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Keeping down vehicle speeds at a time of less traffic

Councillor Steve Davis Green Party Brighton & Hove City Council
12 June 2020

With less traffic on our roads, many have added a regular walk or bike ride to their daily routine; some for the first time. Yet worryingly, there is also evidence to suggest that speeding is on the increase. As a driving instructor – or driver trainer – I have a few thoughts on this, to say the least.

There is an urban myth that the Rotherhithe tunnel in London was consciously constructed with many bends to stop horses bolting for the daylight at the end. While a myth, in my daily training, I see the merit in the idea. As drivers enter emptier roads, many tend to accelerate to the maximum speed allowed and often go over the limit. 

Given that we are generally experiencing lower traffic levels, it’s obvious to me that speeding will continue – and unfortunately our hard-pressed police force has next to no resources to combat it. The Green Party in Brighton & Hove has consistently asked the local Police and Crime Commissioner to prioritise and fund more speeding enforcement on the city’s roads, but to no avail.

The standard approach to reducing anti-social behaviour always begins with enforcement – but there are also proactive road safety measures councils can implement now. As cities worldwide change their transport policies to accommodate changes in vehicle use and respond to Covid-19, our own council has made a few steps in the right direction. The closure of Madeira Drive to traffic has been welcomed – and hopefully it won’t be a temporary measure, as we guide our wonderful city to lower toxic emissions – ‘carbon neutral’ – by 2030. Another bold step has been the introduction of a temporary west-east cycle lane along the Old Shoreham Road, a move welcomed by our city’s huge cycling community and something that clearly, should be made permanent.

Building on the work of the local Greens to introduce a 20mph speed limit, a city-wide reduction in speed limits would be a key move. As a party our local councillors are making suggestions to the council at every opportunity, from the ‘school streets’ initiative to restrict car entry to our school gates, to our input on the city transport planning reports, calling for more space for cycling and walking. We aim to protect the vulnerable road user wherever possible. Nonetheless, we need to target problem behaviour; and the reality is that speeding needs to become as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.

Crucially, it is in the hands of motorists to change their behaviour. As a driver trainer, as we become accustomed to our new world I ask each motorist driving through our city to do one thing. Imagine every pedestrian and cyclist was a member of your own family and see how that affects your view of other road users. Open roads should be an opportunity for all of us to enjoy outdoor space safely. And we must never forget: speed kills.  

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