Regular readers of my articles will know that speeding is a subject I return to often. Why? Because it’s an issue that local people write to me about often.
Since I’ve been a councillor I’ve read enough local speed surveys to know that about 70% of drivers generally abide by the speed limit. Another 20% tend to push it a bit, driving a over the limit by a single-digit margin, a few mph. The final 10% seem to pay absolutely no attention to speed limits. They drive as fast as they like and have no concern for the safety of other road users or pedestrians.
This 10% of selfish drivers not only cause accidents, and anxiety, they also cost us all money. Traffic calming measures, certainly those that are likely to be effective, can be expensive. With all its other budget pressures, for example providing social care for our elderly and disabled residents, there are constraints on how much the Council can spend annually on our local highways.
I currently have 4 live cases around the ward where residents are really concerned about speeding drivers. In 3 of 4 cases interventions have already been made i.e. introducing 20 limits and erecting associated signage. What I have noted is that whilst these interventions do tend to bring down average speeds marginally (speed studies prove this) they have no discernible effect on the 10% of selfish drivers who simply ignore them.
The most frequent request I get when it comes to traffic calming is for speed humps. Whilst there are plenty of roads around North Tyneside that have speed humps of different kinds closer inspection reveals an evolution of design over time. I’m told that this reflects studies that have been done that show the effectiveness, or lack of effectiveness, of some hump designs. The current thinking amongst those responsible for maintaining our highways seems not to favour speed humps. I don’t know of a single speed hump installation in our ward, or anywhere nearby, for some years now. Please do let know if you have any intel that might contradict that.
What does still seem to be a possibility, and one that I’m currently pursuing, is the installation of some ‘speed tables‘. You may have seen these on Percy Park Road in Tynemouth, where they have been quite effective by all accounts. The only problem with them seems to be that they are quite a bit more expensive than speed humps. Of course, the cost is somewhat relative if a serious accident is prevented. Better to spend money slowing down traffic than spend money repairing fractured skulls or worse, paying for funerals.
Finally, there is definitely a role for Northumbria Police to be doing more too. I was frustrated last year that despite pressing senior Police officers for road safety initiative ‘Operation Modero’ to come to North Shields nothing seemed to materialise. This needs to change in 2022. We need the support and partnership of the Police to make our residential streets safer. Ultimately if that 10% of selfish speeding drivers won’t change their behaviour by choice then they need to face legal consequences.
Note: If you have the willpower for it (146 pages!) the relevant Department for Transport guidance for Traffic Calming is available here. It is also worth noting that its last update was 2007. In over 11 years of being in power the Conservative Government has chosen not to further develop or resource the traffic calming role of the DfT.