Labour 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.