Saturday 15 August 2015

Follow the signs

Alright, so it's not the most exciting photo opportunity, so well done Cllr James McKay for smiling for the launch of Birmingham Road Safety Strategy consultation document, 'setting out Birmingham Council’s approach to making our roads safer for all'.  As photo opps go, I guess it beats scowling at grafitti, and there's no doubt speed kills.

20s plenty have over 250 campaigns running across the UK, and the list of towns and cities adopting a 20 mph limit for most of their streets is ever growing.  Merton Council have recently produced a comprehensive report documenting the impact 20mph has had in Camden, Islington, Kingston, Bristol, and more widely.  The evidence is pretty clear:

  • 20s plenty is cheap and easy to introduce (relatively!)
  • It is effective (i.e. reduces speeds if only a little, saves lives)
  • Improved environment for residents (although no noticeable air quality difference)
  • 'Soft measures' as part of campaign can increase effectiveness of 20mph
In Bristol there is an emphasis on enforcement, 'to educate rather than penalise drivers'.  I think it's particularly worthwhile targeting drivers who are not adequately controlling their vehicles, rather than focusing on educating young people  - pedestrians and cyclists - who lets face it, are the innocent victims in all this.

Also from a 'signage' point of view, the speed camera is the most noticed, and effective road sign - Out of 500 drivers surveyed in 2007, none was able to correctly identify 12 road signs and only one sign - the speed camera - was known to them all.

So how can we make effective signs, and make them work better?  For the design of signs themselves there is limited scope for change.  The effectiveness of road signs is regularly questioned and reviewed, but the area I'm interested in is the so-called 'soft measures' - these are the measures where we can have a huge impact.  By engaging local communities in the management of their own streets, the effects are far more wide reaching and lasting.

So how can we bring people together to discuss the values of 20 mph, to highlight the issues of road safety, and to hand over more control of our streets to the people who live in them?  This is part of the 'localisation' challenge discussed by City Councils like Birmingham.  It is difficult handing over control to residents, particularly when so many of us expect the Council to just deal with our problems:

'BCC Highways' should consider more than just motor vehicles using streets - what about cyclists, pedestrians and residents?  How do Highways involve residents in the way roads are managed?  How easy is it to communicate with 'Highways'?  What are the possibilities to influence 'road furniture', or even to plant, paint or decorate our own roads and pavement?  How easy is it to organise temporary closures for street parties or playing out?

It's about ensuring police enforce the law to keep our roads safe - there's the 20 mph limit itself, but also consider particular situations at particular times - the nightmare situation outside our schools at school pick up and drop off - should traffic police be more responsive to patrol near schools at these times?

The forming and supporting of local campaigns, groups and residents forums (like LiveinHope, MediateCICSwan Corner Community Group and Kings Heath Residents forum) are critical in both representing local views and developing better understanding of the need for schemes like 20s plenty.  The successful adoption, or not, of schemes like 20s plenty across a whole city depends on us.

Useful links


  1. This is very helpful to obey the rules and make things easy for ownself and others as well.
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  2. I dont think anyone would agree with this rate of speed limit. It's too slow.
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  3. These signs are really helpful and need to be kept updated.
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