The proposed roll-out of 20 mph limits on residential streets in Brighton has been greeted with such a storm of wailing and gnashing of teeth you would think that the council had decided to ban motoring completely.
The immensely daft Unchain the Motorist lobby group (‘Unchain the Motorist’? Really? ‘The motorist is born free, and everywhere he is in chains’?) has been set up to oppose, and indeed overturn, Brighton’s 20 mph limits. They have a better solution – ‘appropriate speed limits’ and ‘road engineering to safely allow for the free movement of traffic.’ In other words, the kind of engineering that has done so much to destroy our towns and cities as amenable and attractive places.
They are quoted in this newspaper article as stating that these slightly lower speed limits – which, to repeat, will only be in effect on residential streets - represent
a declaration of war on motorists.
Seriously? What? Travelling slightly slower on residential streets amounts to a ‘declaration of war’? Get a grip.
The silliness extends to the Tourism Alliance – a group representing many major attractions in the city. They are supporting ‘Unchain the Motorist’.
The Tourism Alliance backed the group and renewed calls for a park and ride scheme.
Chair Soozie Campbell said: “We are not convinced that reducing speed limits to 20mph right across the city is the optimum solution to improving road safety and there are certainly better ways to reduce carbon emissions. Studies have shown that if traffic is held in a slow moving queue for any length of time 30% of journeys will be abandoned. That means 30% fewer car loads of customers coming into the city centre at peak trading times.”
Firstly, why would 20 mph limits on residential streets create ‘slow moving queues’? Queues are caused by an excess of motor vehicles, not by speed limits. Raising the speed limit from 20mph to 30mph would not have the magic property of making queues disappear.
Secondly, what possible ‘studies’ could be claiming that if ‘traffic is held in a slow moving queue for any length of time 30% of journeys will be abandoned’? Any length of time. If drivers travel slowly for five minutes, 30% of them just give up and go home? What does this even mean? It’s complete gibberish.
The final bizarre twist is that the GMB and Unite unions have decided to lend their support to ‘Unchain the Motorist’, paying for adverts in the local newspaper condemning 20mph limits. The reasoning of the GMB’s Mick Hildreth is just as impenetrable as that of the Tourism Alliance’s Soozie Campbell. He states
“A complete 24 hour 20mph speed limit across the whole of the city will leave drivers distracted from where a 20mph speed limit is vitally important such as hospitals, schools and residential streets.”
Never mind that a blanket 20mph limit ‘across the whole of the city’ isn’t even being proposed. The argument here is that a speed limit of 20mph on residential streets will ‘distract’ drivers when they are travelling past a school at 20mph, unlike driving past the school at 20mph while some 30mph limits exist elsewhere in the city.
Right. That makes sense.
The reality is that people opposed to 20mph limits on residential streets in Brighton either haven’t understood the policy or its implications, or they just want to carry on driving as fast as they currently do. Scrabbling around for nonsensical justifications is only making them look silly.