Police Not to Enforce New City Centre 20 MPH Limit


Friday, August 27th, 2010. 12:30am


Confusing new speed limit signage in Cambridge

Confusing new speed limit signage in Cambridge. (Now fixed thanks to FixMyStreet).

In Cambridge City Centre a 20 MPH speed limit now applies to all roads, apart from Victoria Avenue, within an area bound by the inner ring road (East Road though Lensfield Road to Fen Causeway) and the River Cam. The inner ring road itsself retains a 30MPH limit. The Cambridge Historic Centre (20 MPH Speed Limit) Order 2010 imposing the new “zone” came into force on the 12th of April 2010. Despite it now being four months after the order, signage marking the area has only gone up in the last week or so and is currently being tweaked.

At the West Central Area Committee on the 26th of August 2010 the County Councillor for most of the area covered, Liberal Democrat Sarah Whitebread, proposed adding a new policing priority to get the police to enforce the new speed limits.

Police Sergeant Jane Drury looked worried when this suggestion was made. She turned to her boss, Inspector Steve Kerridge, and said:

Sorry to put you on the spot Sir, but we’re not enforcing it yet are we?

While waiting for the Inspector to gather his thoughts and stand up the Sergeant expanded her comment saying:

I am under the impression the new 20MPH limits are a trial and we’re not enforcing it because if we enforce it we don’t know if the signage alone is sufficient or if we need to enforce.”

When Inspector Kerridge spoke he waffled a lot about the fact enforcement of 20MPH speed limits had been discussed a lot at area committee meetings, but he didn’t deny what his Sergeant had told councillors and the public. He appeared not to be completely ruling out enforcement action should councillors make it a priority, saying there were approaches which could be taken.

Following the police’s statement that they were not enforcing the new limits as part of the “trial” Cllr Whitebread failed to get support from any of her her fellow councillors and enforcing the new 20 MPH limit was not set as a police priority.

No councillors questioned if publicly stating the new zones were not going to be enforced by the police was part of the plan, or might change drivers’ behaviour.

Public Question

During the open forum a member of the public, Andrea Ryan, spoke to suggest better signage of the 20MPH “zone” where it starts at the city end of Victoria Avenue; she told the committee the signs were too close to the roundabout at a point where drivers would be concentrating on dealing with the roundabout. She asked councillors to consider prioritising enforcing the speed limit, especially in relation to buses, on Short Street and Emmanuel Road.

County Officer Mr Preston spoke to say the signage complied with regulations.

Cllr Hipkin asked for more information on the police’s view of enforcement. The inspector told the committee that the East Area had raised it as a priority and said that in that area “we are currently having discussions with them regarding speedwatch and traditional options available to us”.

Cllr Whitebread asked about busses, particularly on Maid’s Causeway. The police inspector responded to say they had a good relationship with Stagecoach. Cllr Whitebread asked if Stagecoach had educated their drivers about the change; the answer to this question wasn’t known.

A County Council officer who introduced himself as the “Park and Ride Manager” said that he had staff undertaking speed checks and they had spent twenty days monitoring Maid’s Causeway and Trumpington Street.

Member of the public Mr Lawton spoke to compare the city’s 20 MPH signs with the kind of speed limit signs seen elsewhere. He noted the 30MPH limit in Histon was signed with the speed limit signs mounted on large bright yellow rectangles. He suggested the county council had been “rather grudging with the profile given to the new limits”.

The Leader of the Council, Liberal Democrat Sian Reid told the committee she hadn’t seen the signs in question (by which I believe she meant the 20 MPH limit signs at the Maid’s Causeway / Victoria Avenue roundabout). She added that she had been campaigning against the proliferation of signs, and defended the county council who she said were treading a fine line [between signing the area and introducing clutter]. Cllr Reid then made a really bizarre contribution to the debate she said:

I’m not sure signs work. I’m not sure people see information and obey it.

Cllr Reid didn’t offer any suggestion of how she expected drivers to learn of speed limits which were in-force if not through signs. If what she was saying was a clunky way of suggesting speed reduction in the City Centre ought not be by speed limits at all, but though changes to the road environment to discourage speeding, then I would agree with her entirely.

Tackling Speeding Buses

In a section of the meeting discussing air quality in Cambridge, County Council officers reported they were actively doing speed checks on buses every week. They said that they obtained details of many buses going at 25 MPH and the fastest one they’d got was going at 29 MPH (Presumably in the new 20 “zone”). They then reported these instances to the bus operators, who they said disciplined drivers.

As there is no joined up government, and the City Council is responsible for licensing taxis whereas the county regulates buses, it appears the county officers take no action with respect to speeding taxis.

See Also

27 comments/updates on “Police Not to Enforce New City Centre 20 MPH Limit

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I think Maid’s Causeway is an odd road to have been included in the 20 MPH limits in this batch.

    I don’t think it ought to have been treated differently from Victoria Avenue.

    I think Maid’s Causeway, even more than the other roads, really needs physical changes to reduce speeds rather than just signs.

    I’d like to see Victoria Avenue and Maid’s Causeway, at least as they go around Midsummer Common, given a different feel; along the lines of “park roads” which are seen around the country. The surface could be switched to something along the lines of a light coloured bonded gravel, or a red road, and road markings removed. I would carry the same theme down Chesterton Road/Lane between Magdalene College and the Staples roundabout.

  2. John Lawton

    Thanks for this very prompt report! I was very disappointed in the lack of interest by city councillors in the new speed limits which should make life more pleasant for residents and visitors to the city.

    I was grateful for the support of Cllr Whitebread in her move to get policing of speeds, and the police inspector did suggest that road safety could have been added to the list of police priorities, but the councillors weren’t able to grasp what he was meaning and didn’t take this up. Again, very disappointing.

    Regarding the street environment, I understand your ideas about modifying the environment to reduce speeds, however you try getting anything like that from the County Council! The local residents in Maid’s Causeway fought for a level crossing seven years before it was finally agreed to. That is what I described as a grudging attitude.

  3. Ben Harris

    It’s probably best not to use the word “zone” in reference to the area covered by the new 20mph limit, since the County have deliberately not signed it as a 20mph zone (which would have signs like the ones at the top of the article) but as a plain 20mph limit (which has circular terminal signs and repeaters along affected roads).

    Meanwhile, since there seems to be interest in the correctness of the signage, I might do a quick survey of it at the weekend. I’ve already spotted some minor mistakes, as well as the blatant one on Free School Lane.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    Ben,

    Thanks for stressing that and pointing out the differences. I was careful to introduce the article saying describing the new limits as covering roads within an area rather than jumping straight to using the word zone. When I did come to use the word zone I placed it in inverted commas, as a nod to the subtleties which you’ve mentioned.

  5. John Lawton

    Yes, a pretty bizarre moment. Actually of course they didn’t enforce the old 30mph limit very much either. The Police Sergeant said that her group was on foot patrol, so they wouldn’t be very effective against moving traffic offences, unless they happened to be particularly athletic!

    I have never heard any police at these meetings talking on transport issues who had any authority to offer policing of moving traffic (i.e. car / motorbike patrols). They just seem to pick the soft targets like cyclists in Burleigh/Fitzroy street.

    I am still in shock over last night’s meeting where the other councillors simply could not focus on the third policing priority even though it had been proposed, and just lost the opportunity to have any priority on road safety policing. They didn’t seem interested.

    As a resident on a road plagued by fast traffic, I just despair. The trial 20mph limit cannot be an experiment where the speed limit is not to be enforced. The police must apportion adequate effort to enforcing the law, whatever the limit. Surely that is their duty?

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    John,

    As I understood it a third priority was set, it wasn’t the one Cllr Sarah Whitebread proposed though.

    As I understood it they added “Anti-social vehicle behaviour”. Cllr Brookes-Gordon gave the one-off example of someone under-taking her in the bus line while she was driving down Huntingdon Road. Councillors gave effectively no guidance to the police about what they saw as a problem. They effectively scrubbed the “across Market Ward” from their previous “Vehicle-related anti-social behaviour (ASB) across Market Ward” priority.

    When they added the priority I was tempted to heckle them and ask them to ensure the police didn’t abuse S.59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 in the West Central Area in the same way they have been doing in the North.

  7. John Lawton

    Yes Richard, that is my recollection too. The remarks by Cllr Brookes-Gordon derailed the attempt by Cllr Whitebread to get any action. The problem seemed to be that the other councillors weren’t interested in this issue.

    I wish that you had heckled, and for that matter I regret not having protested about this at the time. I was stunned actually at the turn of events.

    Curiously in the Cambridge news today, “Police ‘won’t enforce city 20mph zone’” an article quotes Cllr Bick as previously calling for the ‘zone’ to be monitored, http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Police-wont-enforce-city-20mph-zone.htm but he didn’t call for this in the meeting.

    If the police don’t monitor speeds then they won’t enforce the limit. The County Council officer responsible for the bus partnership implied that there might be speed monitoring in Maid’s Causeway / Newmarket Road, (for buses) so we will see.

    I am thinking that the http://www.speed-watch.org/ SpeedWatch scheme (that was mentioned by Inspector Kerridge might be useful for residents to highlight the level of speeding in their areas. In fact I felt that his contribution on this to the meeting were much more helpful that that of many of the councillors. As far as action is concerned, it looks like aggravated residents will have to do it for themselves (as usual).

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cllr Bick is quoted in the Cambridge News article as saying:

    “It needs to be enforced, otherwise it is just down to voluntary compliance.”

    I think it is shocking given his silence on the matter, and failure to support Cllr Whitebread at the meeting. Cllr Bick is saying one thing to his constituents via the paper doing another when he’s speaking and voting on the police priorities.

    The police inspector has said that the third priority set was:

    anti-social use of vehicles, with particular regard to speeding

    I don’t think the “particular regard to speeding” element was in-fact agreed by councillors. We won’t have an official record of what was agreed for weeks now as the Lib Dems like ambiguity and secrecy and refuse to publish decision notices after meetings even for important matters such as police priorities (they don’t even do it when there are planning / licensing decisions with massive public interest in them). The West/Central area committee didn’t take as much care over setting the priorities as the East and North have been doing recentyly; there they debate the precise wording and take ensure the police are aware of what they are being asked to do.

    Lastly the Cambridge News article quotes the Inspector as saying the “public has requested” the policing priority. The police appear stubbornly unwilling to publicise the fact that in Cambridge local councillors set the policing priorities democratically (though its up to the police to decide what, if any, action they take in respect of them).

    Overall I think my article is an accurate reflection of what happened at the meeting; the Cambridge-News article shows the Police, County Council and councillors trying to back-track after having decided on a course of action which doesn’t look very good when revealed to the public.

    I think it is excellent the Cambridge-News have been able to run with their accurate “Police ‘won’t enforce city 20mph zone” headline, despite the police and councillors’ attempts to spin things differently. The fact that there will, as the article says, be “no proactive policing” is key.

  9. Ed

    If the speed limit isn’t being enforced, perhaps it’s because, as far as I’m aware, only one company makes speed-guns that detect speeds as low as between 20-30mph. The Cambridge police would have to get new speed-guns.

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    While the Cambridge News rarely publish comments I make on their articles I have submitted the following:

    I attended the West/Central area committee and have written an article on what the police said there:

    http://rtaylor.co.uk/3406

    The police explained the new 20MPH limits are a trial and said: “we’re not enforcing it because if we enforce it we don’t know if the signage alone is sufficient or if we need to enforce.”

    Cllr Sarah Whitebread proposed setting enforcing the 20MPH limits as a police priority but received no support from any of the other councillors.

  11. Adam Brookes

    It seems that the council’s legal department doesn’t understand the difference between “its” and “it’s”. I note that schedule to the order includes “Newmarket Road (between it’s junctions with Maid’s Causeway and Elizabeth Way roundabout)”.

  12. John Lawton

    I have just checked the minutes of the meeting held on the 26th August. The pdf created on the 6th September states:

    “Councillor Whitebread proposed the following additional priority:
    - Speeding and anti-social use of vehicles

    Decision: APPROVED (by 7 votes to 0 – unanimously) the following
    priorities for the next reporting period:
    - Continuation of work to tackle anti-social congregation in public spaces
    across Market Ward.
    - Reducing cycle thefts across City Ward.
    - Speeding and anti-social use of vehicles.”

    Not quite what I remember being agreed, but there we are :)

    Last Thursday morning 21st September I noticed an Atkins traffic survey car driving up and down Maids Causeway / Newmarket Road West at 20mph (with a tail of traffic behind). I am not sure of their modus operandi, as surely they were influencing the very traffic speeds that they were attempting to measure…. but it looks like the County is looking to survey speeds.

    Maybe even the police will take an interest now they have had a priority set. If they get out there early morning or late evening they should be able to catch quite a few vehicles exceeding 40mph, never mind 30mph. The limit is 20mph.

  13. Richard Taylor Article author

    Speeding and anti-social use of vehicles was a previous priority which the police were suggesting ought not be continued.

    Cllr Whitebread sought a new priority specifically relating to the 20MPH limits and that failed to get support.

    I agree the minutes have got this wrong.

    Another key omission from the minutes is Mr Bowen’s question about when the promised tree strategy meeting will be held.

    The minutes for the meeting are better than the usual standard though; despite the errors and omissions.

  14. Richard Taylor Article author

    The council’s draft minutes are now available:

    http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/democracy/Published/C00000117/M00000383/$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

    They state that: “speeding and anti-social use of vehicles” was set as a priority by councillors.

    The police webpage linked above makes no mention of the secret “Neighbourhood Action Group” which reviews priorities set at Area Committees and decides which ones to accept. I would like to see the police report on all priorities set by councillors, and if they have not been able to act on them, for them to explain why not. For the police simply to silently drop a priority in this way is not acceptable.

    I have written previously about the NAG; the North Area Committee and the council’s central strategy and resources committee are both awaiting reports on the ex, and hopefully current, council leaders’ efforts to address the problem of the Neighbourhood Action Groups (and the police’s insistence on using confusing and inconsistant terminology such as saying priorities are set at “panel” meetings).

  15. John Lawton

    Hi Richard,

    I saw your Tweet while at the October 28th West/Central Area Committee that you weren’t able to ask a question about what policing priorities were set at the previous meeting.

    This doesn’t sound good. I am trying to chase this issue up with Inspector Kerridge, but have yet to receive a reply to my messages of 18th October. So much for the Policing Pledge of a 24hour reply.

    Could you elaborate on that Tweet, or are you planning an article on the October meeting?

  16. Richard Taylor Article author

    I did submit a question, at least ten minutes before the start of the meeting questioning the recording of the police priorities in the minutes.

    I heckled while the minutes were being discussed, and was told I could not raise my point about the minutes until the open forum.

    Councillors approved the minutes without discussing, or amending the police priorities section.

    I was not called to ask my question during the open forum session. The open forum was curtailed once half an hour had elapsed with a number of questions outstanding.

    The Maids Causeway / Newmarket Road 20 mph limit was discussed following a public question from “Wendy”.

    Cllr Whitebread claimed that the police had rejected the priority she had proposed at the last meeting; I believe she was trying to re-count, to members of the public who weren’t present last time, what had happened. Her choice of wording was interesting as it shows how she and the other LibDems don’t appreciate they have the power to set whatever priorities they see fit.

    A councillor reported he had driven into Maids Causeway from the Elizabeth Way end tens of times before he first saw the 20mph signs at the roundabout.

    An email from the police was read out at the meeting; saying they don’t want to enforce in the absence of speed reduction measures in the road. A member of the public expressed astonishment at the clear police statement that they weren’t prepared to enforce the law.

    The police email made clear that the police’s view of what priorities were set differed from those in the minutes the councillors approved; but no councillors queried this clear discrepancy.

  17. John Lawton

    Thanks for trying to get this answered. I wish I had been able to attend, I would have heckled too! I have now written to Councillor Bick who chaired the August meeting, asking for an investigation and explanation.

    I have also chased Inspector Kerridge over the same issue, who despite a Policing Pledge of a 24hour reply has not replied to my messages of 18th October.

    It is interesting that Councillor Whitebread gave that response. I thought that her colleagues at the time simply didn’t take up her proposal. Then again would the NAT reject this priority anyway?

  18. Sarah Whitebread

    At the meeting Cllr Bick read out a statement from the police he received after pursuing the matter after the area committee last time. I’m sure he will email it to you John if you want it. The main point I remember from it is that the police are not keen on the enforcement only approach, but would like there to be some education as well.

    Tim Bick is also trying to get a meeting of ward councillors, Richard Preston and the police together to discuss the issue, but Richard Preston is saying there is no point.

    My recollection from the last area committee was that I raised the 20mph speeding priority, and then other cllrs (Cllr Brookes Gordon for example) added other anti social driving offences, so we combined them in the one priority. I thought after the meeting that the 20mph limit would be taken as a priority within what we had agreed.

    Wendy Andrews was at the meeting last week and raised the issue, so I would talk to her about this if you haven’t already. I did say to her that I’ll certainly suggest this as a priority at the next opportunity, although I do sympathise with the police’s position that there should be some education to go alongside the enforcement.

  19. Sarah Whitebread

    Have realised a lot of what I’ve just said you will already know as it’s in the CEN article – sorry, I didn’t notice that post!

  20. John Lawton

    Thanks Sarah, but what do you understand by ‘education’?

    The link in comment #19 for the Police website shows that they have NOT set any priority on speeding or anti-social use of vehicles. Do you agree that we should know why, as you believe that the councillors DID set one?

    Unfortunately Inspector Kerridge doesn’t reply to my messages on the subject.

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