We Interrupt this Broadcast…

… of sunny skies and glorious weather (high of 65°F today and counting) to bring you news of home. It turns out that our very own Papershop Village was considered and then rejected for a trial of 20mph speed limits on trunk roads. This is good news for the Muckle Toon, which is included and desperately needs it, but a bit of a blow for Papershop Village which equally needs a bit of a break. It’s bisected by Big A Road and although there’s a 30mph speed limit through the village (by no means a given around here) the traffic through it is heavy and somewhat reluctant to actually slow down.

So why hasn’t it been included? Well, Transport Scotland’s explanation is:

“…for the period of the assessment, there were no recorded vulnerable road user accidents. In addition, the nature of the carriageway does not support the use of a self-enforcing 20mph speed limit. The key objective of the proposed 20 mph limits is to improve safety for vulnerable road users and, in this instance, there is no case for reducing the speed limit.”

Hmm. Quite apart from the whole morality of basing your road designs on the body count – rather than, say, making the roads safer before somebody’s parent, child, sibling or partner has been harmed – it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. The only person I’ve ever seen crossing the road at Papershop Village is the postman, and he does it at a sprint. Hell, even I don’t cross the road at Papershop village, even though this means breaking the law (yes indeed I am one of those scofflaw cyclists you love to hate). I’m not sure how those inhabitants who live on the wrong side of Big A Road actually get to the shop – they might be better off just getting into their cars and driving there – but it’s not surprising that very few ‘vulnerable road users’ (that’s ‘people’ to you and me, by the way) have been injured because it’s not a road you’d use lightly unless you were safely in your car.

As for the ‘self-enforcing’ thing, that appears to mean ‘we’re only going to put 20mph speed limits on roads where you’d be hard pressed to do more anyway’, which makes you wonder why they bother. And besides, as I’ve said before, it would be perfectly simple to narrow the carriageway and slow the road by encouraging everyone to park in it instead of on the pavement as they do now. Traffic slows down, pavements are free to walk on, I’d be able to cycle safely on the road – everyone wins except those people who object to getting to the ferry all of 45 seconds later than they would have otherwise. Why I’ve not been put in charge of Transport Scotland by now, I will never know.

Anyway, back to sunshine and cycling and general gadding about tomorrow…

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8 Responses to We Interrupt this Broadcast…

  1. Bob says:

    Crikey. That’s insane. I felt “vulnerable” just watching the video. No comment about “Transport Scotland”. I don’t wish to use such language on your blog.

  2. disgruntled says:

    No, that’s okay, we’re no stranger to swearing on this blog. I got sacked as a cox at uni for my profanity

  3. CJ says:

    I’d vote for you if they asked me.

  4. Paul M says:

    It looks like Dumfries & Galloway County Council needs to get hip to the groove – there has been an update to the DfT Speed Limit Circular, published earlier this year.

    The old, 2006, circular was full of all the weasel words about “where feasible” etc, but it also only really blessed 20mph schemes where, as you say, they are “self-enforcing”. That translates as the average speed being 24mph or less (Circular 1/2006 para 82). (They actually express it as the mean vehicle speed – you could argue about which particular definition of “mean” is appropriate here!) In other cases where speeds are higher but there is a clear case for a 20 limit, they would recommend a zone, ie with traffic calming measures every 75m or so – good luck with that, as it costs about 60 times as much as simple signage limits. If you are now thinking “why bother”, the answer is that average speeds are not really the problem, rather the higher speeds. A 20 limit on a street where the average is currently 24mph might only reduce the average to 22.5mph, but it has a bigger effect on the “85th percentile” or speed below which 85% of traffic is moving. This could easily be significantly higher than the average, and if it can be brought down, then that 15% of egregious speeders can be made considerably less dangerous.

    Contrast this with the new circular. Firstly, the section on 20mph limits is considerably beefed up with statements of the general benefits of 20mph limits in urban and residential areas, for road safety, collision avoidance, and the general perception of pedestrian safety. Reference is made to the success of 20mph limit schemes (ie no traffic calming) such as Portsmouth. The specific comments on suitability of roads for 20mph limits (now para 95) with a very different spin: compare new –

    “If the mean speed is already at or below 24 mph on a road, introducing a 20 mph speed limit through signing alone is likely to lead to general compliance with the new speed limit. “

    With the old –

    “20 mph speed limits are, therefore, only suitable in areas where vehicle speeds are already low (the Department would suggest where mean vehicle speeds are 24 mph or below), or where additional traffic calming measures are planned as part of the strategy.”

    Although the compliance issue is still addressed, there is no longer the emphasis on the need for self-policing (because Plod isn’t going to get off its fat *rse and do its job).

    Mind you, if D&GCC hasn’t “read the memo yet”, never fear, Surrey County Council never got round to reading the 2006 memo, let alone the 2013 version.

    And on the subject of car ferries, if you use them, have you noticed how the airport security culture is being to spread to ferry terminals, and indeed to some trains? Now, a bomb anywhere could be a very dangerous thing, and on airliners clearly the danger is too catastrophic to be allowed to pass, but on a ship or a train I would have thought the danger is no worse than it is on buses, in a shopping centre or a pub. Operators don’t do scans and searches for explosives because they represent much real danger, certainly compared with the expense and inconvenience of the security operations, but I assume they do it to re-assure passengers that they are thinking of their safety. Subjective safety, in other words.

    How come we don’t see the same thinking when it comes to roads?

  5. disgruntled says:

    Ah, can’t blame the cooncil for this one – it’s a trunk road, hence Transport Scotland who still seem to be singing the ‘self enforcing’ tune.

    Not sure I’d like to be on a ferry where a bomb had gone off … too many memories of the Herald of Free Enterprise

  6. Andy says:

    To be honest, looking at that video it’s not just speed but volume of vehicles, and their type, that’s the problem. It’s something only a bypass would solve (really, in this day and age, we shouldn’t have trunk roads, i.e. long distance strategic routes, going through any town or village). Unfortunately road building is the Devil’s work.

  7. disgruntled says:

    That is true – the speed of the traffic is the least of Langholm’s problems, although the geography of the area would make a bypass incredibly difficult without lots of tunnelling. More to the point though is why so much of that freight is on the road when it would be much better carried on rail.

    • Andy says:

      I’m not familiar with the town – I’ve only had a look on Streetview, but you seem to have the advantage of public car parks to the north and south of the town centre. Imagine running them as small park and ride facilities using a shopper bus, with the A7 from the junction with Thomas Telford Road to the petrol station either a shared space or a solely pedestrian/cycle area (aside from the bus). In terms of ‘place’ there even appears to be a ready made ‘market square’ (albeit small) where the pharmacy is located. That would surely be an even more attractive place to live/work/visit. Unfortunately, such a scheme would need that bypass and a huge amount of political will – no amount of simple calming would get you there.

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