Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Ramblers' Association (RTS 10)



  1.  The Ramblers' Association (RA) is a voluntary organisation founded in 1935 whose aims are to promote walking, to protect public rights of way, to campaign for access to open country, and to defend the beauty of the countryside. It has over 130,000 individual members and 77,000 members of affiliated clubs and societies. The Association believes that it is the largest single organisation representing a group of vulnerable road users and we are pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence to the committee.

  2.  As an organisation representing the interests of walkers we are acutely aware that illegal and inappropriate speed practices are both dangerous and severely detrimental to the quality of life in both urban areas and the countryside. We would urge the Committee not to limit its inquiry to the urban situation. Speeding issues are just as significant in villages and on country roads as they are in towns and cities.

  3.  In 1998, the General Council of the Association (its policy making body) passed the following resolution:

Motor traffic on country roads

  "This General Council notes with alarm the 38 per cent increase in road traffic over the next 20 years predicted in the recent National Road Traffic Forecasts (with rural traffic likely to increase by as much as four times over current levels).

  If unchecked, the result will be a serious deterioration in the quality of the countryside, and in particular, increased danger for walkers, horse riders and cyclists using country lanes.

  We therefore call upon the government:

    (a)  to support the Road Traffic Reduction (UK Targets) Bill; and

    (b)  to urge and assist local authorities to make more extensive use of their powers to make appropriate speed limits on country roads and within villages, and to close certain roads to vehicular traffic except for access, in the interest of amenity and safety".

  The reason that the Association is so concerned about the traffic speed issue is that in many rural locations, both in the countryside and within villages, roads do not have footways. Pedestrians are therefore forced to walk within the carriageway and to share that space with motorised vehicles. Beyond the 30 mph zones of a village, that traffic may well be travelling at the national speed limit and can take any form from an articulated lorry to a motorbike. Within living memory it would have been safe for walkers to move from the public rights of way network, along a linking stretch of carriageway, and back onto the rights of way network, but that is no longer the case. Within villages, where in many cases it is not possible to provide a footway because the houses open directly onto the road, people use cars to travel very short distances simply because that appears to be a safer option than attempting to walk along the road. It can become difficult to even cross such roads to reach important facilities such as schools or shops. Illegal and inappropriate speeds, by making the walking environment dangerous and unpleasant, thus have the effect of limiting choice of transport mode, and of encouraging even greater use of private cars.

  4.  In accordance with our General council resolution, the RA support the Charter for County lanes which was developed by the Council for the Protection of Rural England in 1998. This calls upon national and local government to:

    —  ensure lower speeds on country lanes and reduce the speed limit of 60 mph to a maximum of 40 mph, with 20 mph limits in villages;

    —  introduce a new category of county lane where walkers, cyclists and riders would have priority over motorists, like Home Zones in urban areas;

    —  allow different styles of traffic management schemes which suit the rural environment;

    —  stop the spread of new developments which encourage traffic growth;

    —  provide real transport choice in the countryside through better public transport and by providing a safe environment for cycling, walking and riding.

  5.  The methods by which the problem of speeding should be tackled in villages and the countryside will be different to those employed in towns and cities. Lights, signs and bollards are not appropriate everywhere and can contribute to the creeping suburbanisatoin of the countryside. In particular we would recommend that local authorities be given far greater flexibility in designing traffic management schemes so that they can seek to avoid extensive road lighting, repeater signs and traffic claming clutter. Other measures could include strategic lorry networks to stop HGVs from "rat-running".

  6.  In its submission to the Transport sub-committee on the Ten Year Plan, the RA urged the amendment of the Plan so as to reduce dependence on the car, rather than encourage it, and to put far greater attention and resources towards improving sustainable transport, and consequently improving the quality of life for all. Limiting illegal speeding and introducing lower speed limits is part of that same process, and should be part of the integrated transport policy. Use of illegal and inappropriate speeds serve to limit the freedom of those not using motorised vehicles.

The Ramblers' Association

December 2001

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