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Update 23/9/2003 : Link to Cheshire Safety Camera Partnership


Village Matters: Speed Management Review

Presentation by David Thomas, Highways Department, Cheshire County Council at the Methodist Chapel, Acton Bridge on Thursday 10. January 2002

Report by Steve Pardoe, Acton Bridge PC

The presentation was arranged by Cllr Mrs Anne Hooker, and attended by a dozen or so members of local Parish Councils, including Acton Bridge, Crowton, Dutton, and Sutton Weaver. The objective was to allow for an informed discussion on issues relating to speed limits and speed management. Mr Thomas showed a series of computer slides, accompanied by a very instructive commentary. He encouraged questions, and gave thoughtful and constructive answers as the presentation progressed. This was followed by a more open question and answer session, in which those attending had an opportunity to express their points of view.

Mr Thomas handed out slide printouts at the end of the show, which were later circulated to members of the Parish Council. What follows is therefore just a summary of my notes and some of the salient points from the presentation.

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Mr Thomas started by pointing out that speed management is as much about quality of life as it is about reducing accidents, although accidents were the main concern of the Police. Other concerns include anxiety about perceived risks; community severance; noise, vibration and pollution; and especially the effects on young, very old, and otherwise vulnerable read users.

National speed limit policy is generally prescribed in a DTLR publication "Circular Roads 1/93", with additional information in the Traffic Advisory Leaflets TA 1/95 (signs) and TA 9/99 (20mph zones). The DETR issued "New Directions in Speed Management" in March 2000. A new National Policy is under review, but since this is some time away, Cheshire CC are considering their own Interim Policy, so that some progress can be made locally.

Existing speed limits are usually lowered only when a consequent reduction in driving speed can be expected : the most important factor is how the road appears to the user. This is the thinking behind traffic calming measures, for example narrowing the road at the entrance to a village. There are the effects of wearing seat belts, cars having better brakes, sound insulation and so on (the "car-coon" effect), which detach the driver from some aspects of the vehicle's speed. Several academic studies were quoted. Enforcement and penalties were widely considered to amount to no real deterrent. There is a strong "road lobby" and there has been resistance to the introduction of cameras and other enforcement techniques, which are often regarded as punitive rather than educative.

Where there is a call for lower speed limits, surveys are carried out, and if it is found that 85% of traffic is travelling within 7mph or 20% of the proposed new limit, it may be introduced. It appears that signage to reduce the speed by a greater degree than this will simply not be obeyed. Mr Thomas presented a range of statistics on drivers' statements of their driving habits, as opposed to measured patterns of behaviour. He pointed out several inconsistencies, including the fact that the same people who demanded lower traffic speeds in their villages were often culprits, even in their own village!

A number of speed management methods were discussed, including interactive signs which flash if they are approached at excessive speed, such as the one at Church Minshull. These signs are effective to some extent, but very expensive (5,000 or more per sign) and require an electricity supply, which is not always readily available. So-called "hard engineering" (speed bumps and so on) is very effective, but can cause problems for utility vehicles, as well as having a serious environmental impact (for example, traffic accelerating and decelerating to negotiate humps, and its rather brutal appearance). In some cases, hard engineering can do more harm than good, by encouraging drivers to overtake recklessly, or to use "rat runs" to avoid it.

17/1/2002//SJP (updated for the Website 14/5/2002)

Update 23/9/2003 : Link to Cheshire Safety Camera Partnership


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