Cambridge’s councillors introduced a 20 mph limit on Maid’s Causeway in August 2010; but signed it poorly so it had no impact on speeds and the police have been unwilling to enforce it as they take the view that, given the state of the signage, that would be unfair.
At the West/Central Area Committee on the 10th of January 2013 local resident Mr Lawton raised the matter with Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright. Mr Lawton described himself as the co-chairman of the Brunswick and North Kite residents’ association.
Mr Lawton said the police were clearly capable of enforcing the limit, but were unwilling to do so. Mr Lawton said this was to residents’ “great dissatisfaction” and called speeding a “daily menace”.
Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright replied:
I think I am probably ahead of you a bit on this because I have already taken this up; I’ve had a discussion with the Chief Constable informally as to what can be done. So he’s been warned that I this to be looked at and there needs to be a priority on it.
I welcome the fact that the city are actually going to extend the area of thirty [sic] mile an hour limits. That is good.
Because it isn’t a place where you can in my opinion drive safely at any faster than twenty miles an hour. You’ve got so many pedestrians, you were talking about tourists, there are so many people here and many of them don’t look the right way up the road because they are used to coming from the continent. All of these things need to be taken into account.
Taking the speed limits as they are and enforcing them has got to be a priority. There is no question about that. There is no use having them if no one is going to take any notice of them. And I say I applaud the fact you’ve got the twenty miles an hour limits. You’re not the only people. It’s now happening in some of the villages as well and all of this needs to be tackled.
I think there is, and I can’t answer this fully, but there is a slight problem in the way that it is dealt with which negotiations are going on at national level with the Home Office on this in the way in which it is policed and the actions that they take.
Let me assure you that I’ve picked it up and I intend to see it through. Because I applaud the fact that you’ve got twenty mile an hour limits in the city, and I say you’re not the only place which has got them, we’ve got them in other places as well. They are there for a reason; it’s all about safety, what we don’t want to do is to end up with people being killed or maimed because people are not observing them.
I am quite a stickler for it. My car has a speed limiter on it so that when I come in to Cambridge I make jolly sure I don’t get caught. I put it onto thirty and then when I hit the twenty I put it onto twenty and I can’t drive any faster. Perhaps all cars should have those.
I would have taken a different approach to Commissioner Bright.
I do not think police enforcement is desirable or practical as a primary way of getting traffic to follow speed limits; it has its place, but the road environment and signage, needs to be such that the vast majority of those using the road are aware of, and comply with, the speed limit.
I think on Maid’s Causeway the signage is inadequate; councillors and the police agree with this too, so it is surprising to see the commissioner calling for enforcement before this is addressed.
In my view the Commissioner ought have urged councillors to make substantive improvements to the road environment and signage.
I agree with the commissioner that reducing injuries and deaths ought be a key aim of getting people to drive slower in the city; there are other benefits too in terms of encouraging cycling though making people feel safer which can impact on people’s health and happiness as well as reducing traffic congestion.
I would like to see more patrols by Police Constables who are empowered to deal with things like dangerous and careless driving, which the PCSOs who primarily patrol the city are not. I think the focus ought be on those causing a hazard and not those who have simply breached a speed limit.
Unfair penalties concern me, both for those who’ve not seen the signage, and also for those who are driving at a speed which is not massively excessive for the road, and not dangerous, but due to the very low limit may face sever penalties from the courts. Penalties can lead to driving bans which can have huge impacts on people’s lives so reasonable, well signed, speed limits are vitally important.
I disagree with the commissioner that driving at over twenty miles per hour is dangerous across the entire city of Cambridge; he appears to be proposing an even more draconian blanket 20 mph limit than most Liberal Democrats, who are happy for main routes to retain 30 mph or higher limits.
The M11 motorway and the A14 dual carriageway come within the city in places and I disagree with the commissioner’s assertion that it is unsafe to drive above twenty miles per hour on these roads, in fact doing twenty miles an hour or less there would usually be very dangerous. It may be that the commissioner has not appreciated where the boundaries of Cambridge City lie; this is something he does need to get to grips with before supporting calls for a blanket 20 mph speed limit.
Cambridge City Council is running a consultation, which closes on the 10th of February 2013, asking for views on new 20 mph signage on Maids Causeway / Newmarket Road, including painting 20 mph signs on the road way and colouring short stretches of road (with either a red or sandy colour).
At the West/Central Area Committee I suggested the consultation be made a public consultation, rather than as was the case prior to the meeting, a consultation with local residents only. Ward councillor Sarah Whitebread supported my suggestion and the chair ruled that the consultation would therefore become a public one. I think this is positive because immediate neighbours of the road have special interests; such as fears speeding heavy vehicles damage their properties’ shallow foundations.
I think councillors need to know the views of the police, and magistrates, on the new proposed signs. I would like to see the council pro-actively seek the views of these groups during their current consultation. If the signage is insufficient for the police and courts to be willing to enforce the law in the area then it is no good.
If the area is to be made 20 mph then I think there needs to be more substantial changes to the road environment. I would like to see a coloured surface installed over the entire length of the limit; not on top of the existing road surface, but a new surface installed. I would also suggest gates, or at least gate posts, marking the entrance to the area and seeking to give the road adjacent to Midsummer Common the feeling of a park road as seen in other cities, including Bath and London.
I think there also needs to be a wider view taken, to deter traffic from using Maids Causeway / Victoria Avenue as a through route, as part of the inner ring road. Changes to the junctions at Mitcham’s Corner and the roundabout at Elizabeth Way (redesigns of both areas are currently under consideration) need to be considered.
The very popular cycle and pedestrian routes across the road should be given attention with a view to improving their safety. The main one is the crossing from Fair Street to Midsummer Common, but there is also crossing to the entrance of the common by the four lamps roundabout and other popular crossing points up the street.
The road is very wide in places; extending pavements, or using coloured surfaces and lines to make the road actually, or at least feel, narrower, might help reduce speeds.
- Policing West-Central Cambridge April 2012
- West Central Area Committee October 2010
- Police Not to Enforce New City Centre 20 MPH Limit – August 2010
- Inept Police Target Traffic Jams During Botched Attempt to Tackle Speeding – August 2009
- “It has been reported that the police have now purchased the equipment required to enforce the 20mph zones.”
- Cambridge Councillors Ask Police to Tackle Speeding – September 2009
- Cambridge Cycling Campaign Hustings – Blanket 20 MPH Limit for Residential Streets – April 2010