Following the summer break and silly season (okay, quite a long one since the last post) and a bit of a Twitter hiatus (easy to get out of the habit of checking!) the Revolt has become increasingly concerned about the amount of speeding on our local roads and the recent introduction of more 20mph zones is now exacerbating the problem. The worst problems had been on the major routes – Shooter’s Hill, A2, Lee Road, Lee High Road, Burnt Ash Road – where drivers routinely ignore the speed limit. Now anyone walking or driving in the new 20mph zones can’t help but notice that very few drivers abide by the new limit.
This is no surprise. There appears to be little to no enforcement which then makes a mockery of the speed limit. Certainly this Radical’s experience both driving and on foot in the 20mph zone that stretches through Hither Green and Lee is that most ignore a zone that has been in place for many years. Much traffic heading across the heath on the A2 or up Shooter’s Hill seem to treat it as 40mph, as they do on the A20 through to Lewisham. This is not just ‘outsiders’ and people passing through as many locals choose to ignore the limit too. It is a disgrace that so many drivers of all vehicles – although of greatest concerns are the larger vehicles, including TfL buses – can and do regularly get away with speeding.
What is the point of a 20mph zone if it is not enforced? The Revolt is not against 20mph (and has been abiding by the new limit). We know the difference just a few miles an hour makes in an accident with a pedestrian. The Revolt supports 20mph where it is appropriate, such as around schools and narrow roads, and where resources can be focused to enforce it. Reducing the speed limit in such an unfocused way (or as a response to speeding) risks being seen as tokenistic rather than actually being effective. Targeted zones can have a greater impact as drivers are more likely to take note of and be more inclined to slow down for a short stretch of 20mph than a large zone. Lewisham Council’s reasoning is here.
Which brings us back to the main problem, regardless of the limit, of speeding. It appears that many drivers believe they can get away with speeding because they see no risk of being caught. The odd speed camera is not a deterrence – as we all know someone speeding will slow for the camera and speed up again. Speed bumps have some impact but many simply accelerate between them or for the square bumps take dangerous action to avoid them.
The Council and police need to work closely together if we want to reduce speeding in the area. Where were patrols as the new 20mph was introduced? Every day in those first couple of weeks this Radical was amazed by the lack of any sort of monitoring. And let us be clear, we are not talking about the odd speeding car but the vast majority of vehicles flouting the new 20mph limit. At the very least pulling drivers over to alert them to the new limit would have been good. A particular concern is also that many bus drivers speed in 30mph zones and seem to be unaware of the new 20mph limits (your Radical had a bus race up behind whilst doing 20mph on Prince of Wales Road). There is no doubt some worker’s rights reason is deployed why it is not sensible to regularly monitor bus maximum speeds but that frankly should not be acceptable.
The Revolt would hope our local representatives and the police are aware of the many spots people speed but is there anything the public can do to help? The Revolt has been tempted to name and shame commercial vehicles seen speeding as the company may be willing to act against drivers. Can we do more to report and map the worst areas and to report buses speeding but what could the authorities do with that information? And no, let’s not have the answer as more ‘traffic calming’. As noted, the new zones and existing speed bumps are not the panacea some will claim. Just take a walk down Lee Park where there remains plenty of speeding despite speed bumps and the new 20mph limit, or sit in Halcyon books on Lee High Road for an hour to see what difference a couple of speed cameras make. Would targeted 20mph zones have greater effect with drivers taking notice? The Revolt expects that 20mph zones are here to stay and it seems that in London at least, many councils are now introducing blanket 20mph areas with little thought to their relevance or effectiveness.
The Revolt is aware that the answer will almost certainly be resources for enforcement (not more signs and zones) and speeding will be a low priority. A good experiment would be to monitor speeds on some of the routes mentioned as well as in the new zones. A week of focused police resources on enforcement might also make the point that speeding is a problem as well as catch a good number of drivers. That will only highlight the problem but might spur some thought, proposals, and action to deal with this epidemic.