Empty Gesture

“Ministers want 20mph limit” trumpeted The Sunday Times yesterday, with the transport minister arguing for a 20mph ban on every urban road and claiming that Islington, among many other boroughs, was ready to follow suit. Not according to a costly consultation of our local residents! 


London-Islington-TPA Following an initiative proposed by our lone Green councillor (since deposed), Green party members claimed a ringing endorsement for it. Really? In actual fact only 25 per cent of Highbury East Area residents responded to the consultation and of them 63 per cent said “yes”, which means that in total only 16 per cent of residents actively wanted the limit. Hardly a “ringing endorsement”. A larger proportion of residents (56 per cent to 25 per cent) said “no” to the blanket introduction of traffic-calming measures to enforce it.


As for the laughable suggestion that it is a Green measure, the introduction of the speed limit will mean many more costly and ugly signs on our streets. To quote the Islington council's own report: “20mph signs will be located on the entry points of all roads with a reduced speed limit and repeater signs will be needed at regular intervals throughout the area...” 


Now, if you think the extra carbon emitted to raise this forest of signs is worthwhile, then ponder the views of Camden Council, which concluded: “Our experience of the few short lengths of 20mph limits we have introduced, without any supporting physical traffic reduction measures, is not very encouraging. They have had very little effect on overall speeds. We would be concerned that without any physical speed reduction measures (unrealistic on all roads) or police enforcement it is likely to be rather an empty gesture.”


That’s about right: wasting taxpayer’s money on futile gestures. Indeed, the advanced thinking now is that reducing the overall amount of road signage makes drivers more cautious; 20mph zones should only ever be introduced outside buildings, such as schools, where there are large numbers of children, or at accident black spots. Reckless, bad drivers will always break speed limits whatever signs tell them. It is stiffer penalties for careless and dangerous driving that are needed


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