As a Council, we have a responsibility to reduce the number of accidents in our borough, and the number of people killed and seriously injured. However actions taken by the Council should be considered and evidence based – we should not implement the latest fad just to be seen to be doing something.
As a Group, we have supported the introduction of both 20mph zones and 20mph limits in areas where there is clear demand and support for them from local residents and businesses – but these have been implemented on minor roads, and not on the primary roads in the borough.
To implement a borough wide 20mph limit will cost at least £ ½ million – significantly more if any traffic calming measures are introduced. This is a significant sum of money, and it is important to consider if this is a good use of public funds. Noting that the intention is for the money to come from the Borough’s allocation from TfL’s integrated transport allocation, we must also consider what would not be funded if this money was redirected and alternatives which might be more successful at reducing accidents.
Having read the report presented to the Council PAC and supporting information we are not convinced that this is a good use of the money.
There is nothing in the report that attempts to look at the accidents in the borough and identify what may have caused them.
Putting up signs stating the borough is tackling safety by reducing speeds provides publicity – the report states that there is insufficient data for London boroughs to allow any reasonable prediction on the impact on speeds, which make any predictions on changes to the accident rates impossible.
Looking at the evidence provided, it is suggested that changing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph reduces average speeds by just 1.3mph – this is a negligible reduction to the average speed, but to anyone who uses the roads in LBHF you might think that this is optimistic – as one of the most congested boroughs in the country, it is all too rare for the streets to be clear and for you to be able to travel at 20mph.
It is not just congestion that has an impact on traffic speed. The report states that on the 100 roads surveyed, on more than half of the roads, when there is no traffic, people drive at 25mph or slower, so changing the speed limit would have no impact on these streets at all.
The Council has the data on when and where accidents occur. The Council has also measured the speed of the traffic using devices placed on the roads for a week to measure the speeds. It should therefore have been possible to use these two sets of data to identify the approximate speed of traffic when the accidents occurred. This would clearly identify the proportion of accidents that happen at speeds greater than 25mph. This information has not been included in the published report, and I can only assume the reason is that it the evidence does not support the proposed plan.
How could the funds be better spent?
Accident Hotspots such as the North End Road Market
North End Road is one of the accident hotspots in the borough. Having spoken to the bus companies, they have weekly reports of accidents happening alongside the market – either because the stalls have encroached into the highway or because pedestrians step out into the road between stalls without stopping to check for oncoming traffic. Speed can have nothing to do with the accidents here, as when the market is in operation, it is normally possible to walk faster than the traffic.
Some spending in making the market safer could have a large impact on the accident rate, after all if there are weekly incidents with buses alone, think how many there are with when cars and lorries are included in the tally…
RBKC have invested in teaching bus drivers how to better understand cyclists, in order to reduce collisions between buses and cycles. Drivers who have taken the course have reported a better understanding of the issues faced by cyclists. Making such courses more widely available – especially to lorry drivers – could reduce the collisions between cyclists and large vehicles – these accidents usually happen at slow speeds, but are more likely to lead to serious injury and death.
Related to driver education is improved education for cyclists. Reaching adult cyclists is difficult, but improved cycle proficiency lessons at schools, especially to show cyclists just how impossible it can be to see them when they cycle between a lorry and the curb would lead to safer cyclists.
According to TfL, 70% of collisions occur at road junctions, which is not surprising as at some junctions parked cars and other obstructions make it difficult to see if there is any oncoming traffic – working to improve visibility, perhaps by fitting convex mirrors opposite junctions, could allow people to see round corners and have a bigger impact on the reduction in the number of accidents.
The Consultation Itself
We are also concerned that the consultation is flawed. The consultation is biased to encourage respondents to support the introduction of a 20mph limit.
In the PAC meeting, the report included the proposed questions, which could have allowed the committee to have suggested changes to the consultation to make it clearer and remove potential bias. However the consultation booklets were pre-printed for the meeting, making it impossible for the committee and the residents present make any suggestions to how the consultation was presented. It was not even made clear to those at the meeting that the draft questions had been changed between being sent to the committee and the booklets printed.
Listen to residents at the meeting, many were confused which roads were proposed to have a 20mph limit applied – most people believed the consultation was for ‘residential roads’ so would not apply to primary routes such as Hammersmith Road or Fulham Palace Road – and it was clear from their input into the meeting that their position on the scheme varied depending on the roads included – if the people who have enough interest in the scheme to give up an evening to come to the Town Hall have problems understanding the consultation, then it is reasonable to assume even greater confusion among our residents.