Councillors Reminded They Opted for Low Key Signage of 20 MPH Limits

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011. 2:00pm

This 20mph street in Saffron Walden has no speed humps / tables / cushions.It is very clearly signed!

Cambridge councillors opted against clear signs like these (from Saffron Walden) for the city centre 20 MPH limits. (Image Source [My Photo!])

I observed Cambridge City Council’s West/Central Area Committee on Tuesday the 21st of June 2011. Councillors were presented with the results of speed surveys showing at best that introducing new 20 MPH limits in the city centre had made no difference, and possibly that speeds had actually risen. The average speeds recorded since new signs put up were greater than those before they were put up. It was noted that there may be seasonal (traffic volume / weather) factors at play as well as the new signs.

Council officer Andrew Mr Preston reminded councillors that it was them who insisted the new 20MPH limit signage be as low key as possible.

Cllr Bick showed he grasped the problem with his, and his colleagues’, previous decision as he said:

You can’t have low key signs and get the message across.

Councillors, and the public, discussed options including moving signs further into the streets – away from the junctions where drivers are busy negotiating the junction, as well as painting the speed limit on the road surface.

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha said that it was eighteen months after starting to use Grange Road (which is in her Newnham Constituency) that she realised a 20MPH applied there. I don’t think I would know from driving around the city where the new 20 limits are, I know what I do mainly from attending council meetings, reading the papers and actively looking for the signs where I’ve been told to expect them.

Cllr Hipkin has been reported in the Cambridge News has having said the the 20MPH experiment should be scrapped; to be fair what he said was that on the basis of the evidence in-front of them showing the speeds had increased it should be scrapped. I don’t think he necessarily accepted the evidence was any good and ought be acted upon.

Cllr Hipkin also said that drivers tend to obey 50 mph limits for roadworks when they can see roadworks underway because they understand the point. The implication being perhaps that he sees no point in driving at 20 MPH down streets such as Maid’s Causeway.

John Lawton of the Brunswick and North Kite Residents Association told the committee they were running “community speedwatch” cameras.

New councillor, Phillip Tucker, questioned why councillors had left Victoria Avenue out of the 20MPH limits. No councillors, or officers, could explain. (The reason given when the new limits were brought in was “its environment is very different to the rest of the Core area”).

A discussion about how government guidence about 20MPH zones had changed took place. Officer Mr Preston said that 20 MPH zones (as opposed to limits) still needed traffic calming measures associated with them, but that the amount of such features had been reduces. Council leader Sian Reid said she’d met the minister responsible and he had said something different to her – that 20MPH zones are to be permitted without traffic calming.

Cllr Julie Smith said she would like to see the whole city covered by a 20 MPH zone; I tweeted this live and ex Cllr Chris Howell noted this would make travel rather tedious on those elements of the M11 motorway which fall within the city boundaries!

My View

I’m very keen on making the city’s roads as safe as possible. I cycle through the city on a daily basis.

I think that if we are to have 20MPH zones/limits they need to be more clearly marked. I’d like to see things like painting the road red on the entrances to the areas, “gateways” on the way in for example, cobbled strips, and road designs reflecting the high proportion of cycle and pedestrian usage – changing the feel of the city centre roads. I think these types of change are more important, and would be more effective than simply changing the limits.

I am concerned that if the new limits are enforced with the current signage / road environment we will see people getting disproportionate and unfair punishments for offences such as driving down Maids Causeway at 35 MPH. I think the police are right to be urging councillors to make 20MPH limits largely self-enforcing (I support occasional enforcement as on all other roads).

The idea that people will get used to the new limits and learn about them as a result of enforcement activity is in my view not reasonable, as we have to consider those visiting the city for the first time.

See Also

6 comments/updates on “Councillors Reminded They Opted for Low Key Signage of 20 MPH Limits

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Cambridge Cycling Campaign wrote to councillors in advance of the meeting, commenting on the 20MPH limits and the speeding statistics.

    They’ve made their letter available: (PDF)

    The letter from the campaign was not mentioned during the debate.

    The campaign points to flaws in the 20 MPH limit implementation:

    • insufficient publicity to increase levels of public awareness
    • inadequate signage for the new areas with 20mph limits
    • insufficient police support and willingness to enforce the 20mph limits.
  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Minister’s 9th June 2011 announcemnt on the changes to the rules for 20 MPH zones is available via this link.

    It states:

    The [proposed] changes include:

    • Expanding the list of specified traffic calming measures allowable in 20 mph zones to include repeater signs and mini-roundabouts. This would allow zones to be introduced with fewer road humps or chicanes where appropriate;
    • Allowing local authorities to use speed limit symbols painted on roads more often as repeater signs in 20 mph zones and limits. Upright signs will still be required to indicate the start and end of 20 mph schemes.
    • Allowing local authorities to place signs at the entry and exit of variable speed limits – e.g. outside schools – on only one side of the road rather than on both sides of the road as is currently the case;
    • Allowing the use of either flashing warning lights or specified flashing lights with a static sign at the entry to variable speed limits which are cheaper for councils to buy;
    • Allowing the use of a sign design for advisory 20 mph limits using flashing school warning lights.
    • Councils will now be able to request council-wide authorisations for these measures to be used in 20 mph schemes on residential roads where cost-benefit analysis has shown that such schemes would be worthwhile. This will mean that councils can apply these measures without getting approval from Government in each case.
  3. John Lawton

    The County don’t have any reason now other than financial for not adding road markings to the 20mph signage. It’s curious that putting a large 20mph road marking in Mill Road was possible, but not in Maids Causeway or elsewhere, even though BruNK specifically requested that they did (and I think we were right to do so).

    Perhaps the City Council will find some EIP (Environmental Improvement) funding to do this if the County can’t. Unfortunately, recently all the road markings in MC area were reapplied as part of regular maintenance so the opportunity has been lost to do it as part of that work. I’m not holding my breath……

  4. Amedeo Felix

    I would like to see clearer signage. I would also like to see some policing of the 20mph limits! I cycle through Cambridge every day to and from the station, and car drivers don’t even keep under 30mph never mind 20 on 20 mph roads – I know this because I drive and also have a speed-o on my bike so I know well what 20 looks like and what speeds like 40 look like, which is what many a car does on 20 roads in Cambridge city centre!

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