An outbreak of silliness in Brighton

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.

This entry was posted in 20 mph limits, Absurd transport solutions, Brighton. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to An outbreak of silliness in Brighton

  1. The Argus (an advertising rag) supporting some of its regular customers to create an astroturf movement? No surprise.

    Brighton’s best bits are partly or fully pedestrianised, The Lanes, North Laine, much of Western Road exclude private motor vehicles at least part of the day.

    The virulence of opposition is a surprise, given the limits to enforcement.

    Fight the good fight, B&H Council, leaders sometimes have to get out in front!

  2. James says:

    In this country it appears that driving has become a human right and any infringement upon it is looked at as an act of war. Motorists already have free reign over much of our city with roads going everywhere, car parks everywhere and even that isn’t enough with cars parking in bus lanes, bikes lanes and often with 2 wheels up on the pavement. It is not a human right, we share our cities and all we ask is that you drive slowly through them. If traffic jams are the problem then if the roads were nicer, more people would ride bikes and everyone would win.

    P.S. If 30% of people give up if they are delayed for any time at all then it seems to me that their journey was not worth it anyway and they should have left the car at home.

  3. Christine jones says:

    It’s so childish, I hope the council hold fast. The press in Cambridge are stiring up a similar ferori with the implementation going over budget and enforcement involving accepting 27mph before they are done for speeding. It misses the point that it’s meant to be mainly voluntary, an understanding that where people are wondering about and there are lots of cyclists, they drive slowly and are mindful that they are not the only things on the road.
    Not sure what will ever be done about twats that do see driving as a right, we all know, the are the ones who should never be allowed to be in charge of a vehicle, but the chances of there ever being a personality test are pretty tiny.
    It’s interesting that Brighton and Cambridge are well known for having a large liberal population keen on cycling with an eye to progression towards sustainable means of transportation and yet, the press chooses a UKIP style line, like its run by a bunch of taxi drivers in a pub. Maybe that’s their target readership!

  4. D. says:

    I don’t think Brighton has the monopoly on silliness. Here in Bristol our local council wants to roll out 20 mph limits citywide. For various weird historical reasons, a large area of parkland (The Downs, in Clifton) isn’t owned by the council but by its own little unelected committee, and they have said they don’t want 20 mph limits on their roads (around and through a section of park, remember). They only went down from ‘national’ to 30 mph a few years ago (around and through a section of park, remember). This time, their argument is that one of the committee members drove at 20 along one of the roads and somebody flashed their headlights at him. Good rigorous scientific argument, then…

  5. Amoeba says:

    Quite a lot of mainland Europe seems quite happy with 30 kmh / 18 mph in towns. In parts, the speed-limits are set even lower. It seems that in the UK many are incapable of walking or cycling and will fight for the right to drive a hundred metres or so. How pathetic!

  6. Tim says:

    I’m particularly interested to hear about the ongoing “war on the motorist” in the context of the recent announcement of yet another fuel tax freeze (to the obvious detriment of non-drivers), as well as the recent study comparing rates of custodial sentences for motoring vs non-motoring convictions.

    • James says:

      Absolutely. If I wanted to kill someone today, I’d rent a car and run them over. Drivers are literally getting away with murder.

  7. South londoner says:

    What underpins a lot of this is the idea that “people in cars” are going about doing important things and must get about as quick as possible and that “people not in cars” are not important and whatever they’re doing isn’t worth thinking about. It’s the Eric Pickles view of the world live and kicking.

    • D. says:


      Apparently I can be close-passed by some bloke in a mid-size or large car (usually a BMW or a Mercedes; the “she’s” are usually in New Minis, for some reason) on my way home, because he’s had a long and busy day and needs to get home to have his tea before he puts the kids to bed whereas I’m on a bicycle, so am clearly just piddling around for fun.

      He never even considers that I have also been at work, have also had a long and busy day, and also want to get home to have my tea before I help put the kids to bed… Ideally without some ignoramus in a big car running me off the road.

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