20’s plenty of confusion for Cowan

20mphLabour council leader Stephen Cowan doesn’t update his personal website much these days. He made an exception recently to promote the extension of 20mph speed limits, a topic that has been attracting several complaints to councillors.

Cllr Cowan snipes “H&F’s Conservative councillors claim the council’s consultation responses show a 55% majority against any form of extension in the number of 20 mph safer zones… Others are peddling the Conservatives’ line too.”

That’s a desperate misrepresentation. Cllr Cowan should read his own propagandistic consultation material which proposed a borough-wide 20mph speed limit on all roads managed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

Residents responding rejected this by 55% to 45%. Cllr Cowan is so confused that he seems to forget his own manifesto commitment that “all residential streets, not trunk roads, become 20 mph”. He might be forgiven for this as Labour’s 2014 manifesto was so hushed-up that it was only really circulated as a post-election manifesto.

He has been telling some residents that the Labour manifesto commitment is sacrosanct, but others there will not be a blanket borough-wide 20mph scheme. Sooner or later, he will have to come clean and disappoint someone, as facing both ways can only lose trust. On that count, he also promised to be fairer to motorists, who are not surprisingly livid with him after the rigged consultation.

Cllr Cowan wants many more 20mph zones (with measures like speed humps; the Council blatantly admits the aim of “discouraging motorised transport” – i.e. hindering residents in their everyday lives).

However he totally loses the plot when he cites a newspaper story in support of this. An aunt fails to properly control a child in her care and he rushes out into the road. She rushes after him just feet in front of a car and both are hit.

Only the car is travelling at 20mph – within Cllr Cowan’s magical speed limit. From the information given, there is no hint that the driver is in any way negligent. The accident would still have happened at 10mph (i.e. within thinking distance). What would have prevented a collision at any speed would have been the child’s parents properly teaching him road safety rules – but Cllr Cowan proudly disagrees.

The Highway Code is quite clear that parents and carers should use the Green Cross Code in full when out with their children (Rule 7). It is quite explicit that they should keep young children in their care under proper control.

What would its authors and the child’s parents think of Labour’s shadow transport spokesperson, Mary Creagh MP? Before the general election, she shocked the media by advocating 20mph speed limits on the grounds that children would be free to “roam wild”?

She also attracted ridicule by praising Islington Council’s blanket 20mph speed limits for producing fewer casualties. Only it was found that drivers were routinely ignoring the new speed limit and average speeds had increased on many of the roads. Shortly afterwards she was moved and her ‘policy’ was visibly left out of the election manifesto.

Chiswick resident Anne Naysmith died recently after being hit at just 9mph. Her Labour Council in Hounslow was elected with a specific pledge for 20mph outside schools. This has become spuriously inflated towards having blanket 20mph limits. Plans include main roads like the Chiswick High Road, threatening to worsen congestion on our side of the borough boundary.

Bristol’s Labour councillors showed more sense when they voted with their Conservative counterparts against blanket 20mph speed limits. Labour’s Ron Stone described the policy as a “stupid waste of public money that doesn’t make sense”, but the majority were over-ruled by George Ferguson, the city’s eccentric Mayor in the mould of Ken Livingstone. Recent reports show that drivers widely disregarded limits they felt to be unreasonable, with council employees and the Police exceeding them by several mph.

They are not the only ones with reservations about the claims made for 20mph speed limits. The Department for Transport has engaged consultants for a more in-depth review of their operation and aims to report back by the end of 2017.

9 thoughts on “20’s plenty of confusion for Cowan

  1. ‘The Highway Code is quite clear that parents and carers should use the Green Cross Code in full when out with their children (Rule 7). It is quite explicit that they should keep young children in their care under proper control.’

    I wonder what percentage of adults are not qualified drivers. Would these people be likely to have read the requirement in the HC to leash their kids?

    I see a commercial opportunity here, because I’m certain nobody is making Thomas The Tank Engine(tm) choke chains or Frozen(tm) retractable leads.

    In the mean time, going slower demonstrably reduces the likelihood of a serious injury or death in a collision with pedestrians, cyclists or anything else. Pick up any high school physics text book and read the sections on kinetic energy and conservation of momentum.

    • If going slowly is the answer to our road safety problem, how come so many of the accidents happen in the rush hour when the speeds are lowest? Motorways statistically have proportionally less accidents.

      The obsession with limiting speed masks the bigger problem: not using the road in an alert and considered manner. I would personally prefer to avoid being hit by a careful driver going at 30mph rather than hit by one going at 20mph who is not concentrating. The Evening Standard reported how extended 20mph zones affect driver concentration, especially on hazards.

      The biggest problem in our borough is going to be people just not concentrating on where there are going – pedestrians oblivious to anything but their mobile phone, some drivers irresponsibly texting at the wheel and cyclists with headphones on thinking that the rules don’t apply to them.

      The number of pedestrians dashing out on the Hammersmith D&P station crossing in front of moving traffic is guaranteed to end in tragedy sooner or later, but never mind, we can just lower the speed of vehicles because it is beyond our council’s IQ to tackle the real problem?

    • The Highway Code doesn’t just apply to drivers. It applies to everyone, and parents should not allow their children out walking on their own until they can understand and use the Green Cross Code with the basics of observation and crossing the road.

      Drivers at least have to demonstrate a good working knowledge of the wider Highway Code to pass their test. Motorcyclists have to undergo Compulsory Basic Training and are expected to pass their test within a set period. . Pedal cyclists are an anomaly; no specific test of competence is required of them.

    • As always children are used to justify this Edwardian speed limit, but how many children are out at say 3am in the morning? But enforcement is 24/7 x 365 days of the year!

  2. Unfortunately high school education does not talk about concentration against boredom or distraction. The majority of road incidents are as a result of lack of concentration by road users be it drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Children are easily distracted and need better awareness training of road hazards regardless of speed limits or other restrictions.

  3. Why not make an effort to efforce the current speed limits of 30mph, and 20mph in certain residential areas? I can’t recall seeing police with radar guns anywhere at all in the borough for the past 5 years.
    When the current limits are enforced and observed, then let’s think about whether we want or need to go lower.

  4. The basic problem here is that these rules are being set by officials who have not the slightest understanding either of the effects they will have, or of the data that later confirms those effects. And as others have pointed out, they do it to score political points. Here are some basic principles:

    Driving slower results in less concentration and more distraction when frequently looking down at speedometers instead of ahead at what is happening.

    If pedestrians believe the propaganda that speeds have been reduced they will be more careless – leading to more accidents, not fewer, when speeds have not fallen.

    The same large sums spent on hospitals and other medical care would result in far greater benefit – indeed, the entire road safety “industry” of self-important jobsworths should be closed down and those people redeployed to something far more effective and cost-effective – using mops buckets and disinfectant.

    And incidentally, the same applies, in spades to speed cameras, that cause more collisions than they prevent, as I can now prove beyond rational dispute – see http://www.fightbackwithfacts.com

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