Labour’s muddled u-turn on borough-wide 20mph speed limit

20mphLabour-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.

5 thoughts on “Labour’s muddled u-turn on borough-wide 20mph speed limit

  1. Slower road speeds and traffic jams are directly related to an increase in vehicles. Half H&F’s population do not own cars. Even the other half must occasionally walk. Get out of your car and cut pollution.

    • The job of the council is to provide services, that includes to the 50% of residents who own cars and via parking charges contribute disproportionately to the council’s budget compared to other less careful and responsible road users like cyclists. Virtue signalling from people who only ever have to travel within walking distance contributes nothing to the debate.

      • The entire exercise is a massive piece of virtue signalling. The caring, sharing council spending lots of other people’s money to achieve utterly marginal benefits and probably disbenefits. Pollution on the other hand is a real problem and comes mainly from vehicles.
        Please let’s forget about yet more speed bumps, signage and chicanes and focus on cleaning up transport systems.

    • Nobody I know in H&F uses a car unless there is no better option. Most of the air pollution comes from large diesel vehicles and it can blow in from outside the M25.

      H&F council is persisting with scare stories about XXX residents dying prematurely from air pollution. A GLA report has shown that the ever-expanding ‘deaths’ figure is a statistical construct by aggregating a notional few months off everybody’s lives. The deaths figure is not for real individuals and I hope your Air Quality Commission publishes the truth.

      Yet government statistics show that people in the borough are on average living longer and measurements would probably show that even large diesel vehicles are getting cleaner. If the authorities didn’t keep doing spiteful things like reducing road space (as Labour did with King Street) our streets would be less congested.

  2. Can we say for definite that Labour has dropped the intention for 20 mph everywhere? I can remember it being trumpeted as in the manifesto so had to be done. Might it be the case that the intention remains, but the plan has been scaled down short term to minimise opposition, and H&F council will find some excuse to complete the job on the quiet? They moved softly softly in the consultation on bin collections and only backed off after an outcry. I don’t think you can trust a council that ran a rigged consultation and is claiming support for 20 mph on all roads.

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