Cambridgeshire Councillor Buys His Own Speed Camera

Thursday, December 19th, 2013. 9:35pm

Councillor Michael Shellens (Liberal Democrat, Godmanchester and Huntingdon East) told Cambridgeshire County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 19th of December 2013 that he has bought his own speed camera.

Councillors were responding to a public question on parish councils and the ‘speed watch’ scheme which sees volunteers using speed guns provided by the police to note the speeds of vehicles; the police can then send warning letters to the owners of vehicles the volunteers record as speeding.

Cllr Shellens said:

I have had many many concerns expressed to me about speeding particularly on Sapley road in Huntingdon which is a downhill straight road with extremely annoying chicanes and I was so annoyed I bought my own speed camera and so I am able to stand by the side of the road. I don’t ask anybody’s permission. I do not have a big yellow jacket on so I am invisible to the drivers and I record the speeds.

What I would like to suggest is that we carry out an anonymous before and after survey ie. we go out with dirty macs on which hide the speed gun, stand by the side of the road, in a particular place, I don’t care where, take the readings, follow that up with speed watch, go back a fortnight, a month later, three months later and compare the figures. Because if you can produce evidence that this actually makes a lasting difference it is extremely hard for both the police and anybody else to say no.

I think Cllr Shellens has a grain of a good idea in there; but his proposed implementation, as described, is monty-pythonesque.

Cambridgeshire Police have a number of pieces of equipment for surveying the speeds on roads unobtrusively; they have some kit which uses detectors placed across the road, and some which uses RADAR and can be mounted on lampposts. Such technology records the speeds of all vehicles over a period.

I have written about the results of such a survey on Fen Road in Cambridge, the survey there involved recording the speeds of 31,000 cars, 24 hours a day, over a period of seven days. Clearly a much more comprehensive survey than that Cllr Shellens can undertake with his speed gun under his coat.

Following lobbying from me in 2009 the police publish some of the data they collect online at:

Cllr Shellens is a member of Cambrigeshire’s Police and Crime Panel (as well as the County Council’s scrutiny committee responsible for policing). I would like to see those councillors responsible for the oversight of policing better informed about what technology is available to the police.

I have written previously about police priority setting in Huntingdonshire. If we had democratically set policing priorities there; with well informed councillors taking the decisions, they could direct the police’s speed monitoring technology to areas of concern initially to determine if a suspected problem really exists (or to characterise it); then as Cllr Shellens suggests, monitor the impact of any intervention.

No councillors at the meeting appeared aware of the technology available to the police which would render Cllr Shellens’ madcap scheme redundant.

3 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Councillor Buys His Own Speed Camera

  1. David

    I’ve re-read your previous articles, and it seems the problems with the alternatives were:
    - accuracy of the data (20 mph average speed recorded on Fen Road and 1,000 disappearing cars)
    - wrong set up of the experiment (putting the speed camera next to a speed hump on the slowest section of the road rather than where the problem was)
    - difficulty in obtaining the figures afterwards

    I don’t think Cllr Shellens’ suggestion is madcap or redundant at all if it overcomes the above issues.

    Also I believe many drivers instinctively slow down for the any visible speed recording equipment so it gives false results.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      While there can be problems with the deployment of police technology it’s clearly better in my view to systematically and automatically collect data comprehensively over a period of a few days rather than have someone sporadically going out with a speed gun, manually taking speed readings.

      As with many aspects of policing robust oversight from the public, and especially elected reps, asking questions for example about the precise locations of the equipment can help improve the data collected. Any councillors requesting future deployments have the benefit of the experience gained to-date and can ensure they specify arrangements for the publication of the data and details of the collection.

      The police survey equipment described be it the RADAR equipment mounted on lamp posts or the sensors laid accross the road is not something drivers will be aware of.

      Another example of the deployment of the equipment can be seen at

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