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Monday, 18 December 2017

So 20 mph zones don't work ...

There's a certain glee in reports today that the accident-reducing 20mph zones in our towns and cities don't work. At least, it seems, not without speed cushions, chicanes, steel posts to reduce lane width and so on. I can't say I'm surprised.

Years ago I pointed out that the Pelican crossings being installed to replace existing Zebra crossings were actually more dangerous. Getting the FOI data from the Transport Department had been like pulling teeth. Yes, 20m of steel cattle pen barrier either side of the crossing on both sides of the road, loud beeping and flashing noises, peremptory commands to stand or walk, a vulgar and intrusive part of the Big State imposed on small communities, actually killed more people than the simple painted  stripes on the road that they replaced. The problem, the DoT hypothesised, was twofold. First, people didn't obey the commands of the State and oh horror decided themselves when to cross the road - the younger ones even leapt over the barriers at times. Secondly (and I suspect the real reason) was that drivers seeing green lights didn't look for hazards in the same way that the glowing orange balls of Hore-Belisha's beacons induced. 

Conservative councillor Daniel Moylan and his colleagues at K&C Council took personal liability for changing Kensington High Street when the council's officers refused to do so. They ripped out every cattle barrier, every obstacle, all the peremptory commands, scores of signs, posts and bollards and made the space one shared between vehicles and pedestrians for which space was negotiated between them - in the same way that a zebra crossing works. The accident rate dropped immediately and stayed low. KH St became an infinitely more pleasant place on which to wander, browse, graze and bar-crawl. It was a genuinely courageous move at a time when the State's agents, the council's professional officers, were advocating that only penning pedestrians behind ten-foot fences could further reduce the accident rates. 

The ideas came from a Dutchie - Hans Monderman. He found that such road sharing not only reduced accidents but allowed traffic to move more efficiently. Yes, if people are allowed to make their own decisions, if the State is put back in its box, things are more efficient. This is proved time after time on the rare occasions that traffic lights fail; motorists allowed to negotiate junctions themselves actually do better than traffic lights, and queues, slow moving traffic and extended travel times are greatly reduced. We used to reckon in our part of London that a TfL traffic light failure meant 10 minutes off the drive home. 

You don't have to be Ayn Rand to work out that generally the least intervention and the lightest touch in respect of traffic management, combined with 'nudge' rather than concrete and steel*, is not only much cheaper but more efficient and far more effective. 

*Except of course from the risk posed by rogue members of the Religion of Peace. At either end of pedestrian roads. 


Anonymous said...

When you're going with the traffic flow in rush hour then of course a broken set of lights will knock time off the majority of drivers. It's the poor sods which need to cross that constant stream of traffic which experience the delays.

Anonymous said...

The congestion around my part of south London seems to have made driving a seriously unpleasant task, and it seems to have occurred within the last year, when the north side of my suburb introduced this 50% cut in speed limits. For the first couple of months, habitual users ignored the command, but gradually enough multitasking women have realised that they can devote 50% less attention to driving.

The local council (Croydon) has clearly not been reading the papers, since I knew back in January last year that Manchester authorities had realised, and rather than completing their program of universal "red flagism", began to reverse some of the most dangerous newly introduced hazards.

As for Cambridge, they are shameless i their disregard for human life, as the safety film below demonstrates:


Tony Harrison said...

I wonder if Monderman was connected with the similar experiments in Holland with removing traffic lights in favour of ordinary white-line junctions, plus roundabouts? I believe this worked well, since drivers employed their own caution, skill and common sense to negotiate traffic, rather than blindly obey a set of coloured lights - everything speeded up, and possibly accidents were reduced too.

Dave_G said...


that got me thinking. The list of Government initiatives that actually WORK....???


Ravenscar. said...

You can't stop progress and collectivism - you cream faced LOON!

Forsooth! what are the public sector aristocracy and their issue going to do with themselves with no Empires to build?

I predict, a concrete block or three is on its way to you Radders, delivered by helicopter and 'dropped in', courtesy of the LGA UK.

I recommend, an Oerlikon 20 mill................and or the 'viper'.

;o) !

anon 2 said...

Ayn Rand, Radders? Ayn Rand?
Nasty, plagiarising, Anti-Christian piece of work. Not sure it ever 'worked out' anything much, except how to make money in the West.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

Portishead south of Bristol removed a set of crossroad traffic lights a few years ago = reduced accidents and virtually eliminated peak hour congestion.

Trying to get councillors and officials a few miles away locally in a different LA to pay attention to the evidence that something works better is really a Sisyphean task.

Many lumbering, blundering councils are obsessed with control and indulge in sanctimonious posturing with a censorious attitude against/towards motor vehicles. Bristol has some municipals that defy satire in their pursuit of inflicting pain on motorists.

Can we fit bus gates?
How can we arrange signage to maximise fines?

In Manchester that 6km stretch of mainly dual carriageway 30mph zone on the Princes Road arterial road feels instinctively wrong and the "forced slow" obviously throws driver concentration out the window... as they peer at the speedo trying to avoid a camera.

wiggiatlarge said...

I live on a road with a 20 mph limit, the reason it doesn't work is not the limit itself, it is simply the fact the Police will not enforce 20 zones saying they are self regulatory ? and haven't the manpower.
This despite a government edit that said they will enforce these zones a couple of years ago.
So everyone knows they are not enforced and growing minority take the piss especially certain motorcyclists who would appear to push the boundaries as to how fast they can go in what is a very confined village road with no pavements in part, 70 + no problem at all, and still no enforcement.
There is a move to have the road revert back to a 30 limit and then the police will enforce the limit, madness.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...


yep... I feel that the police are actually playing a political game here - in the knowledge that exasperating the taxpayers will eventually apply pressure to politicians to pry open more public funds.

The very obvious remedy is to allow for private enforcement and full recovery of costs. I have an ongoing parking and rat-running issue in an access only street - the police have expended loads more time + energy evading the residents than enforcing the signage. Two plods + 2 hours on a Monday morning would rake in well over £1000.