Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yep 20 is plenty for me too

Friday, 14th March 2014: I’ll put my cards on the table, I think that  20mph speeds limits in residential areas are a good thing.  Or rather let me put it another way, why on earth do we think that ensuring that cars (and other motor vehicles) can move around as fast as possible in residential areas, with priority over other activities.

To some extent the motor car has become a victim of its own success. In the UK the number of motor vehicles is affected by demographics  in that we have an increasing population, with a significant percentage of that population living in urban areas (80%). At the same time there has been a de-emphasis on other forms of transport. Some of the change is economic and some political.

The trouble is the increase in motor vehicles does not spread it self evenly throughout the land, but focuses on urban centres, where people live, work and learn. There are physical limits on just how many cars you can get into a given space. Many of the worlds major cities suffer from congestion. (London is at number 5.)

Yet, so often we here demands for more and bigger roads. The trouble is, unless you can stretch the urban areas out, is that you can’t build more roads, all that tends to happen is that you get the odd by-pass here and there – such as the Ely Southern by-pass - but they just move the problem to the next constriction. Or you get bigger roads around the areas of congestion – two examples spring to mind. One is the planned A14 upgrade, the other is the M25 London orbital motorway. What happened with the M25 – well soon after it opened in 1986 traffic levels exceeded the maximum designed capacity.

Urbanisation and congestion go hand in hand, yet so often traffic planners seem to forget the reality and end up tweaking things more and more in favour of traffic throughput. The trouble is it doesn’t do much good for the throughput but does make live pretty horrible for all the non-motor vehicle users the inhabitants.  (An example of the urbanisation – “200,000 homes will be built on Green Belt land: Villages under siege, say campaigners”)

Look at zebra crossings – a system where pedestrians have priority over motor traffic when they wish to cross.  They are a dying breed, why, well apparently motorists seem to be reluctant to stop at them.  What we get in their place are light-controlled crossings which cost a lot more, which breakdown and which can be ‘too fast for the slow elderly’ and which are often slow to react to the pedestrian’s push of the button (up to 90 seconds in London apparently).

Things are changing, albeit slowly. There is a recognition that lots of traffic in urban areas is not very nice – it is noisy, polluting, intimidating and unsafe. One strand of the change is the move to lower the speed limits in urban areas to 20mph.  Such is the demand for this that many councils are going through the democratic process of introducing 20mph speed limits – check out the list on the 20’s Plenty for Us website. (The population count covered is around 12Million people!)

So what’s the fuss – well Cambridge is introducing them – and it takes some political will because it isn’t cheap - £600,000, because of the somewhat odd bureaucracy that associates with things to do with the highways it seems.  The problem:

As £600,000 scheme hits new problem, police confirm they’ll only carry out speed checks in Cambridge’s citywide 20mph zone in ‘exceptional circumstances’

Well gee thanks – is it any wonder that there is concern about trust in the police. Still we do have a new democratic method for setting police priorities – our Police and Crime Commissioner and he has said he does want the limit enforced and has warned the Chief Constable.  Sir Graham Bright has also called for the speed checks in existing 20mph zones to be a ‘priority’.

I am sure that the PCC would probably like a bit of written support for his position on enforcing the 20mph limit.

I have to say that this Cambridge News story doesn't help – ‘I thought it was an April Fool’s joke’  Perhaps they ought to follow it with another story – “Blogger couldn’t believe the Cambridge News used so much newsprint on a non-story”.

No I am not anti-car – I drive a 4x4 (less than I cycle though), watch F1, buy stuff on-line (which means more vans). But car ownership is selfish really, so we’ve all got to do out bit I reckon. We can change behaviour without constructing speed humps and half-barriers all around the place at even more expense and that is what people want. The end of the “cartocracy”. (Which means more and better joined-up public transport and cycling and walking facilities.)

A shocking fact for some drivers out there - Cars will drive at 20mph without blowing up or breaking down.

And now for some pictures, yes around the Wicken Fen area - again. The next ride ventures a but further afield – Honest.

Reeds in Wicken Lode

Reeds alongside Wicken Lode

A Slightly More Successful Zoom and Snap picture of Wicken Lode
(Well I think so)

The Hedgerows are going green – yippee – White Fen Drove

The ditches are still draining – White Fen Drove

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