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.

Residents reject 20mph borough wide speed limit – but will the Council listen?

20mphA consultation on a proposal by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to introduce a borough-wide 20mph speed limit has been rejected by residents. 45 per cent backed it with 55 per cent opposed. There were 5,287 responses which is a relatively high turnout.

Cllr Steve Hamilton set out the reasons for the Conservative Group’s opposition here.

Local resident Brian Mooney campaigned against the plan. He gave his reasons here and here. The taxi drivers warned against it.

The police have made clear they would not enforce the limit so car drivers could ignore it although TfL claim bus drivers would follow it meaning further delays in public transport.

If the council was to enforce the speed limit by placing humps throughout the borough (at phenomenal expense) that would cost more lives than it would save due to the adverse impact on ambulance response times and air quality.

Also nearly twice as many residents responding to the consultation specified they were against humps – 922 – as those who supported them, just over 500.

These results need to be considered in the context of a huge propaganda drive by the Council seeking to persuade people to back their barmy plans.

So will Labour listen to residents? Or carry on regardless with their flawed scheme? Astonishingly they seem inclined to proceed. They could point out it was in their manifesto. That document did indeed call for a 20 mph speed limit throughout the borough except trunk roads (the A4 and the A40). However their claim that they have a mandate as a result would count for rather more if they had circulated their manifesto before the council elections, held on May 22nd last year, took place. Rather unusually it was a post-election manifesto.


Cllr Steve Hamilton: Conservatives respond to Council’s proposal for Borough wide 20 mph limit

stevehamCllr Steve Hamilton has submitted the following response on behalf of the Conservative Group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s proposal for a 20mph limit on all roads in the borough.

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…

Driver Education

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.

Cyclist Education

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.

Improved Visibility

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.

Brian Mooney: Hasty and faulty – the Council’s slower speed consultation

 A guest post from Brian Mooney of the Alliance of British Drivers. Brian is a management consultant and used to be a keen cyclist before his bike was vandalised. He also runs a personal website.

In my October article, I outlined reasons why LB Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) should not go ahead with its proposed borough wide 20mph scheme.

My objections are shared by many other concerned local people. When the public meeting kicking off the consultation was announced in May, there was quite a backlash. In roughly the first 24 hours after the webpage went up, those expressing a clear opinion divided 67%:33% against a borough-wide scheme, and 62%:38% against, if you strip out the responses that were specifically against 20mph limits on main roads.

A fair number expressed concerns about speed camera enforcement. The Council responded in a very one-sided consultation booklet that I understand is being posted out to all homes. It says it is not proposing more speed cameras – but that doesn’t rule it out.

Of course, if borough-wide 20mph limits went ahead, existing cameras such as the ones on Fulham Palace Road and Shepherds Bush Green would not be left at 30mph.

We would then have the farce whereby the law was changed to make life easier for those who couldn’t be bothered to respect road safety laws and senselessly step out in front of traffic, but safe drivers could be prosecuted for doing a speed that is legal in most of London and the UK.

It makes a mockery of the current administration’s manifesto pledge of being “fairer to drivers

The scrutiny committee meeting open to the public on 9 June was also farcical. In one of the rambling floor speeches, a supporter of the scheme defended it as “You can’t stop children dashing out”.

Hang on a minute. Dashing out can be dangerous to other road users, too – particularly if it causes a pile-up when a driver has to slam on the brakes, or if a driver swerves to avoid the culprit and collides with an innocent person.

It should not be encouraged – rather children (and some adults) should be educated in proper road safety, particularly in using designated crossing places. This will prevent them being hit at any speed, with all the grief to their loved ones.

The Highway Code is quite clear on this – especially the need for parental responsibility. (Think – it would be equally unacceptable for parents to claim that they “can’t stop children playing truant” for instance.)

The entire thrust of the “argument” is wrong. Nobody suggests that, say, the mains voltage should be reduced to make life easier for children who stick their fingers into power sockets. If a public figure got up and said that trains should be slowed right down to make life easier for trespassers on the track, they would rightly be considered daft.

The consultation form (inside the booklet and online) is equally lacking. It reminds me of the episode of Fawlty Towers where all that is on the menu is duck, duck with lemon, or duck with orange. The only alternative for guests is a cricketing duck – i.e. nothing at all.

To me, it is questionable whether the consultation meets expectations that residents are offered fair alternatives and a means of intelligently selecting a course of action.

While being high on imagery and suggestive language, there is no real discussion on the causes of accidents.

Police accident reports aren’t an exact science, but they comprise the best available information. I’ve studied a deep cross-section from the last three years, and am amazed at how infrequently (excessive) speed is a factor.

Far more prevalent are misjudgement of turns, lane changes or overtaking; car users opening doors unthinkingly, pedestrians and cyclists not taking due care….

Labour’s national Shadow Roads Spokesman is Richard Burden MP. As holder of a track licence, he knows much about driving safely and speed. Responding to his own local authority consultation (in Birmingham), he called for proper safety assessments in context to determine how best to make roads safer. He felt 20mph zones were not a ‘silver bullet’ for improving road safety, rather “The goal… should be to build and manage safer roads and save lives, not to reduce speeds as an end point in itself.”

Unfortunately, the “arguments” in LBHF’s consultation booklet are so weak, that a colleague has the suspicion that the proposal’s main focus is speed reduction rather than road safety (no other approaches mentioned), and by sending out such a biased booklet out in bulk, it will soft-soap enough residents to tick boxes and thus claim “support”.

There is not even any ‘white space’ for general comment on the form, only what duck, sorry, “speed restricted roads” and “traffic calming features” respondents would like!

The sloppy booklet is not even consistent with other LBHF documents. For instance, it claims pollution reduction as a “benefit” although elsewhere this is decided to be “negligible”.

To promote a more balanced debate, the Alliance of British Drivers has been giving out leaflets and talking to residents and cab drivers. A webpage provides more information about the proposal, how to object, and some proper alternatives for road safety!