Too fast

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 26.

‘The Authority concluded that the advertisement could encourage speeding and was irresponsible. It… told them not to use the advertisement again and to consult the Committee of Advertising Practice copy advice team before advertising again.’

We are pleased to tell you that the first complaint we made to the Advertising Standards Authority about a Peugeot advert (see Newsletter 25), has been upheld. The advert showed a speed camera sign with a long lens and a blurred car, which we felt promoted an irresponsible attitude towards speed. We’re happy that the Authority agreed.

Another complaint about a second Peugeot advert is still going through the system, and we’ll be able to tell you the result next time. However, very recently, the same picture (a splash of water from a puddle with no car in sight, suggesting the car has disappeared into the distance before the water had time to fall), has been re-used but with different wording.

Public issue

Most drivers seem to respond to flashing 30mph signs in Harston, which come on when higher speeds are detected

In the last few weeks the issue of excessive and slower speeds has had quite a lot of publicity. Indeed the Daily Mail ran speeding fines it as its lead story on 14 September: ‘Fined for 1 mph over limit,’ the implication of the headline being that this was absurd. The same week, Radio 4’s Today programme had items on speed and road safety every day. Paul Manning, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, spoke out about illegal road behaviour in the Crime and Disorder Act consultations earlier in the year, and wants to see more money put into enforcement.

The reason for this rush of publicity was a discussion paper on speed policy published by the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions as part of their current review. This review should ultimately change laws on speeding, the way speed limits are enforced, and hopefully speed limits themselves.

The discussion paper asks for opinions on their analysis, saying (with my comments in italics) that:

  • quite small increases in speed, especially in urban areas, increase risk exponentially (very significant from cyclists’ and pedestrians’ points of view)
  • except at very low speeds, the objectives of safety and emission control (gases and noise) can be achieved by lower speeds
  • motorists have a poor appreciation of what the limits are, and are inclined to make their own decisions about speed from what they see
  • the economic effects of a given speed reduction are smaller at higher speeds than at lower speeds
  • reducing speeds driven in urban areas and villages is important, but lower speed limits alone are not likely to be effective without supporting measures, given the widespread disregard for existing speed limits (this is a tough one, as the cost of enforcement grows really large when you have to make lots of physical changes in the street, or install speed cameras; however returning some of the income from speed cameras can help to pay for them, a commitment already made by the Government)
  • in rural areas fewer car drivers exceed the speed limit – therefore it is more a matter of persuading them to drive at speeds appropriate to the road traffic and conditions (see Charter for Country Lanes below)
  • there is a need for speed reduction in places where there may be pedestrians, cyclists and other unprotected road users present (well, I’m likely to be present on my bike on any road in the area, except the M11 and perhaps the A14!)

There’s undoubtedly a real resistance among motorists to going slower, even to slow down to current speed limits.

Charter for Country Lanes

We distributed a flier for the Council for Protection of Rural England’s Charter for Country Lanes in Newsletter 23 . Supported by CPRE and its Welsh and Scottish equivalents, the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club), British Horse Society, Ramblers Association and the Pedestrians Association, it calls on the Government to tame country lanes (see box).

Helen Brinton, MP for Peterborough and champion of Home Zones in the House of Commons, has introduced a ten-minute rule Bill in the Parliament to promote the Charter. Such bills don’t become law, but offer an opportunity for an issue to reach the House, and in particular in this case to influence the Government’s speed review.

Some tentative experiments are also underway. In north Norfolk, a group of rural roads are being designated ‘quiet roads’. They are having priorities reversed, so that motor vehicles give way to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. This is as much an exercise in changing attitudes to roads that are currently used as rural rat-runs. At present I don’t believe there is the legislation to allow this to be enforced. Similar experiments are planned for Kent and East Devon.

Image as described adjacent

Oxfordshire is to follow Suffolk’s example in introducing 30 mph speed limits through all its villages. Cambridgeshire has no intention at the moment of introducing such a policy, though it argues that most of its villages already have speed limits.

Norfolk was also among the first to introduce ‘speed responsive signs’. A road sign lights up with flashing lights if a motorist is detected exceeding the speed limit. We now have these signs in Cambridgeshire too: in Harston, where the Highways Agency installed six signs recently as part of the traffic calming scheme on the A10 (which is, in other respects, quite appalling for cyclists, as previously reported).

The effect of the signs is quite dramatic, especially the first one on entry to the village from the south. Traffic speed in the village has noticeably reduced, and you can see how drivers brake when the first sign lights up. There are a few drivers who treat the signs as a challenge, to get them to light up, but they seem to get held up behind people who are taking them seriously. Overtaking is hard, given the multitude of central islands, but not impossible. Last week, for example, the occupants of an old Cortina gave me a mouthful of abuse as they passed me from two cars behind, having been held up briefly while I went through one of the islands. They then cut up the cars in front waiting at traffic lights, overtaking in the right turn lane and cutting in, in the tapering section of the following island. Irresponsibility on the road at its worst.

David Earl

Have you been verbally abused by passing motorists? Send us your examples.

The Charter For Country Lanes calls on national and local Government to:

  • Ensure lower speeds on country lanes and reduce the speed limit of 60 mph to a maximum of 40 mph, with 20 mph limits in villages
  • Introduce a new ‘category’ of country lane where walkers, cyclists and riders would have priority over motorists, like Home Zones in urban areas
  • Allow different styles of traffic management scheme which suit the rural environment
  • Stop the spread of new developments which encourage traffic growth
  • Provide real transport choice in the countryside through better public transport and local services and by providing a safe environment for cycling, walking and riding