gavin Barwell and is exploiting the situation to reduce Gavin’s chances of getting voted back in. Given some of the nastiness of the last few days, I think this conspiracy theory has some vague credibility.

  3. David Hoole says:

    To the driver who was in the lane next to the VW Camper, the ‘f*ck’ was that your lane was closed by cones, so unless that closure wasn’t marked properly in advance it was your ‘bad’, not anyone else’s. The camper merely stayed in his lane.

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