Wandsworth 20 MPH Limits Unenforceable?

I commented previously on the use of PCNs to enforce 20 mph speed limits on certain roads in the London Borough of Wandsworth – see links below. After exchanging numerous emails with the Council and looking into the relevant Acts of Parliament I have come to the conclusion that they have no proper legal grounds for issuing PCNs in these circumstances.

They claim to have taken two legal reviews which supports their stance. But why two? Did the first one not give the right answers?

After my last question to them they simply said “It would appear we are at an impasse, legal advice is privilege information and I have nothing further to add at this time”, i.e. they seem to be stumped for an answer.

Our advice to anyone who receives a PCN for exceeding a 20-mph speed limit in Wandsworth is to challenge it and take it to appeal to London Tribunals.

We are considering a wider legal challenge and if anyone would like to assist with that please contact me (tel: 020-8295-0378 during office hours).

The Council claims to be relying on the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. (LLA &TfL Act 2003) and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. (RTR Act 84).  Specifically Section 4(5)(a) of the LLA&TfL Act 2003 that allows for Penalty Charge Notices to be issued for contravening a Prescribed Order. I pointed out that a prescribed order can only apply where there is a contravention of a traffic sign listed in Schedule 3 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. There is no 20 mph sign limit listed in Schedule 3. And Section 4(6)(a) says: “No penalty charge shall be payable under subsection (5)(a) above where—(a) the person acting in contravention of the prescribed order also fails to comply with an indication given by a scheduled section 36 traffic sign; or….”. They also claimed support of Section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 which specifically refers to “Speed limits on roads other than restricted roads” so only applies to non-restricted roads.  The roads under discussion are almost certainly “restricted roads”.

The legislation in this area is exceedingly complex and difficult to understand but I believe they have simply misinterpreted it in their enthusiasm to raise money from drivers who might not challenge PCNs.

20 Mph speed limits may be enforceable by the police but Councils have no authority to issue PCNs for breaches of 20 mph limits in our view.

How to Object: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/11/19/wandsworth-20-limit-evasion-and-how-to-object/

Money Making Wheeze: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/10/27/a-new-money-making-wheeze-for-london-councils/

Roger Lawson

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Wandsworth 20 Limit Evasion and How to Object

I commented previously on the new scheme to enforce a 20-mph speed limit by the London Borough of Wandsworth – see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/10/27/a-new-money-making-wheeze-for-london-councils/

I have asked the Council to provide information on what public consultation took place on this proposal and a copy of the Traffic Management Order (TMO) used to impose it (which was not published anywhere so far as I can see). They provided the latter but were very evasive about the former even though they claim they received 23 responses. I am pursuing it further.

But I have sent in an objection to the TMO as follows and I suggest readers do the same.

To the London Borough of Wandsworth

Email address:  TrafficAndEngineering@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk

I refer to “The Wandsworth (Prescribed Routes) (20mph Speed Limit) Experimental Order 2021”

Please note our objections to this Order for the following reasons:

1. The 20-mph limit on the roads concerned is likely to have very little, if any, impact on road casualties. I quote from a recent article in the Daily Mail: “Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, Edinburgh University and the University of Cambridge collected data on traffic collisions, casualties, driver speed and traffic volume before a 20mph limit was introduced, as well as one and three years afterwards.

Their study encompassed 76 streets in the city centre, and they compared data with that collected from nearby streets where the restrictions did not apply. Analysis showed that when compared with the sites that had retained their speed limits, a 20mph speed limit was associated with little change in short or long-term accident statistics.

Small reductions in road traffic collisions of 3 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, were observed one and three years after the policy took effect. But there was no statistically significant difference over time, the researchers said.

Similarly, casualty rates fell by 16 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, one and three years after implementation – but these reductions also weren’t statistically significant”.

2. The above evidence is similar to what the DfT reported some years ago and you can read our comments on that here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2018/11/23/no-road-safety-benefit-from-20-mph-schemes/ . Limits of 20 mph typically only reduce traffic speeds by 1 mph which is not noticeable in practice.

3. The roads on which you are enforcing the 20 limit are inappropriate for a 20 limit. For example Wimbledon Park Road is a straight and relatively wide road which drivers will not perceive as needing a 20 limit. Is there really a road safety problem in this road?

4. The ability of the Council to enforce such a limit via the issue of PCNs rather than have police pursue a prosecution suggests the motive for the scheme is to enable the Council to collect money from fines rather than to improve road safety.

5. We have studied the relevant Acts of Parliament referred to in the TMO and we cannot see that they enable enforcement of the 20 limit in this way by Wandsworth Council. London Councils certainly have powers to enforce parking restrictions, road closures and certain other traffic offences but we do not see that this extends to 20-mph speed limits. Please point out exactly which provisions in those Acts are being relied upon.

Roger Lawson

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A New Money Making Wheeze for London Councils

The London Borough of Wandsworth has obtained permission to enforce 20 Mph speed limits by the use of PCN fines. This will be a trial scheme for 8 months using an Experimental Traffic Order. The money raised will go to the Council so this is just another scam to extract money from motorists like the LTN cameras now being used.

Previously only the police could issue fines for speeding and the money then goes to the Government Treasury. Or the police could offer a speed awareness course which is a way they finance their own operations.

Wandsworth Council say that traffic studies found that one in four vehicles broke the speed limit in Priory Lane and one in five in Wimbledon Park Road. But that surely just demonstrates that a 20 limit is inappropriate for those roads or the roads need re-engineering. There is no evidence given of excessive road safety problems.

These were quotations given in the Evening Standard: “The AA has said that speeding should not be dealt with ‘like a parking ticket’. Speeding enforcement should not become “fishing trips” to secure money for councils,’ a spokesman told the Evening Standard. Drivers will be rightly concerned that speeding fines will be more about filling council coffers than keeping roads safe, Joe Ventre, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, also told the newspaper”.

Residents of Wandsworth should submit objections to the Council but this scheme will undoubtedly spread to other boroughs if it is not opposed. It should never have been approved by central Government.

P.S. There is minimal information on this scheme on the Wandsworth Council web site and no Experimental Traffic Order related to it was obviously present on the London Registry as there should be so we submitted an FOI Act request to the Council.

P.P.S. The answers to my FOI request suggest that the Traffic Order was published in December 2021 in a local newspaper and in the London Gazette with only a few weeks allowed for objections, but not many people are likely to have read those sources. I am still looking into the legality of the Traffic Order.

Roger Lawson

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Fines for Speeding Rising Rapidly

The Times have published an article headlined “Police veering wildly on 20 mph limit” which covers the variation in speed enforcement across the country. In London fines have been rising rapidly as the Metropolitan Police have doubled patrols in 20 mph zones and have a target to enforce against one million drivers. But in other parts of the country the number of 20 mph speeding offences in minimal.

London taxi drivers, known to be some of the safest drivers on the roads, have been badly hit particularly after the previous excess tolerance was reduced by 1 mph. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said they had been inundated with requests for legal assistance from drivers with previously clean licences, given penalty points for breaching a 20 mph limit.

Lilli Matson, who oversees the “Vision Zero” strategy for Transport for London (TfL), is quoted in the Times article as saying “the fines went to the Treasury and no profits were taken from speed awareness courses”. This is grossly misleading. Police forces generate surpluses from such courses which they spend on all sorts of things including more cameras. See our Ampow campaign for more evidence on this at: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses

Comment: Having a target for offences identified and prosecuted is wrong. It incentivises the police to find offences that may have no relevance to road safety while there is no evidence that taking a speed awareness course improves a driver’s safety. It’s just another perverse attack on motorists, particularly in London pursued by TfL, where 20 mph limits are now being installed on main roads. See link below on how Vision Zero is failing to achieve any improvement in road casualty statistics mainly because there is an irrational belief that cutting traffic speed will help.

Vision Zero failing: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/20/vision-zero-failing-but-the-mayor-thinks-otherwise/

Times article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/2edd85a6-41a6-11ed-bf78-197f09550dd1?

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Petition to Halt Spread of 20 MPH Speed Limits  

A petition on Change.org has been created by James Burdass which reads: “Stop every road in London having a 20mph Speed limit”.

More details say “Let’s face it, every driver knows that London is grinding to a halt under the Mayor’s transport policies. So why is it that we need more expensive to implement new anti-car 20mph speed limits?

The Mayor has said that all Red Routes within the Congestion charging zone will have 20mph limits. Yes, the main roads not the high street or residential roads. Just outside the zone, Park Lane goes from 40mph to 20mph. Progress?

For more than half a century 30mph has been the default urban speed limit in the UK. 20mph limits are expensive to implement, wasting scarce road related funding that could be better spent elsewhere, create more pollution on our streets, lead to more congestion and do not deliver the benefits in terms of casualty reduction that proponents expected.https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/20-mph-speed-limits-on-roads

20mph leads to slower speeds for everyone and that includes bus passengers and ambulances looking to get people to hospital. Rather than winning hearts and minds it is the backs and spines that are affected.

It is time that this was rolled back and London’s main roads restored to 30mph.

Please sign it here: https://chng.it/C6pwgJ6FfM

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Another “A” Road in London Reduced to 20 MPH

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing to reduce the speed limit on Battersea Park Road (the A3205) to 20 MPH along the whole length. In addition they are proposing a new segregated cycle lane and other minor changes to the road.

Why are they proposing these changes? To quote from the TfL document: “These changes seek to create a sustainable transport spine through the Nine Elms opportunity area, providing benefits to both the existing and future residents, and workers. The road layout along this stretch of Battersea Park Road is very constrained due to the railway arches and level of activity along the road. The proposals in this consultation would create an improved cycle link between CS8 to the west and CS5 to the east. They would improve connectivity and allow for increases in cycling demand that are anticipated to be generated by the new town centre emerging at Battersea Power Station, while providing safer separated sections of cycle track. The proposals would also provide more direct pedestrian crossings and more space to interchange between buses and trains at Battersea Park station. Overall, this will create a destination where people are encouraged to walk, cycle and use public transport. The proposals are fully funded through third party contributions from the regeneration along Battersea Park Road and Nine Elms Lane”.

As usual with TfL proposals of late there is no cost information provided or cost/benefit justification.

But it’s yet another example of TfL slowing down road traffic on major roads in London. Make sure you object by responding to the public consultation here: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/battersea-park-road?

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Supt. Andy Cox Misleads the Public on Social Media

Police Superintendent Andy Cox has been very active on social media promoting how great a job he is doing for road safety by increasing the number of speeding tickets being issued in London.

For example a recent tweet from him said: “Incredible work by Traffic officers tackling #speeding. Last week we enforced 2,020 speeding offences across #London. By comparison it was 268 in same week in 2019. An 8 fold increase!”

What he does not say is that speed limits have been reduced in that period with a blanket 20 mph limit on all main central London roads. In addition there are more speed cameras and an expanded team of police officers using them.

Supt. Cox and others are saying that due to the lighter traffic from the coronavirus epidemic there is more speeding taking place but no evidence has been provided for that. It may be possible that some people are exceeding limits where roads are quiet and pedestrians non-existent but that hardly justifies a major police campaign. The increase in recorded speeding offences is undoubtedly mainly due to more enforcement activity.

Will it actually reduce road casualty statistics? Exceedingly unlikely because exceeding the speed limit is actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in London in the last five years. It’s just a witch-hunt in essence when the police would be much better to spend their resources on tackling real crimes such as knife crime which is out of control in many parts of London.

There are some extreme speeders that should be stopped because those are the ones involved in drink/drug driving or other crimes. But a lot of police enforcement of speeding is pointless. It does not cut accidents but just leads to more speeding fines being issued. And as we have pointed out before, the use of speed awareness courses now provides a powerful incentive for the police to waste resources on speeding offences because they get a cut of the income generated. It’s distorting road safety priorities.

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Paranoia on Speeding Rising and Linking it to the Coronavirus Epidemic

The public’s paranoia about speeding drivers on our roads seems to be increasing. That may be partly driven by the fact that average traffic speeds have been rising as the roads are often empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. But it is also raised by politicians and even the police who are using social media to promote a false message.

For example, this was a recent exchange on twitter that I had with Councillor Nicola Dykes (she is a ward councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and also a Committee Chairman):

Posted by Nicola Dykes: SPEEDING- Police are increasing their operations to tackle this. Please contact them direct via ‪@MPSBromley to share roads where this is an issue. As ward Cllrs we have already highlighted roads we know there is an issue – Farnaby, Hayes Road, Siward etc. Please share!

Posted by me in reply: What is the accident record in those roads that justifies expending police resources on a witch-hunt?

What followed was not an answer to my question, but a long dialogue criticising my comments but never answering the question.

Unfortunately there is too much paranoia about people exceeding the speed limit with the result that a large amount of effort is being expended by the police and others on stopping it when that effort is very unlikely to result in any reduction in road casualties.

As anyone who has looked into this issue would know, the number of road accidents where speeding (i.e. exceeding the speed limit) is a factor is very low. In London the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306 on the police STATS19 reporting forms) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries). It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years.

The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.

Bearing in mind that multiple factors can be recorded, and that many of those involved in accidents will be under the influence of drink or drugs, or otherwise be involved in criminal activity (e.g. in stolen cars), even if the speed limit was rigorously enforced it would be unlikely to make much difference to road casualty statistics.

That is why I say that the whole policy of more speed enforcement is driven by paranoia and is actually diverting resources from more productive and effective road safety policies – such as improving roads, improving driver education and other possible approaches.

As regards the possible problem of excessive speed in Farnaby Road, Hayes Road (the B2212) and Siward Road before the police or Bromley Council spends money on tackling that alleged problem it is best to obtain some data on the actual speed of traffic in those roads and the accident record – the latter should already be available.

I have therefore requested under the Freedom of Information Act the following information:

  1. The details of all road accidents in the following roads: Farnaby Road, Hayes Road and Siward Road for the last three years that are available. That should include not just the totals but the details of accidents in those roads as reported on STATS19 forms (but excluding personal information of course).
  2. Any information held by Bromley Council on the speeds of traffic in those roads.

One of the persons who has been very active on social media promoting the hysteria over speeding is Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police. One of his recent tweets said: “With some very high speeds in London increasing risk of fatal and serious crashes which would add pressure to the NHS, Police, Fire causing potential impact on Covid-19 patients”.

This suggestion that accidents are increasing, putting pressure on the NHS is unsupported by any facts. In reality NHS A&E facilities have fewer patients and plenty of spare capacity at present and the suggestion that treating accident patients might affect treatment of Covid-19 patients is simply wrong. It’s too early to obtain the actual data on vehicle accidents but insurance companies such as Admiral are already refunding part of their car insurance premiums because the number of car accidents has fallen.

We are also seeing the same biased and inaccurate messages from those campaigning for 20 mph speed limits where they suggest that imposing them would relieve pressure on the NHS. It’s simply nonsense.

Readers should make sure they oppose this frenzy of fake news by responding to it with the facts.

Roger Lawson

Postscript: The results of the FOI Act request for data on roads in Bromley can be summarised as follows. It does not provide all the information I requested but there are some conclusions that can be drawn from it.

  1. Recent traffic speed data is only available for Farnaby Road but it shows average traffic speed is well below 30 mph, at about 26 mph. The 85th percentile figure also suggests this road is best signposted at 30 mph. There is some research available that shows that setting the speed limit at the 85th percentile of traffic speed actually results in the minimum of road accidents.
  2. The accident records for the last 5 years from Crashmap shows a few slight accidents in Farnaby Road, one serious accident in Hayes Road and only one slight accident in Siward Road. There were no fatalities. These are not exceptional figures for any roads in Bromley. Slight accidents can be quite trivial but it might be worth looking at the details of the serious accident in Hayes Road to see what the cause of that was.
  3. If local residents are concerned about the speed of traffic in Hayes Road or Siward Road, I suggest that council officers be asked to undertake some speed monitoring on those roads.

Speeding is often a subjective matter, reported by some people but not considered a problem by others. Whether there is a problem, or one worth expending resources upon, is best judged by looking at the accident data. The roads mentioned are obviously not ones that should take priority for road safety measures in Bromley as there are many other roads with a worse accident record. That is where money should be spent – not on roads where there is simply a vociferous group of residents.

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Bus and Underground Usage Collapses While Anti-Car Measures are Promoted

According to figures published by Transport for London (TfL), bus usage is down by 85% from the pre-virus epidemic levels and underground usage is down by 95%. That’s hardly surprising as Mayor Sadiq Khan is now advising people not to use public transport unless they are essential workers travelling to work. That’s a big “U-Turn” from his original comment in March that there was no risk of catching coronavirus on the tube. That was a very ill-advised comment at the time when it was already obvious that it was a highly contagious disease.

It is also causing the deaths of many bus drivers who are exposed to the general public although the Mayor is belatedly taking steps to protect them by limiting access, providing screening and PPE. Meanwhile crowding of people on the underground is still happening as the service has been reduced, partly because underground staff are sick or “self-isolating” (or “under house arrest” as Norman Tebbit aptly called it recently).

Note that income from bus and underground fares provides almost 50% of TfL income so the Mayor has a major financial problem to add to the already high deficit in TfL if the Covid-19 epidemic continues for much longer.

It is very clear that using private cars is a much safer way to travel and that public transport should be avoided but the anti-car and cycling lobbies continue to try and make capital out of the epidemic. The Times reports that roads in built-up areas may be converted into car-free zones to create extra space for joggers and cyclists during lockdown and there is a call for lower speed limits to protect the NHS from having to deal with road casualties. That’s despite the fact that most A&E Units have fewer customers than normal probably because many potential users probably consider them high risk places to visit so are avoiding them.

At a time when vehicle reliant key workers such as mobile carers, NHS staff, delivery drivers etc, are working hard to provide care and keep shops and hospitals supplied, the senseless, shameless anti-driver lobby comes up with ideas to obstruct them in favour of people who aren’t working.

Whether we like it or not, the Government have made it clear that they want people to ‘Stay Home’ as much as possible in order to minimise the spread of virus. Driving a car is the lowest risk form of transport in terms of virus transmission. Jogging and cycling entails heavy breathing outdoors, which is obviously a higher risk. However, it is quite possible for all three to coexist with the common sense and courtesy that is currently being displayed by the vast majority. There is no need for any activity to be banned, including essential car travel, but the roads need to be kept clear for those who actually need to use them rather than being closed for spurious reasons.

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20 MPH and Slower in London

Last week a 20-mph speed limit was brought in on many major routes in central London. For example it covers the main east-west route of Millbank, Victoria Embankment, Upper and Lower Thames Street, and Tower Hill. Most drivers think such limits are ludicrous and are not justified by the demands of road safety although average traffic speeds on these roads are often less than 20 particularly after the spread of cycle superhighways caused more congestion. But not all roads in London are so congested or justify a 20 limit at all times of the day.

You can go to this web site for an explanation as to why 20 mph signed-only speed limits are unjustifiable on any rational basis: www.20sSenseless.org

But will 20 be the limit in future or will the attack on all forms of vehicle traffic be extended until we are all driving at walking pace? There are certainly some people in power in London who seem to think that the only way to cut accidents is to stop traffic altogether or make it drive at a snail’s pace. It is certainly the case that TfL plan to extend the 20 limit to other major roads across the capital in “Phase 2” of their Safer Speeds proposals.

But the City of London Corporation is going a step further already. They are going to ask for Ministerial approval to impose a 15-mph limit across the Square Mile to replace the existing 20 mph limit. The City has had a 20-mph limit since July 2014. Has it made any difference to casualty numbers?  Not obviously so as you can see from the chart below taken from this City Corporation report published in 2018: https://tinyurl.com/vvt58d9 . Pedestrian casualties have actually been rising and other transport mode users have probably fallen simple because there is now less traffic in the City due to concerted efforts to discourage it. In summary there is no good evidence that a 20 limit has worked to reduce road casualties in the City of London, or anywhere else either.

City Casualties

The City Corporation has to get permission from the Secretary of State for Transport to impose a 15 MPH limit for which there is no approved signage for example and enforcement is also doubtful. Anyone who thinks that 15 mph is ludicrous should write to: Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP at Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR or use the form on this contact page: https://forms.dft.gov.uk/contact-dft-and-agencies/

What limit will be chosen when 15 MPH does not work? 10 or even 5?  When will this lunacy end?

Roger Lawson

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