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Rural speed limits in the UK and Holland

6 Sep

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

‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph?

5 Sep

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 todaySchool 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 thatAround 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.

Archie wants to walk to school

30 Aug

In 2009 a father phoned to police to say that because the country road between his house and his child’s school was dangerous, and because his son wanted to walk to school that he was going to drive slowly behind him to protect him from approaching drivers on the 60mph country lane. He was then intercepted before he had got to school by police to who drove the boy to school over “fears for his safety” and warned the father that he could be arrested for ‘a willful obstruction’ of the highway if he did it again. The father has subsequently written an article titled “Why do drivers have more rights than the rest?” (paywall). A good question which I will explore below.

Archie wants to walk to school (copyright image)

Let’s analyse this in some detail.

Firstly, I assume that the police were referring to section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (“If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”) or to section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (“Wilfully causing an obstruction to any public footpath or public thoroughfare“). Unfortunately “it has been held that to constitute an offence there must be proof of an unreasonable user of the highway” (Parliamentary briefing 2010)

It is worth mentioning at this point that all roads in the UK are ‘all purpose roads’ and should therefore be available for all road users with the sole exception of ‘special roads’ (better known as motorways) which were created by the Special roads Act 1949 on which no pedestrians are allowed. There is no suggestion in the highway code that pedestrians should not be able to walk in the carriageway where there is not a pavement. (rule 2)

It is also worth mentioning that the highway code reminds drivers to at all times “Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear“.(rule 126) According to the Crown Prosecution Service, driving too fast is reason for prosecution for dangerous driving for which the penalty is disqualification and up to two years in prison. (Careless driving, a lesser offense is not use in cases of driving too fast it seems). However a 25 year old found guilty of drivng at 103mph avoided a conviction for dangerous driving and was banned for only 90 days. A policeman who was ‘familiarising himself with his new police car’ who was recorded driving a 159mph, (and also at 120mph in a 60mph area and at 60mph in a 30 mph area) was found not guilty of both dangerous driving and of speeding! The Crown Prosecution Service overturned the ruling and he was subsequently found guilty but given an absolute discharge; before having his conviction overturned following an appeal by West Mercia Police Federation.

So, was the father acting ‘reasonably’? He appeared to be protecting a walker who wished to assert their right to walk along an ‘all purpose road’. Motorists appear to have been only inconvenienced to a minor degree. The police seemed to agree that motorists were traveling too fast to slow down safely for a slow vehicle. As such should they not have prosecuted the drivers for dangerous driving, rather than opting for the a simpler but rather implausible route of using wilful obstruction for the person protecting the pedestrian?

I am reminded of Duncan Cameron’s submission to parliament on pedestrian issues who noted that “If pedestrians placed a chair on the carriageway it would be removed immediately, even though it would obstruct a smaller proportion of the road than when a car parks on the pavement. Cars could slow down and take care to avoid the chair, as pedestrians have to with parked cars. The Highways Act applies equally to the road and the footway. Pedestrians are being discriminated against“. In this case the same police who normally avoid using obstruction legislation against parking obstructions at almost any cost leapt into action to use it against someone protecting a pedestrian. Remarkable!

There are some parallels in this story with that of the blind man who was arrested and locked up within minutes of phoning the police to say that he was going to let down the tires of cars that were persistently blocking the pavement.

Yes, pedestrians do face discrimination and this blog’s primary aim seems to be to help expose how this particular discrimination operates.

Local council must change its bin policy

25 Aug

The official bin-collection policy of Ipswich Borough Council policy is to leave bins after collection ‘at the very back of the pavement on the curtilage of the property … not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc‘. I have asked them why they don’t return the bins to where they found them (which is normally within the curtilage of the property on a driveway) and have also reminded them of their duties to the blind/wheelchair users and other groups under disability legislation. The response was: “We have discussed your interpretation of the Equalities Act with our resident equalities expert and we are of the opinion that we are taking the best possible action in this respect“. Umm… Strange, given that the work ‘pedestrian’, ‘wheelchair’ and ‘buggy’ don’t even appear in the text.

Here is my proposed replacement text: “a) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where they create a safety hasard. b) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where the available footway is reduced to less than 1m and should not left in a position where the width is reduced to less than 1.5m. Bins can often be returned to a position just inside the curtilage of the property. Where this is not possible they may be left on the footway or carriageway as long as the conditions in a) and b) are satisfied. Where no viable option exists then alternative provision for the collection of waste will need to be arranged. This policy is to ensure that all road users, including pedestrians, some whom may require additional width (wheel chair users, people with buggies and shopping and those with visual impairments) are able to use the highway safely“.

Here’s the reason why a change is needed. In these two following pictures there is no space for a wheelchair user of parent with a buggy to use the pavement when the current guidelines are following. In both cases it would however be trivial for the bins to be returned within the curtillage.

Bins left blocking the pavement after collection

Bin left on pavement with 400mm between bin and lamp-post.

The law is very clear on this. Lets start with Department for Transport guidance on the ‘Pedestrian environment and transport infrastructure’:

  • “Since October 1999 service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service … These requirements apply to facilities and services in the pedestrian environment’.
  • “Those who are travelling with small children or are carrying luggage or heavy shopping will all benefit from an accessible environment, as will people with temporary mobility problems (e.g. a leg in plaster) and many older people. Thus, the overall objective of this guide is to provide inclusive design and through that achieve social inclusion
  • “Manual wheelchair users need sufficient space to be able to propel the chair without banging their elbows or knuckles on door frames or other obstacles. But someone who walks with sticks or crutches also needs more space than a non-disabled walker; so too does a long cane user or person carrying luggage, or a lot of shopping bags, or with small children. Thus providing adequate clear space on pavements, along passages in public buildings, through doorways etc, is of benefit to many people.

And also the DirectGov guidance re the Equalities Act 2010:

  • The Equality Act 2010 provides important rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship… The Equality Act 2010 gives disabled people rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in relation to the use of transport services. This also covers access to travel infrastructure such as railway stations and bus stations. You also have a right to reasonable adjustments.

And here is a helpful diagram published by the DfT showing the pavement width required by these different groups of pedestrians. Is it however unfortunate that the diagram is so hard to read which probably goes against their own guidance on legibility, but we can’t have everything!

Pavement widths required by different user groups (DfT guidance)

Finally, here are a set of photos illustrating the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that I am proposing to the council. The photos on the left show where the council leave bins currently and on the right you can see where I am suggesting they should be left to allow free passage (or as good as can be achieved with all the pavement parking!).

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

I will be sending a copy of this post to the council and ask them to reconsider. If that doesn’t work then possibly the local paper would be interested in taking this on as a local issue.

Illegal signage on a dangerous road

12 Aug

I discovered recently that all signage left on the footway must leave at least 1 meter clear at the side, preferably 1.5 meters; the actual wording is “in no circumstances must the width of the footway be reduced to less than 1m, preferably not less than 1.5m” (Traffic Signs Manual chapter 8 clause D4.4.1). The sign in the picture below leaves a minimal 600mm beside a very busy and dangerous road. On a positive note, I found the Palmer Group, who put the signs there, very helpful when I phoned them and they said they would sort is ‘asap’. Given the narrow pavement and the big sign I will be interested to see what they do! Update: They moved the sign to a very suitable place within 12 hours. Great work and thanks… but next time please don’t wait to be asked!

Illegal signage – less than 1 meter available for pedestrians

I have also just produced a causality map for the area in question showing where people have been killed and injured by cars in the area over the past 25 years. Two people have been killed in that time (the two red dots), 12 people have been seriously injured (the 12 purple dots) and there have been many slight injuries reported to the police (blue dots).

Foxhall road casualties map

US mother faced with jail after hit-and-run driver kills her child

28 Jul

This blog mainly reports on how UK pedestrians are regularly ignored, insulted and treated with contempt and also about the wonderful things that people in this country are doing to challenge this sorry situation. However, a comment on this blog yesterday alerted me to an appalling story in the USA where a mother, who’s 4yo child was killed by a hit-and-run driver as she crossed a busy road was found guilty of ‘vehicular homicide‘, an offense which seems to be primarily used against reckless drivers who kill but in this case was used again a pedestrian and who could have got a 3.5 years prison sentence. In fact she got ‘only’ got 40 hours community service and the chance of a retrial.

What comes clear from an interview with the mother on USA Today is that:
1) There is no provision for people to cross the road from the bus stop she used to the set of apartments opposite.
2) The road is a dual-carriageway and probably has a 45mph speed limit.
3) The transport authority is claiming that people should not cross the road, but should instead take an 800 meter diversion to use a proper crossing.
4) The jury has made up of people who didn’t use public transport or walk beside busy roads.

To me this an extreme example of ‘autocentric‘ planning and attitudes which resulting in everything being considered primarily from the motorist’s perspective. We see the same thing here where motorists park across the pavement to avoid inconveniencing other motorists, where maps fail to show footpaths because they are not relevant to motorists, where bins are left on the pavement by councils to avoid be sued by motorists, where signs warning motorists of diversions actually cause pedestrians to ‘divert’ into the road, and when the police arrest blind people in minutes as soon as they say they will deflate the tires of a car parked repeatedly across the pavement having failed to act on earlier requests from that person to get the motorist to stop parking there!

All of the above results in the perpetuation of the ‘oppression’ of pedestrians. What is great is to witness a huge global movement growing made up of people demanding that things change; not least, Ken Edelstein, from the Green Building Chronicle in Atlanta, who is doing a great job pointing out the injustice of this particular incident and showing how things could so easily be done differently in future.

Re-deploying useless road signage

25 Jun

This morning I came across a couple of ‘pedestrians this way’ signs back to back that were performing no useful function and decided to move them to where they would at least warn pedestrians of cars obstructing the pavement.

‘Pedestrians this way’ signs getting in the way

Warning pedestrians of a car obstructing the pavement

A ‘pedestrians this way’ sign doing some good this time

I also came across and number of abandoned ‘no road markings’ signs. Given that there were a lot of very clear new road markings on the carriageway and that most of the signs had collapsed and were now lying flat across the pavement I moved them out of the way or put them somewhere sensible as appropriate.

This one is at least still standing

Ouch! imaging falling over that one.

Yes there are road markings!

On Nacton Road this time

On Ransomes Way

While re-deploying one of the ‘pedestrians this way’ signs I was challenged by a resident who said it was illegal to move signage and that he was going to phone the police. When I took out my camera to record the situation as evidence he said it was also illegal to take photos! Neither of these are illegal to my knowledge; he did however refuse to enter into a discussion about whether one of the cars beside which I had placed a sign had broken the law. It had: (Highway Code rule 145). I now need to wait to see if I get another visit from the police. If I do get a visit I will challenge as to what law I have broken and also about why they are no spending their time more usefully keeping the pavements safe for pedestrians. I will also remind them of their duty to act without ‘favour of malice’ and ask if they have even spoken to the person who still parks his Jaguar illegally obstructing local raised school crossing despite my regular reports of the problem.

Jaguar still parking on the raised crossing outside the school

I also moved a bunch of wheelie bins off the pavement any into people’s front gardens but that is another story.

Variations in speed limits in urban areas

22 Jun

Here are some maps highlighting a wide variation in the speed limits in force in urban areas in different towns and cities based on OpenStreetMap viewed using the Speed limit mapping view of ITO Map. Oxford and Berlin both make considerable use of 20 mph limits or the km/h equivalent (shown in green on these maps) with most of the other roads at 30 mph (shown in orange on the map). Norwich and my home town of Ipswich make some use of 20 mph but use 30 mph for most residential roads and have some core roads operating at 40 mph limits (shown in red). Stevenage has much higher roads with a core network operating at 40 mph and nearly all of the rest operating at 30 mph. This may be due to Stevenage being a ‘new town’ and having been built with separation of pedestrians and motorists in mind from the start. In Milton Keynes the core network operates at 60/70 mph and pedestrians only use these roads to access bus services. There is limited information in OpenStreetMap about the speed limits for most of the rest of the residential roads in the city.

Speed limits in Oxford, mainly 20 mph (green) with some 30 mph (orange)

Speed limits in Berlin, mainly under 40 km/h (green)

Speed limits in Norwich, some 20 mph, lots of 30 mph and some 40 mph (red)

Speed limits in Ipswich, mainly 30 mph with pockets of 20 mph and some 40 mph

Speed limits in Stevenage, core route at 40 mph with nearly all other roads at 30 mph

Speed limits in Milton Keynes, core routes at 60/70 mph (light blue and bark blue)

It is worth remembering that a child hit at 40 mph has a 90% chance of being killed, at 30 mph it is 50% and at 20 mph it is 10%. I will publish some maps in due course showing both speed limits and road casualties. In the mean time why not help improve the coverage of speed limits in OpenStreetMap?

Barnet in a tizzy

13 May

Barnet seem to be getting in a right state over pavement parking and road safety which is unfortunately one of the worst in London. According to an article published yesterday in a local paper the police have again been issuing dummy parking tickets to motorists who park on the pavement. The local (conservative) council explained that the notices were handed put because of complaints from pedestrians. The Labour party environment spokesperson has rather strangely come out on the side of the motorists saying ‘This is the Barnet Tories once again coming down heavy handed, using a hammer to crack a nut. Why don’t they listen to residents and come up with a scheme that benefits everyone?‘. A Conservative councillor has said that he is pushing for a scheme to allow residents to park on the paths and has asked for no tickets to be issued until one is drawn up. Umm… ok, so we will stop illegal parking once we have made parking on the pavement legal? Is that how it will work?

And then one angry motorist says it will be very dangerous and people we die: “If we’re forced to park on the road there’s going to be hell to pay. The other day an ambulance tried to get down Cheviot Gardens but there were two cars on the road and they had to knock on neighbours doors to get them to move. That’s a life and death situation and it’s crazy. By coincidence another article in today’s edition of the same paper highlighted the borough scary road safety record; nine were killed and 1,520 injured in traffic incident in the borough during 2010 including 241 pedestrians and 82 cyclists (up 32% on 2009). In neighbouring Harrow there were just two deaths and 551 casualties in the year and in Enfield had seven deaths and 1,075 hurt. That is a lot of people!

Fake parking tickets

Challenging the local bin policy

5 May

I have now had a response to my query to Ipswich Borough Council in regard to why bins are left in just about the worst place they could be for pedestrians by their contractors after they have been emptied. The council confirmed that their contractors are instructed to leave bins “on the curtillage of the property… not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc” which they described as being the ‘safest position‘ as it didn’t risk damage to cars which she considered would be the case if the bins were left in line with the parked cars as I had proposed. Not a single mention of the needs of pedestrians in general and the blind and wheelchair users in particular. Not exactly what seems to be  required under the Equalities Act 2010 which came into force in October 2010 and provides ‘A basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport‘.

As it happened it was bin-day today and also polling day today so I was able to sample a few pavements on the route to my local polling station just after the bins had been collected. As you can see from the pictures below (on the left ) the bins were generally left in a position where they were obstructing the pavement. I moved them to a more sensible pave where I proposed that they should be left (on the right) which was often on the relevant driveway only a very short distance from where it had been left by the binmen.

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

Update: Since making the above post I have noticed that the contractors leave bins in a much more obstructive way than the householders did. Check out the pictures below – the images on the left were taken just before the bin collection showing that the householders left them on the edge of their property sensibly, the images on the right show how to binmen then left them all over the footway.

Before bin collection on the left and afterward on the right