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Road safety


Speed limits in towns
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 mathematically.
Journey times would be hardly affected, and drivers would arrive at their destinations more relaxed.

If all that were not enough reason, consider the following, and click to read the full story:
The German town of Bohmte does away with traffic signs (from the Independent)

Read more about '20s Plenty' and David Hughes' thoughts on 'Thinking streets'

The Department of Transport's 2007 guidelines 'Manual for Streets' suggests 20mph limits(among other interesting ideas) as reported by the Sunday Times (you will need a Times account to read this)

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety comes to much the same conclusions (reported by the BBC)

Car-free streets make for more good-neighbourliness (from the Guardian)

Our own national party website reports that more than 3 times as many people are killed on the roads in deprived areas as in wealthy ones

...and on a related topic, Richard Reeve of the Enfield Cycling Campaign on what they do.



Speed limits on motorways
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 4AJ