Monday, June 04, 2007

20mph and a Speed Management Strategy

Just as we learn that Portsmouth City Council are working towards a 20mph speed limit throughout their city, and just three months after Darlington Cycling Campaign's call for similar measures in our town were dismissed as too ambitious, I accidently come across a consultation process for Darlington and County Durham's Speed Management Strategy.

Naturally enough, the Campaign was not alerted or informed about this consultation process, and the deadline for responses is today, June 4th. One of the key objectives of the proposed strategy, which is billed to run until 2011, is to reduce the risk to vulnerable road users. Hmm, wonder if that might mean cyclists?

If anyone can manage in the next couple of hours, you can email comments on the strategy to


miketually said...

Hasty email sent...

An Inconvenient Truth said...

This email duly sent:

As chair of Darlington Cycling Campaign I have the following comments to make:

1. As an organisation representing cyclists in Darlington, and reflecting one of the core aims of your draft strategy to "reduce the risk to vulnerable road users", we are disappointed that you failed to inform us directly about this consultation process. We would be grateful if in future cyclists are taken somewhat more seriously.

2. Your appendix includes a brief reference to the relationship between a Speed Management Strategy and local authority cycling/walking strategies. However, you fail to point out that Darlington is, uniquely in this country, both a Cycle Demonstration and Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town. As a Demonstration Town, it beholds the local authority to set a progressive example to give, as you put it yourselves "more vulnerable road users". To then adopt a strategy (Policy 12 in Section 5) that simply uses national guidelines as the basis of setting local speed limits is tame, unambitious, and devoid of any sense that Darlington should be moving ahead of the rest of the country in this field.

3. Darlington Cycling Campaign has been calling for a 20mph urban speed limit in Darlington since early this year. We stand by this as a sensible way to make our streets safer for vulnerable road users. As your own figures on pages 6 and 7 point out, at 20mph, accident fatalities decrease dramatically when compared with 30mph. If local authorities were to think more scientifically, their clear aim would be to reduce urban driving speed limits to 20mph.

4. Darlington Cycling Campaign often hears that a 20mph limit is "not enforceable". Given that motor vehicle drivers routinely flout the 30mph limit anyway (see page 8 for your own figures - 69% of car drivers exceed the 30mph limit), we would argue that the 30mph limit is patently not enforceable either. The major change in thinking that will make a 20mph limit more enforceable, however, is educational and cultural, not a police matter. A 20mph limit is a clear message that urban road space is for vulnerable road users first, and motor vehicles second, the reverse of current UK thinking. This is not rocket science - it is already being implemented in many towns and cities around Europe. As the country's only Cycle Demonstration and Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town, Darlington should be doing the same.

3. A Speed Management Strategy is not simply about accident reduction, important though this is. Climate change, and our carbon footprint, has now become an urgent issue that affects ALL contributory factors. Road transport in County Durham and Darlington is a major contributor to our carbon footprint. Any Speed Management Strategy is duty bound to take this into account when drawing up policies for the coming years. You mention this in your introductory remarks about National Speed Policy. But I failed to find a single policy proposal in the main document that is designed specifically to reduce emissions. This may of course be because speed management strategies must now also consider what others are trying to take on board - how to discourage road users from using a car rather than walking, cycling, or taking a bus - a clear signal with a 20mph urban speed limit. Darlington Cycling Campaign detects a lack of will in biting this particular bullet, and calls on our local politicians to show more leadership in tackling climate change.

We hope that you will take these views into account when formulating your Speed Management Strategy, and look forward to being consulted more proactively in the future.