20 Nov 2010

Parish letter to support 20 mph

In October we had a demo outside Whiteshill School to call for a mandatory 20 mph - the press came along and interviewed us when teh petition was handed in - see photos that were in the press a few weeks ago. Well below is the letter the Parish sent to support the call - it will be submitted to the inquiry at the County as evidence.

I've also spoken to Randwick Parish and Cainscross Parish - plus various residents - including several in Ebley who are seeking a 20 mph there. I have already submitted a letter here to the inquiry. See my 500 words on why we need a 20 mph here.

Well Stan Waddington's response - he's the councillor at County in charge - is that a new speed survey has been organised - they will also be waiting for the County Scrutiny inquiry to report. So we are another small step along the road.


Dear Andrea Clarke,

Background to Traffic Speed in Whiteshill and Ruscombe

Whiteshill and Ruscombe is a ribbon development along a road what was described by Highways as an "informal route for traffic between Stroud/Cainscross and Gloucester" in their 1998 proposals for traffic calming along The Plain, Whiteshill (which has been implemented). The Main Road in Whiteshill was widened in the 1960's in such a way that for most of the village there is only a pavement on one side of the road which crosses over the road in several places. There are limited sections of pavement in Ruscombe. The roads are for the most part a series of bends; this restricts the number of drivers going above 40mph but historic surveys carried out in 1998, 2003 and 2004 show that a significant number of motorists exceed the 30mph limit; however the majority of these are driving less than 35mph. The basic problem as confirmed by Halcrow in their 2004 report on possible sites for School crossings is that there is nowhere in the centre of the village where there is a clear view of the road in both directions to allow a driver travelling at 30mph to safely stop if there is a pedestrian in the road. In short the 30mph limit is too fast for the village. The locals know this and have been requesting a 20mph speed limit since 2000. We have been repeatedly told that for various policy reasons we could not have a general 20mph limit but that the School area could be an exception and in 2003 (Parish Council Minute 131/08/03) John Lindsay the then Traffic Manager for the area said that Whiteshill School would be added to the list for trial sites for a 20mph zone. We are still waiting for this to be done!

In 2006 Councillor Len Tomlin our then County Councillor drew up a scheme with Highways for a 20mph limit which would encompass Randwick, Ruscombe and Whiteshill. I understand that this scheme was dropped at a late stage following objections by the police who considered that the existing average speed between the villages was too high for a scheme to be introduced. I cannot see that relatively high traffic speeds between the settlements should preclude the adoption of 20mph limits within the settlements where the speeds are already lower. However a fragmented scheme would lead to the maintenance of the existing silly situation of having a National Speed Limit sign on the single track lane between Ruscombe and Randwick which is used by parents to take their children to Randwick Primary School (in parts of Ruscombe, Randwick School is closer than Whiteshill School). When this scheme was dropped the then Stake Holder Manager suggested that we may like to introduce a "20 is Plenty" scheme as a way of introducing a voluntary 20mph zone. We agreed to do this at the Parish Councils expense. We had considerable discussions with John Roberts on the designs of the signs and implemented the scheme using Highway quality signs. The police confirmed that this scheme greatly reduced the number of cars exceeding the 30mph limit. Unfortunately the Stake Holder Manager changed and our current one, John Kay is of the opinion that the signs although made up of components of standard signs do not conform to the regulation for road signs and has had them removed.

John Kay says that he will consider the case for a 20mph zone for Whiteshill. However a scheme will need to be drawn up and any work will have to be assessed for cost effectiveness. This is worrying as we already know that additional traffic calming cannot be implemented and as we fortunately have low incidents of major accidents a simple cost benefit analysis will not be convincing. I understand John Kay’s position and it would be appropriate if there was not the history of past reports. We do not need more expensive studies to tell us what we already know.

The analysis of accident records overlooks the fact that people use their common sense and don't allow their children to walk to school, the playing field, the village shop, and village hall or Scout hut and end up driving them around the village as it is not safe to cross the road. The road divides our community and 355 residents have signed a petition calling for the speed limit to be lowered to 20mph. It was interesting to hear the comments of people when collecting signatures; it would appear that a number of drivers felt that the "20 is plenty" signs gave them permission to drive slower through the village and now the signs are gone they felt intimidated to drive at 30. It should be noted that there are few overtaking opportunities in the village so the traffic goes at the speed of the slowest vehicle, consequently at busy times if only 30% of the drivers chose to drive near to the limit the rest will be forced to.

The evidence from the "20 is Plenty” scheme is that a mandatory 20mph limit will reduce the traffic speed although it is unlikely to bring it down to 20mph. All the Parish Council is asking for is permission from Highways for us to change the existing 30mph signs for 20mph ones with appropriate repeaters at the Parish Councils expense with the County Council covering the legal and administrative charges.

If for some reason you feel that you cannot grant this simple request, can you at least implement a school 20mph zone as proposed by John Lindsay in 2003 and promoted by Councillor Tony Blackburn? If you do wish to go down this route I would ask you to take into account the desirability of children walking to school, this is healthier for the children and eases traffic congestion; but it means that the "school zone" i.e. the area where children are likely to be encountered will need to be around a 1 mile radius of the school. There is another issue with school zone schemes in that the signs imply that there is not a hazard outside of the school travelling times, this is not true. There is an equal need for vigilance at weekends and during school holidays, consequently I would consider this to be a second rate alternative to a 20mph limit.

I accept that lowering the speed limit will increase the number of drivers who exceed it but consider this to be a technical point, the object is to get traffic speeds down not to reduce the crime rate. Like most villages, police enforcement of the speed limit is understandably minimal and I would not expect them to provide additional resources to enforce a lower limit. Consequently, I can see no real reason why we should not be allowed to lower the limit through our village.

Kind regards,

Cllr J Rogers

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council
Mrs Helen Dunn - Clerk

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