Memorandum by the Council for the Protection
of Rural England (RTS 31)
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
1. CPRE welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to the Transport Sub-Committee inquiry into Road Traffic Speed.
We have long called for action to address the problems of speeding
traffic for people's quality of life and believe the inquiry is
timely, coming as it does, after the Government's statement on
a rural road hierarchy.
2. CPRE has 58,000 supporters; a Branch
in every County; and a network of dedicated Transport Campaign
Groups which are actively involved in discussions with local authorities
over Local Transport Plans (LTPs). Our national campaigning led
to the requirement on Ministers to report to Parliament on the
development of a rural road hierarchy (Section 269, Transport
Act 2000). It is the combination of national policy expertise,
backed by local experience which enables CPRE to comment both
on policy development and its implementation. While our focus
is rural, we passionately believe in the inter-connections of
town and country and the need to improve people's quality of life
wherever they live.
3. Our submission principally addresses
the problems facing rural communities and road users. As we shall
explain, it is on rural roads where progress in achieving casualty
reduction has been slowest, and where real opportunities exist
to improve speed management strategies. We believe this to be
an essential complement to action in towns and cities.
4. Inappropriate and excessive speed is
a significant concern for many rural communities. Its effects
the attractiveness of alternatives
to the car;
quality of life for rural communities;
the character of the countryside.
5. The problems of speeding traffic frequently
fill council post bags. An indication of how this issue has gained
greater significance comes from the national The Changing Village
survey undertaken by the Women's Institute. This discovered
that "the increase in traffic was the third most notable
change by respondents over the last ten years, and of particular
concern were the increases in speeding and heavy traffic".
Traffic levels have been rising faster in rural areas than in
towns and citiesa trend which is set to continue. The Government's
Ten Year Transport Plan, Transport 2010, states that traffic
levels on rural roads will have risen by a further 21 per cent
in the next decade, even after implementation of the plan. As
such, existing problems are only likely to get worse. CPRE believes
it is essential, therefore, that a concerted programme of action
is established to tackle the problems caused by speeding traffic.
6. The Government's Speed Policy Review,
New Directions in Speed Management, noted that in rural
areas inappropriate speed was more of a problem than excessive
speed. The latter, however, is dictated by the speed limit set
and CPRE firmly believes that 60 mph is, itself, an inappropriate
signal to drivers. Indeed, the same document acknowledged that
"the one aspect of the national speed limit system that comes
in for most criticism is the notion that 60 mph is a reasonable
maximum speed on country lanes". The RAC Report on Motoring
2000 showed that 50 per cent of drivers would like to see the
current 60 mph speed limit reduced on country roads. We therefore
believe that consideration of both excessive and inappropriate
speed is necessary on rural roads.
7. It is well documented that speeding traffic,
by significantly reducing time frames to react to road conditions,
increases the chances of a collision and effects the likely severity
of those involved. In launching the Road Safety Strategy, the
Prime Minister said "research shows us that speed, more than
anything else, is what is killing people. So controlling speed
is at heart of our strategy." This is of particular importance
in rural areas where average speeds tend to be higher. According
to DTLR, 59 per cent of all deaths on roads and a third of all
serious injuries occur on rural roads. In 2000, figures show that
3,577 people lost their lives on rural roads, over 19,000 people
were seriously injured and 60,550 slightly injured. Given that
approximately a third of collisions are caused by excessive or
inappropriate speed, it is possible to estimate using DTLR calculations
that this "cost" society £2,744 million in 2000
alone. Of course, such calculations do not begin to address the
heart-ache felt by families whose lives have been affected by
a road collision.
8. Speeding traffic has an intimidating
effect on vulnerable road users (residents, walkers, cyclists
and horse-riders). This expresses itself in different ways, many
of which are not easily measured using traditional survey techniques.
This means that frequently the problems are understated. They
are subtle, but important changes to lifestyles and travel patterns.
Speeding traffic may lead to journeys on foot or bicycle not being
made because people feel frightened; more trips being made by
car; an increase in escort trips for children; and an inability
of those who do walk, cycle or ride along country lanes to do
so in safety. It becomes harder for both the young and older people
to cross busy or dangerous roadscurtailing their activities.
9. In 1999 CPRE undertook a survey of over
1,000 people's experiences on country lanes. Copies of our Rural
Traffic Fear Survey are enclosed with this submission. Over
90 per cent of respondents were motorists, yet 65 per cent of
people said that they felt threatened either all or some of the
time by speeding traffic. Responses included comments like:
"it is dangerous to walk to neighbours or
to the post box even in daylight"
"sometimes I get the feeling that car users
think people should not be walking on roads, not even country
"when riding on narrow country lanes I feel
drivers go too fast when they can't see what is ahead. I am always
frightened they will run into the back of us"
"too many drivers seem to feel that four
wheels dominate over two wheels, feet, hooves or anything else."
10. A higher proportion of older people
live in rural areas than the national average and 18 per cent
of people in rural districts are aged over 65 and particularly
vulnerable. As such, the effects of intimidation can be more acute.
It is important, therefore, that public policy is able to reflect
on and respond to these less visible, but very important, effects
of speeding traffic.
11. An important objective of the Government's
Transport White Paper was to increase the proportion of journeys
made by bicycle and on foot. The Ten Year Transport Plan, Transport
2010, contains a target to triple the number of cycling trips
Research by the Commission for Integrated Transport
(Rural Transport: An Overview of Key Issues) has revealed
that the proportion of trips made by bicycle in rural areas is
less than 1.5 per centand worryingly is in fact in decline.
The fear of speeding traffic is recognised as a constraint on
increased levels of walking and cycling. Indeed, vulnerable road
users are exposed to higher levels of risk on rural roads. This
needs to be tackled urgently in order to support more sustainable
transport choices and health enhancing activities.
12. The bulk of attention and resources
on road safety have been geared around improving conditions in
urban areas, while the attention in rural areas has been on tackling
identified accident hot spots. Progress on reducing road casualties
on rural roads, however, has been half that achieved on urban
roads since 1981-5. Furthermore, the ability of highway authorities
to address the impact of speeding traffic on wider quality of
life and community safety concerns has been limited. In a number
of counties, CPRE Branches have undertaken surveys of all Parish
Councils to identify the extent of the problem. The results are
presented in Annex 1 and illustrate how the existing approach
is failing rural communities, and those who use rural roads and
13. Further evidence comes from the Provisional
Local Transport Plan for Somerset County Council (1999) which
said "many communities suffer a significant reduction in
their quality of life as the result of excessive traffic speeds
and volumes, but do not have an unduly poor accident record. The
County Council's environmental traffic calming programme has,
for a number of years, addressed this issue. Approximately five
sites are addressed each year....the scale of the problem can
be seen from the list of 250 requests awaiting environmental traffic
calming within the county". This would, therefore, take 50
years to complete!
14. Progress is delivering improved safety
on country lanes has also been considerably slow. In part, this
is because Highway Authorities continue to focus on collision
hot spots, rather than adopt a more strategic approach. It is
worth noting the DTLR's Good Practice Guide (2001), which says
that "over time, most of the worst accident problem sites
have been "cured". Accidents now tend to be spread more
evenly across whole areas. For this reason, "mass action",
"route action" or "area action" remedial treatments
may be preferable to treatments at a few specific sites".
This requires a new approach, assessment criteria, and skills.
We hope the Committee will press the Government on how it will
ensure local authorities can rise to this challenge.
A NEW APPROACHTHROUGH
15. CPRE supports the development of rural
road hierarchy (RRH). This is essential if policies, and the activities
of highway authorities, are to improve rural quality of life,
contribute to casualty reduction targets, and protect the character
of the countryside in line with the Government's Rural White Paper.
16. We believe the report by Babtie Ross
Silcock to Government provides a firm foundation for developing
a RRH. It is worth noting that the report was developed, having
reached a consensus between the DTLR, Motorists Forum, other road
users groups, transport professionals, the Countryside Agency
and the Highways Agency. Such consensus is often rare in transport
policy debates. Key issues which CPRE would draw to the Committee's
attention from the report are:
A broader range of objectives: the report
acknowledges that speed policy needs to address a wider range
of policy objectives as well as contribute towards casualty reduction
(see Annex II for CPRE's assessment on policy linkages).
Action on country lanes: the report notes
that assigning major roads and country lanes to different parts
of the rural road hierarchy is easier to achieve than those roads
which might be described as being "in the middle". There
is, therefore, a consensus around being able to improve safety
and reduce intimidation along country lanes which the Government
should respond to.
Consistency of approach is important:
drivers need consistency in the application of speed limits. In
CPRE's view this lends itself towards a national speed limit system,
rather than the incremental approach adopted to date.
Quiet Lanes: the useful role of Quiet
Lanes ( as designated under Section 268 of the Transport Act 2000)
in a broader rural road hierarchy is acknowledged.
HGV Abuses: the report highlights that
up to 75 per cent of HGVs abuse the 40 mph speed limit on single
carriageway rural roads. HGVs total 10 per cent of all vehicles
involved in fatal collisions on rural roads, yet make up a far
smaller proportion of overall traffic.
Legal Implications: changes to primary
legislation would be required to enable a RRH to be implemented,
and in particular, to overcome existing regulations which would
require significant new amounts of signing and clutter.
17. In essence CPRE looks to the rural road
hierarchy to help provide choice to people who have been frightened
of walking, confidence to those who might cycle, and safety to
horse riders. It should deliver real benefits for rural communities
which have been plagued by heavy traffic, protect the character
of the countryside and enhance people's quality of life and public
enjoyment of the countryside.
18. CPRE was deeply disappointed by the
Minister's statement to Parliament on the Rural Road Hierarchy
(HOC, 28 November 2001). In particular, the Minister noted that
more research was required "before we can properly assess
the case for lower rural speed limits". This conclusion follows
an 18 month Speed Policy Review which examined this very question,
and the Babtie Ross Silcock report which examined this specific
issue. It would appear that little progress has been made, in
policy terms, in improving rural road safety since the Speed Policy
Review was commissioned some 3¼ years ago. This will only
add to the growing dissatisfaction of rural communities at the
ability of authorities to respond to their needs (see Annex 1).
19. CPRE's principal recommendations are
the Government urgently bring forward
a Road Safety Bill which amends national speed limits in line
with the conclusions of the Rural Road Hierarchy working group,
with a clear but ambitious timetable for implementation; and
the Government brings forward the
review of Circular 1/93 Speed Limits and changes its current focus
on the setting of speed limits on the basis of existing vehicles
speeds and casualty data, towards:
(i) giving greater prominence to the
safety and quality of life needs of local communities;
(ii) breaking the link between the absence
of vulnerable road users and higher permissible speed limits in
order to tackle traffic intimidation;
(iii) promoting a whole route and area
based approach to speed policy instead of one based on collision
20. In addition, CPRE recommends:
Speed policy should be more holistic
and be guided by how it can improve urban and rural quality of
life, environmental objectives (such as CO2 emission savings),
sustainable transport and health objectives and countryside policies,
as well as casualty reduction;
a new Rural Road Hierarchy should
aim to deliver an overall step change in the protection given
to vulnerable road users (rather than simply prioritising motorised
traffic on main roads with the effect that vulnerable road users
are pushed onto back roads);
a precautionary approach should be
adopted in selecting speed limits for any given road given the
tendency of motorists to perceive them as a target speed rather
than the maximum operating speed in ideal conditions;
local authorities be required in
reviewing their Local Transport Plans for submission in 2004,
to review and potentially re-classify all rural roads in their
area to complement the national rural road hierarchy, and for
DTLR to issue guidance to authorities in late 2002 on how this
should be undertaken;
the Government support calls for
a national roll-out of Quiet Lines so as to provide greater transport
choices for rural communities and incorporate them within the
new national rural road hierarchy;
the Committee press DTLR and the
Home Office on how enforcement can be improved to reduce the significant
number of HGV's breaking speed limits on rural single carriageways;
additional resources be provided
to DTLR Road Safety Division and highway authorities through the
Spending Review to ensure this specific policy area is progressed.
21. In making his statement to Parliament
the Road Safety Minister, David Jamieson MP, noted that the working
group "rightly identify the signing issues as a big obstacle
to progressing the hierarchy as they have proposed it". Certainly
CPRE is concerned that a new Rural Road Hierarchy does not lead
to a profusion of signs or other urbanising clutter. We believe
there are many opportunities, however, to reduce the potential
for clutter. Chief amongst these would be a national speed limit
of 30 mph for all villages where the village name plate indicated
the lower limit (as used in France), and the absence of a centre
white line on a country lane to indicate a 40 mph speed limit,
unless signed otherwise. Other behavioural techniques (including
Self Explaining Roads) also have potential to slow vehicles without
damaging the character of the countryside.
22. CPRE would welcome the opportunity to
discuss with the Committee, methods by which road safety objectives
can be achieved on rural roads without damaging the character
of the countryside through clutter.
23. It is in villages where significant
progress can be made in reducing the effects of speeding traffic
on communities. Over five million people live in settlements of
less than 3,000. CPRE believes all villages should be safe villages.
In its Ninth Report, Integrated Transport White Paper in
the 1999 Session, the ETR Select Committee recommended that speed
limits should be set at 30 mph in villages. It noted "speeding
is a serious problem in the countryside. We recommend that a speed
limit of 30 mph or less should be established in all villages,
including those on major roads".
24. CPRE welcomed, therefore, the Governments
statement in its Road Safety Strategy that 30 mph should be the
"norm" for villages. The Prime Minister, referred to
how "villages are cut in half by speeding traffic" in
his key note speech on the local environment (24 April 2001) and
went on to say, "we intend to press ahead with the roll out
of 30 mph speed limits for villageswhere there are bureaucratic
obstacles to making these improvements we will tackle them".
The commitment to 30mph speed limits in villages was contained
in the Guidance to local authorities on Local Transport Plans
(DETR 2000), and reflected in the recent report to Government
on developing a rural road hierarchy. In giving evidence to the
ETR Select Committee on the Road Strategy the then Road Safety
Minister, Lord Whitty, made the Government's position clear:
". . . for rural roads, rural lanes and
for villages, we would hope to bring down significantly both the
official speed limit and the actual speed, therefore beginning
to take out the speed element from accidents on those roads"
Road Safety Minister, Lord Whitty
House of Commons Transport Sub-Committee 19.4.2000
25. While welcoming this policy commitment, CPRE
has been concerned that there remains significant inertia which
is hampering its implementation. To investigate the response to
this policy commitment, we commissioned consultants Steer Davis
Gleave to examine the road safety policies of 30 rural local authorities.
This revealed that less than one in five authorities had (or were
intending to introduce) a policy of 30 mph for all villages. Our
report, Village Speedometer (copies enclosed) provides
more detail. In particular, it highlights the reasons given for
not introducing such a policy. These included:
a reliance on Government guidance
in Circular 1/93 Speed Limits, which places heavy emphasis
on casualty reduction and the existing speed of vehicles and so
leads to a focus on spot treatment on the basis of "worst
first" rather than a more consistent or area based approach;
a failure on the part of highway
authorities to adopt a "whole route" approach to rural
lack of support from local police
on enforcement and no target date for implementation of the 30
mph village speed limit commitment; and
lack of data on speed management
which means many officers had to rely on paper based systems which
makes it harder to plan strategically or develop a whole route
approach to speed management.
26. There are, however, highway authorities
who have successfully adopted a 30 mph limit in villages policy.
Suffolk County Council, for example, successfully implemented
over 450 new 30 mph speed limits on an area basis within a two
year period at a cost of £1.19 million. Post project monitoring
has shown a 20 per cent reduction in accidents in 2000. Other
authorities who have, or are planning, similar initiatives include
Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Bracknell.
There would be distinct advantages, however, in applying a national
30 mph village speed limit compared to this lengthy and piece-meal
approach and these authorities remain the exception rather than
27. An examination of one large rural county,
Dorset, is illuminating. An average of 25 children a year were
killed or seriously injured from 1994-98 in the County, and the
actual numbers have been rising, to 30 in 1999 and 37 in 2000.
The County, has allocated £8,500 to each of 12 schools to
improve safety in their vicinity. At that rate it would be 2028
before each of the 338 schools in the County were to benefit from
road safety funding. In contrast, the County Council was able
to allocate £728,000 to further the case for the proposed
A354 Upwey and Broadway Bypass (otherwise known as the Weymouth
Relief Road) Scheme.
28. Separately, discussions with the Highways
Agency at a national level have revealed that it does not interpret
the Government's policy as 30 mph in all villages. Rather, an
incremental approach is being followed. This would seem at odds
with the clear statement in the DTLR's Road Safety Good Practice
Guide that " Government policy is now that speed limits
in all villages should be 30 mph".
29. CPRE recommends that:
the Government set a date by which
30 mph should be the norm in villages so as to spur action, provide
consistency to road users, and allocate the necessary resources
to local authorities to deliver on this commitment;
the Home Office issue directions
to the police explaining the importance which the Government attaches
to reducing speeds through villages and requiring higher priority
to be given by police forces to their enforcement; with additional
funding for the task; and
the committee press the Highways
Agency on how they intend to ensure 30 mph is the norm for villages
on the Trunk Route network.
30. CPRE believes that reducing inappropriate
and excessive speed in rural areas is an essential component of
improving the quality of life for rural residents and all those
who use and appreciate the countryside. Speeding on rural roads
and through villages has attained a higher profile in recent years,
and is likely to continue to do so as traffic levels increase.
Progress on delivering commitments to lower speed limits in villages,
however, has been lack-lustre. The prospect of a new rural road
hierarchy offers the opportunity of introducing a new approach
to road safety which will benefit rural areas and contribute to
a range of Government policy objectives. This requires strong
political leadership from the centre and CPRE has been disappointed
that the Government is not moving more quickly to introduce such
a hierarchy. We hope that the Committee's timely inquiry will
shine light on the opportunities available to improve speed policy
so that, in future, roads are safer and less intimidating for
all road users, whether in town or country.