Archive | March, 2011

Official, nearly no-one drives on the pavement!

7 Mar

A month ago I made a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Constabulary asking how many drivers had been prosecuted for  driving on the footway (pavement) and separately how many drivers had been prosecuted for ostructing the pavement.

The police came back initially saying they that they were not able to disagregate driving on the footway (pavements) from driving on footpaths/bridleways etc, they also couldn’t disaggregated prosecutions for driving a motorbike on the footway/footpaths from driving 4 wheel vehicles. In relation to obstruction, they said that they could not disaggregated obstructing the pavement from obstructing the carriageway. This is unfortunate as is disguises the underlying issue I was wanting to look at.

Anyway… what were the results. In 2009 there were a total of six prosecutions for ‘driving/riding a vehicle on the footway’ and in 2010 this had risen were eight for the county.  Given that we do have some problems locally with kids taking motorbike and mopeds onto the heaths and common land I would suggest that few if any of these prosecutions are in relation to driving a car onto the pavement for the purpose of parking it there. Probably none?

Prosecutions for obstructing the footway/carriageway were about 800 each year. Given that this is for the whole of Suffolk and covers obstruction of the carriageway as well it doesn’t really tell me very much although 800 isn’t very many across a year and a county is it? That is two a day for a population of 660,000.

In passing I will note that in the case of prosecution for speeding, the police are allowed to demand that the keeper of a vehicle identifies who was driving it at any time. A couple of speeders took the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights’ saying that it was a breach of their rights to have to incriminate themselves. They lost, but not before the industry created forward looking speed cameras that could capture an image of the driver.

I can’t see why they ruling couldn’t be used in the case of people parking on the pavement requesting the keeper of the vehicle by post to identify who drove it onto the pavement. Not knowing who was using your vehicle is itself an offense. The only problem of course is that the it would kick off a huge stick about ‘cash cows‘, victimisation of drivers etc etc. The reality is that the existing regulations are barely enforced such as blocking a dropped kerb as shown below. As such it will continue to be our job to draw attention to the issue and keep up the pressure!

Blocking a dropped kerb

 

Reporting from the front line

6 Mar

It’s been an interesting few weeks! Motorists have been fighting (sometimes literally) for the right to park their beloved cars somewhere. Police and authorities have been fighting back. People have ended up in hospital, in court and some have almost gone to jail. In one instance the police in South Africa ended up drawing guns on each other over a disputed parking space.

Starting with the good news..

Police in Loughborough will be delivering leaflets to every household in the town warning of a crack-down on pavement parking by the police and the council. In future motorists will risk getting a fine if they leave less than 1 meter of pavement clear for people to get by. The RNIB regional campaigns officer said that they were “ incredibly pleased that we have had such a positive response from all the organisations. .”

In Perthshire the police have warned drivers that they face receiving three penalty points and a £60 fine if they block pavements. The police have told drivers that they should leave at least enough room for a pram or wheelchair to get pass. They have got their work cut out, because traffic wardens locally have been assaulted on numerous occasions over the past few years with one motorist threatening to shoot a warden and another trying to run a traffic warden down.

In Bolton the police have warned drivers that if they force wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs into the road by parking on the pavement they could soon be fined £70. They launched the campaign after ‘a flood of complaints’ and their action has the support of 57% of those who responded to a poll organised by the local paper.

In Reading Labour councilors are objecting to plans by the Conservative-led council to ban pavement parking. Labour think this should only be brought in for roads where all residents have ‘adequate’ off-road parking, which they define as meaning off-road parking for ‘one or two vehicles’. I see… if the motorists ‘need’ the pavement then they get it, if not then the pedestrians can use it. Nice.

In Middlewich a parent claimed that irresponsible drivers were ‘dicing with death‘ after her 5yo son was nearly knocked down by a reversing car outside the school.

Meanwhile a man in Machester only just avoided a jail term after punching a female traffic warden to the ground – he was given a four month prison sentence suspended for a year and 250 hours unpaid work.

In Oxford a 24yo man was also given a suspended prison sentence after punching a 66yo traffic warden and dislocating his shoulder.

A survey of 3,000 motorists in the UK found that 25% of these drivers admitted to ‘verbally assaulting’ other motorists for their parking decisions or worse and in one third of cases the incidents related to parking on pavements.

In New York and woman is in a coma after being punched in the face during an argument over a parking space.

And finally…  in South Africa police from two different forces drew guns on each other when officers from one force attempted to tow away a vehicle belonging to another force from outside their offices. It is reported that the argument escalated with more and more policemen coming out of the building, fighting, and then threatened to shoot each other!

Number crunching

4 Mar

Annual cost of a operating a single school crossing patrol in Suffolk: £2,232. Annual cost of keeping a second-hand car on the road : £4,441 (not including any actual usage – RAC figures)

So… Pass 50 parked cars and the ownership costs are the same as all of the Suffolk Crossing patrols which are to be disbanded in the summer. Pass 250 cars (which doesn’t take long) and the annual ownership costs have hit £1 million which is the same as a very fancy boat.

 

Down memory lane – 1980s information film

3 Mar

Here is a public information film that was made some time in the mid to late 1980s (the car has a 1981/2 plate on it). So… not a lot has changed in the intervening 25 years then.

I have also just been trying to track down an old public information film made with a young Tony Robinson for the National Institute for the Blind. I am sure it was him but I can’t find anything on the web about it at all now which is a bit strange. Can anyone help?

‘Costs’ and ‘benefits’ of 80 mph speed limits

2 Mar

The government is wanting to increase motorway speeds from 70mph (112km/h) to 80 mph (130 km/h). The Transport Secretary explains: “We need to do this on a pretty rigorous cost-benefit analysis basis…at the moment there are a clear set of criteria for making these decisions. Perhaps we ought to ask if we are using the right set of criteria”.

Netherlands is also planing to increase it’s motorway speed limit to 130 km/h while Spain is currently lowering its speed limit from 120 km/h to 11o km/h to reduce fuel imports! Check out this useful blog post on the subject confusion that we are in at present.

Lets do a rough and ready cost-benefit analysis given that both the ‘costs’ (ie mainly injuries, deaths) and the benefits (mainly a few minutes off journey time for car drivers) can be reasonably easily calculated so lets have a go.

For every 100 miles driven one will save 10 minutes in travel time (75 mins, down from 85 mins). This does of course depend on having a clear road and no holdups due to crashes.

Lets look at the ‘costs’. According to a review of changes to speed limits conducted for the authorities in British Columbian 2003 the rate of crashes and fatalities is likely to increase significantly. They don’t report on any countries increasing speed from 70 mph to 80 mph (110km/h to 130km/h). They do however report on when Switzerland reduced its speed from 130km/h to 120km/h with reduced fatalities by 12% and when Sweden reduced speeds from 110km/h to 90km/h and fatalities declined by 21%. Also interestingly when the UK reduced speeds from 100km/h to 80km/h  and saw a reduction of 14%.

By contrast when Australia increased its speed limit from 100 km/h to 110 km/h it saw an increase in fatalities of 25%. Increasing speeds in the USA from 89km/h to 105 km/h often had associated increases in fatalities of about 20%.

The Wikipedia Road Safety Article has a useful table which shows motorway casualty rates in the first column and speed limits in the right column (this is not properly referenced though). Is it just me or is it significant that all the worst countries have high speed limits and all the most safe countries have low ones?

Speed safety stats

Do also check the excellent UK Speed Limit article which has a lot of detail of the history of UK speed limits and which is fully referenced.

So, lets get back to an estimate of the ‘costs’. In 2008 there were 158 fatalities on Motorways. As a rough indicator based on the above research, it looks like we can expect about 30 more fatalities. There are many other costs not yet considered including: increased fuel usage, more road noise, more carbon emissions, more stress, more delays caused by crashes. These concerns are echoed by the AA Trust who warned back in 2005 against a blanket increase in the motorway speed limit to 80mph saying that in the absence of strict enforcement to would lead to “unacceptable enforcement drift to 90 mph” – which would “increase the risk of accidents and raise the total of fatal and serious injuries”.

Incidentally, almost half of UK drivers wanted vehicles to be fitted with Speed Limiters which are already used on trunks which are limited to 56 mph and on express coaches at 65 mph which will also be using the motorways.

There there is the research study conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the RAC Foundation back in 2006 found that some 26% of motorway drivers were following the vehicle in front too closely and that on the M4 the figure was 50%. Do we really want people tailgating at 90 mph?

The ‘cost’ is some 30 deaths and more crashes, which, errr.. might actually reduce the benefit by creating more hold-ups. Also, increased road noise, fuel consumption and driver stress. The benefit is some 10 minutes off journey times per 100 miles (assuming that there are no congestion, road works or crashes to contend with).

At this point transport consultants would convert these costs and benefits into money using standard calculations used by transport planners. I won’t do this because I don’t have the figures to hand and I find the idea rather offensive.

Finally, here is a chart showing road deaths on UK roads since 1929. Be aware that it was a nasty Labour government that introduced the 70mph speed limit in the 1960s after some terrible crashes in fog. since then fatalities have reduced impressively over the past 40 years under both Labour and Conservative governments. Is this trend going to continue going down or are all these ‘motoring’ biased initiatives (such as removing school crossing patrols, re-timing lights in favour of motorists, increasing speed limits, cutting back on bus services, bus lanes and cycle lanes), are we going to see the graph turn up again. I do do hope that this in not going to be the case.

Killed on British Roads

What I would like to is see now is someone doing a FOI request on the Department for Transport requesting their official report on the subject. There is the nice WhatDoTheyKnow website that makes this very easy to do.