Friday 11 January 2013

20mph Zone Coming to Cambridge. Sort of.

Eventually. Assuming it emerges from the deep grass its in.

By which I mean its still, for no obvious reason, two  years away, and then its being brought in bit by bit. And as on those roads that are already 20mph the police openly admit they don't enforce the speed limit anyway. I wonder whether these two facts may be linked and that, ultimately, our council is giving itself plenty of time and space to back out.

We are, at present, still getting it though. I approve, but lets be clear about what this is and what it isn't. It IS a great way to make streets safer for those already using them. In an urban area like Cambridge the evidence is clear - this can save lives. Don't fall for the quite outlandish stats that showed there was a rise in casualties in 20mph zones - that completely ignored the massive expansion of 20mph zones. If you go from practically none to quite a lot of such spaces, of course more people will be injured in them. The key comparison is between 20mph and 30mph zones, and the evidence is strong.

But this IS NOT a substitute for good quality cycling provision - while we should support this it must be clear that it is no alternative to segregated, high quality cycling provision, nor should we pander to jumped up, self important  local politicians who will spin this as a victory for cycling. It isn't - at best its an attempt to buy us off without giving us any of the road space we need and deserve, at worst it is cynically twisting something we're meant to see as an 'anti-car' news story to imply that it must be 'pro-cyclist' - and we of course know that the two are not synonymous.

The best evidence that this is not meant to help us out comes from the 'major' roads (by Cambridge standards - they'd not be in a large city) excluded from the plan. Milton Road and Histon Road are two such examples. Histon Road is home to a tremendously hostile sub-1m wide cycle lane, and Milton Road we know is a particular bogey with local cyclists who are bullied on to a bad shared use facility and then hassled by the Police who don't know where this facility ends any better than the cyclists do. Coming from the North of the City these two roads are the major access routes that cyclist will still have to use if they are commuting or coming to the city for liesure, and this proposal specifically excludes those key cling routes. This, quite obviously, makes no sense.

Looking at Google Maps I see that its about 2.5km from the Science Park to Mitchams Corner - or in other words there's a mile and a half of Milton Rod in Cambridge. At 30mph all the way, including the roundabouts, traffic lights etc. a car would cover that in three minutes. At 20mph it would take four and a half minutes. But of course you can't 'do the speed limit' all the way down - add on 30 seconds for the lights at Arbury Road (I'm being optimistic...), another 30 seconds at the roundabout, another 30 seconds at Gilbert Road (I know, this is the best run down Milton Road you've ever heard of...), lets assume one of the pedestrian crossings stop you or it takes some time at the Science Park, thats another 2 minutes in total. Then there's acceleration time... The most super-optimistic calculation shows you could save a minute and a half on a journey of six and a half minutes, almost certainly when you factor in time to reach the speed limit and you're down to saving well under a minute. And for that, we're sacrificing any improvement in cyclist and pedestrian safety on the routes into and out of Cambridge.

Make no mistake, this is NOT the act of a City Council dedicated to making the city a safe place for pedestrians - Milton Road and Histon Road are lined with homes, pubs, shops, side roads leading to schools, doctors surgeries... These are not main arterial roads, they're suburban roads full of homes that people should feel safe coming and going from. And they're the routes that people other than motorists MUST use to get to the City - bridges over the A14 restrict us to such routes, its all we've got. And we're saying that this 20mph zone is meant to be for cyclists and pedestrians? Thats rubbish.

So welcome this initiative if you like. But keep the pressure up for real improvements for cyclists. 


  1. We pushed very hard for the Bristol Plans to cover the main roads -which they have, mostly-.

    1. The main roads are main routes for bicycles too.
    2. they are often pedestrian routes, with shops either side -20 mph makes it safer to shop
    3. A consistent speed removes confusion about what the current speed is.
    4. The reduced # of 20mph signs (you'd need one coming off the 30 mph road at every junction) makes it cheaper to roll out.
    5. it would reduce cars speeding up at the end of the 20 mph roads or going above 20mph as they turn off into a side road.
    BCC went with it, which was impressive -now it's being rolled out across the city.

    1. Thanks for that! I'll get in touch with my councillors with that info.