Taking it slow in the suburbs


[from This Is Local London]

Taking it slow in the suburbs

The first 20mph speed limit in the borough was introduced in Wood Green in 2001. Since then, the same limit has been rolled out or proposed in 29 areas of Haringey, making it a contender to become the first London borough with a blanket restriction on residential roads. Haringey’s transport and traffic chief Brian Haley is making every effort to meet Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s target of introducing a 20mph limit on all residential roads across the capital.

Large swathes of Tottenham, Wood Green and Harringay are already restricted to 20mph and consultations are underway in Muswell Hill, Stroud Green and White Hart Lane.

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Click here to see a map of the existing and proposed 20mph zones.

Until last month, councils have been able to introduce 20mph restrictions only in limited areas and accompanied by enforcement measures, such as speed cameras and road humps.

But in a bid to tackle the rate of accidents and injuries on London’s roads, Mr Livingstone has given the green light to make 20mph the default speed without restrictions and without the need for enforcement. This has been welcomed by many – but with some caution.

Chico Pacheco, co-ordinator of Park Avenue South Residents Association, would like his road to be included in the scheme. But he said: “There’s no enforcement. It’s all very well to make these laws, but if there’s no enforcement, it makes a mockery of the law.

“It’s a superb idea, but at the moment it’s so theoretical.”

Haringey Police Borough Commander Simon O’Brien said anything that potentially reduces deaths and injuries “has to be a good thing”.

He said: “Inappropriate and excess speed continues to be a fundamental element in the cause and severity of collisions.

“Slower speeds means fewer casualties, fewer collisions and fewer risks. Enforcement is only part of the answer. There needs to come about a change in the public’s perception of speeding.”

According to Transport for London, nine out of ten pedestrians would be killed if hit by a car travelling at 40mph, two out of ten at 30mph and one in forty at 20mph.

Councillor Brian Haley, cabinet member for environment and conservation, said: “Vehicle speed is the most important factor in the severity of road accidents. A 20mph speed limit significantly reduces the risk of fatal or serious injuries .”

He added that residents consistently say they want lower speed limits.

And he dismissed claims made by the AA last month that cutting speed limits in London to 20mph could increase carbon dioxide emissions by more than a tenth. According to the AA, slowing vehicles down makes them less efficient, increasing fuel consumption by 5.8 miles per gallon compared to someone driving at 30mph.

Mr Haley said: “There are always going to be some differences of opinion between the pro-motoring lobby and environmental groups.

“The AA’s own report on this states that 20mph zones in residential areas can reduce carbon emissions, but that a 30mph limit on main roads may be more environmentally friendly than a 20mph limit.

“Our current 20mph zones concentrate on residential roads. We will bear in mind the findings of the AA when considering any 20mph zone along main roads, though as the AA says, more research is needed.”

According to residents, consultation is the key.

John Hajdu, chairman of the Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association, said: “We would support the idea of 20mph limits if it’s properly considered and consulted, especially near schools, in residential areas and on some shopping streets.”

This sentiment is echoed by councillor Martin Newton, Liberal Democrat spokesman for traffic and highways.

He said: “I am broadly in favour of 20mph zones for residential areas. However, consultation must take place at an early stage, with each road being looked at to avoid unnecessary use of humps and bumps.”

Zones with 20mph restrictions in Seven Sisters and Crouch End are expected to be approved by the end of April, with all the other areas under consultation due to be implemented by 2010.

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