Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council has abandoned its proposal for a Borough-wide 20 mph speed limit. So that is welcome. However instead they plan a muddled, expensive, environmentally damaging, unenforceable compromise. For example Goldhawk Road would stay at 30 mph but the speed limit would fall to 20 mph for King Street.
Hundreds of residents wrote to offer strong but reasoned objections to the Council’s plan.
Here is just one example:
Dear Mr Cowan and Mr Harcourt
cc: Caroline Ffiske, Joe Carlebach, and Hannah Barlow
I understand that a majority of the respondents to the consultation have made it clear that we oppose your plan for a blanket 20 MPH speed limit.
The proposal is:
1. Regressive—further slowing residents’ ability to move and communicate within London;
2. Wasteful—of expensive roads that exist to serve traffic, and of fuel;
3. Polluting—forcing cars to spend more time in traffic; creating noise and exhaust as cars brake and accelerate over thousands of road humps.
4. Heavy-handed—the consultation questions were biased towards a “yes”;
5. A tax increase—despite your objections, it is an opportunity for the police to further criminalise motorists;
6. Damaging to cars—“traffic calming”, i.e., road humps and bollards, will be installed everywhere in the Borough, on every road.
And your reasons are unscientific or unsupported by evidence:
Almost half of the 763 road injuries last year were pedestrians and cyclists: this ignores the causes of the accidents and fails to compare the number to the volume of traffic. And it says nothing about a trend in the number of accidents.
Injuries are 8x more likely to be fatal at 30 MPH versus 20 MPH: this is true in any speed comparison; that does not make it reasonable or intelligent to reduce all road limits to cycling speed.
At slower speeds, drivers have more time to react: indeed they do, but they also have less reason to pay attention. A road has a purpose other than pure safety, and that purpose is movement and transportation. Would the Council also advocate lowering motorway speed limits to 20 MPH?
Making our children and all of us healthier: … by encouraging people to walk. You present no evidence that pavements and crossings would be safer with a lower limit, or that more children would walk if the limit was lower (although more might indeed walk because it will take their parents too long to drive—presenting them with more opportunities to be injured).
Making our neighbourhoods more pleasant: you say that “calmer” roads will make things nicer. The word “calm” in your language means “traffic jams” in the real world. I doubt that cars queuing with engines running, and the constant thump and scrape of cars hitting road humps, and slowing and accelerating to deal with humps and bollards, and horns blaring from frustrated drivers, will make things more pleasant.
I feel obliged to remind you that roads are for transportation. Their purpose is to allow vehicles to move down them in the most efficient way. That means as many (safe) vehicles per hour per mile of road as possible. You present no evidence of an outbreak of pedestrian deaths caused by cars. It is unclear what problem you are trying to solve, other than the convenience of cars.
London’s main transport problem is decreasing vehicles per hour per mile of road. This is due to the proliferation of traffic lights, bus lanes (which slow buses down by reducing overall road capacity), cycle lanes (which serve only the young and fit), one-way systems, and parking regulations that allow parking in major through-roads. Average road speeds are below 10 MPH and falling. This is the problem that you, our representatives, should be working to solve for us.
Advanced societies do things better, cleaner and faster, not clumsier, dirtier and slower; over time they trade bicycles for cars, not the other way round. They prefer not to waste time and money moving around slowly and primitively. The people you represent have implied as much in the consultation. I ask you to listen to them.