Following a discussion this blog in response to my recent ‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph? blog post, here are examples of rural speed limits in Holland in the the UK. Notice that many Dutch rural roads have 50 mph speed limits (purple) and 40 mph (red) rather than 60 mph (light blue) or dark blue (70 mph). Across the North Sea on the east coast of England all rural roads are 60 mph, no 50 mph speed limits at all and very few 40mph limits. The speed data is from OpenStreetMap and has been visualised by ITO Map. The speed data is not yet complete If you are able to help please then please add information to OpenStreetMap for your area and places that you visit.
Speed limits holland (click for slippy map view)
Speed limits Tendering District, UK (click for slippy map view)
This final image shows pedestrian road casualties for Tendering District since 1986. Large blobs are deaths, small ones are serious injuries. Red for pedestrian, blue for driver, green for passenger. Most pedestrian casualties are in the towns, which is likely to be for two reasons – firstly that most pedestrians movements naturally take place in towns and secondly because pedestrians avoid rural roads knowing that they are unsafe. Casualty data from Stats19 police data. Do remember that road deaths have fallen massively since 1985 when some 5,500 people were killed in GB compared to 1,857 last year.
Road casualties – Tendering district
Rural roads without pavements and 60mph speed limits are apparently officially considered ‘safe’ for children to walk to and from school on as long as the section without a footway is less than 3 miles long (2 miles long for under 8s). To quote the guardian today “School transport spending cuts mean that from this week many pupils will be walking to school along unlit 60mph roads without pavements … The current guidelines presume children will be accompanied by a responsible adult, meaning councils can declare routes up to three miles long (or two miles for under eights) safe even if they are unlit, have 60mph speed limits, no pavements or step-offs, and are used by heavy commercial traffic“. I believe that this is the road illustrated in the article as shown on Google Streetview.
Walking to school along 60mph roads with no pavements
Of course if drivers were to travel at a speed where they could stop within the distance they could see and ensured that pedestrians could walk safely along the edge of the carriageway then this might be sort of OK, but in current conditions where pedestrians are frequently forced to climb onto the verge for their own safety then it is not. Do check out my recent post about what happened to the father who wanted to ensure the safety of his child walking to school along a road that is probably very similar to the ones being discussed in this article who was threatened with arrest if he ‘willfully obstructed’ the traffic again.
Incidentally, in 2009 the Department for Transport proposed dropping the speed limit on many rural roads to 50mph estimating that this would cuts deaths by 250 per year but the idea was soon dropped. Rospa noted in 2010 that “Around one third of pedestrian fatalities occur on rural roads and the other two thirds on urban. Pedestrian injuries in rural areas are more likely to be fatal however, and the figures from table 2 show that 5% of all recorded pedestrian injuries resulting in a fatality, compared with urban areas where fatal casualties are 1.5%” and proposed lowering speed limits to 50 mph on some rural roads. Brake proposed it again earlier this year after commissioning a survey which found that one in eight drivers admitted overtaking on single carriageway roads when they could not see if it was clear.