Speed limits in
Alongside our commitment to improving public transport goes a commitment
to make the roads safer for all, and begin to return the streets to use by
people generally, not just motorists.
A key plank in this policy is the need to reduce the default speed limit
in towns from 30mph to 20mph. Through routes would retain 30mph or other
appropriate limits, but all residential streets should be 20mph. A person
hit by a car at 30mph has a 50-50 chance of survival, while one hit at 20mph
has a 95% chance, and of course there would be fewer of them hit in the first place.
The road safety charity Brake have done a detailed
analysis of stopping distances and collision speeds in which all this is worked out
Journey times would be hardly affected,
and drivers would arrive at their destinations more relaxed.
Speed limits on
In his last days as Transport Secretary Philip Hammond dropped a bombshell:
the government proposed to act against the country's carbon emissions targets,
or, to put it another way, to consult on raising the speed limit on English
and Welsh motorways to 80mph from 2013. The two reasons given were that it's
important to the economy to enable faster journeys, and that cars are much
safer than when the 70mph limit was set.
Above and beyond the contradiction with the carbon emissions target it was
a very curious decision because before the last election the Conservative
Party boasted that it would be the greenest government ever, and the Department
for Transport's own forecast is that the decision will increase motorway
deaths by 1% [Later: See this
Guardian article for an updated DoT forecast following a modelling exercise -
they now say 20%!]. The British Medical Journal has also come out against the
proposal, calling it "amazing" - see the
Independent's coverage of their report
There are also other key issues. For example, will the change cut journey
times as government hopes? "Often not" seems to be the answer. Already many
of Britain's motorways are frequently full to overflowing, and long ago research
showed that at near or full capacity journeys are made more quickly by cutting,
not increasing, the maximum speed; a situation reflected in the variable
speed limits currently enforced at various bottlenecks nationwide.
Extraordinary as it is that the Conservative Party's boast of forming the
greenest ever government will be compromised, there's another consequence
just as extraordinary: it's a guaranteed outcome that higher fuel consumption
will ensue at a time of depleting oil resources. Indeed at 80mph consumption
will be around 25% above the optimum - which occurs at around 55mph - and
11% above the consumption at the current motorway speed limit. Nationwide
that's an awful lot of a now scarce and expensive oil used unnecessarily,
and at considerable cost to the motorist at the petrol pump.
For the record: greenhouse gas emissions will rise by a comparable amount
as fuel consumption.
Finally there are social consequences. No doubt there are people who enjoy
the skill and concentration involved driving fast and hard, but for the average
family, and very especially for older people who are a rising proportion
of the population, motorway travel has lost its charm; contending with faster
speeds on congested roads will make matters worse. In the face of this the
government will no doubt argue that the needs of the economy must come first,
but as ever Conservative politicians forget the importance of quality of
life to well-being and happiness.
Enfield Green Party opposes this suggested change. If fast land travel has
a place it should be by rail. Rail requires considerably less land, is more
fuel efficient and quieter, and places no strain on the traveller. Furthermore
trains run beautifully on electricity whereas, at the moment at least, electric
cars are only a realistic option for low mileage urban travel.
For those who doubt the need to be concerned about road safety, here's a 5-minute
Australian video. But beware - it's not for the faint-hearted.
Published and promoted
by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13