This essay was published in Bath Voice in 2021 but it remains relevant with the issue of speeding traffic in Bath.
The widespread introduction of 20 mph zones continues to be controversial, and a recent survey in Englishcombe Lane confirms, largely ignored.
Which begs the question, are these zones performing a useful function or simply virtue-signalling by the Council?
The intention behind them, to make roads safer, to reduce noise and pollution impacts and to make neighbourhoods pleasanter places to live is laudable.
The reality is, so far, the motorist has not bought into it.
In September this year, in response to a survey carried out by residents of Englishcombe Lane, the Council installed traffic speed and flow monitors.
The results of that survey confirmed our survey and are somewhat disappointing for the 20 mph proponents. .
The survey tracked some 25,000 vehicle movements over 6 days, and showed that the 85 percentile (speed at which 85% of all vehicles are travelling at or below) was 30mph, so well above the 20mph limit.
Or put slightly differently, some 16,000 vehicles exceeded 20 mph over the period.
In addition, 1% were above 35 mph, ( ie 250 vehicles in the period). 10 vehicles were also clocked at speeds above 45 mph and the highest individual speed recorded was 57 mph.
We were also able to analyse time of day speeds, and perhaps most disappointingly, average speeds rose significantly around School run time ( 8-9 am and 3-4pm), suggesting that parents have not bought in to the safety of children on the way to school.
And what if you are concerned about your neighbourhood vehicle speeds? Local speedwatch groups, backed by the Police, are sometimes used, but their effectiveness is dubious and they can be very divisive.
Our experience is that the Council needs evidence before even considering measures, so you need to gather that. Contact your local councillor and ask them to request a survey.
We found the survey team to be very responsive and the raw data was made available. Unfortunately, you will have to do the analysis yourself, so spreadsheet IT skills will be needed.
If you want to see our survey results in full and see how you can carry out your own, visit https://tinyurl.com/5hj4ct5e
So does any of this matter? There have not been any reportable accidents or incidents on this stretch of road for many years, the presence of the occasional police speed camera clearly has no impact and it is seems that the public at large, by their actions, reject the speed limit.
It is also clear that there is a disconnect between the Council actions and implementation. Recent communication confirms there is no available budget to implement prevention measures.
But surely there is simply no point in spending money on introducing these limits, if there is not the money to enforce them, either by punishment or prevention.
Perhaps the answer is to impose and enforce restrictions in areas where there are clearly higher risks –outside schools, play areas, crossings or where there are vulnerable people, rather than blanket zones which are ignored along their length.
Or adopt the U.S. style, where inside the city limits is 25 mph everywhere.
And perhaps whether you regard 20mph as bane or benefit changes, depending on whether you are behind the wheel at the time ?…..
Englishcombe Lane, Bath