Memorandum by Birmingham City Council
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
Birmingham City Council welcomes the decision
by the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee to
hold an inquiry into speed, and the opportunity to contribute
towards the inquiry. The points which we wish to raise are prefaced
by the following observations.
Birmingham, like other major cities, has good
cause to be concerned about speeding. Based upon the estimate
that speed is a major factor in around one third of all accidents,
this would account for around, 1,500 injury accidents in Birmingham
each year. In addition to the suffering and grief resulting from
the deaths and injuries sustained in traffic accidents, these
accidents also represent a drain on our community, for example:
time spent by the Police attending
traffic accidents, preparing reports, and at inquests and other
the demands on the Ambulance Service
and hospitals. Traffic accident casualties make significant demands
on health service resources, not only immediately following an
accident, but also as a result of long term disabilities (research
has shown that over 25 per cent of hospital in-patients resulting
from traffic accidents suffered some form of permanent disability).
the costs and time involved in repairing
damage to street furniture, vehicles and property.
the lost out-put as a result of injuries
(The "value of prevention" of these
accidents is calculated as being in excess of £60 million,
using the DTLR accident values. This rises to nearly £95
million if an allowance is made for damage only accidents).
Not surprisingly, concern about speeding remains
an important local issue. The City Council continues to receive
a large correspondence from its residents about speeding traffic
and the implications for actual and perceived safety. This includes
many more requests for traffic calming measures than we have the
resources to provide.
Speeding is also damaging to other aims we have
for the city, which are shared by the Government. For example,
we are keen to encourage walking and cycling, for reasons of sustainability,
improved health, reduced pollution, and reduced congestion. However,
research undertaken for the Government shows that in urban areas,
pedestrians and cyclists are the majority of speed casualties.
This is apart from the deterrent effect to these activities from
the presence of speeding traffic. Speeding traffic is also seen
as a specific obstacle to the regeneration of communities, by
discouraging walking, and more generally detracting from the quality
Finally, we would draw attention to the fact
that if drivers were to travel at speeds appropriate to the location
in which they are travelling, then the significant amount of resources
spent in Birmingham on traffic calming and other road safety measures
specifically aimed at speeding could be used for other purposes.
Speeding, as a problem, has been around for
some considerable time, and has been the subject of much discussion.
The City Council welcomes the more recent work undertaken by the
Government into speed management, in particular the input within
the Government's road safety strategy and casualty reduction targets
for 2010 "Tomorrow's RoadsSafer for Everyone",
and in the review of policy "New Directions in Speed Management",
and now through the Netting Off initiative for the recovery of
costs associated with speed and red-light enforcement cameras.
It should be acknowledged that there has been a considerable advance
in the body of knowledge on this issue.
Whilst this is resulting in more direct action,
we consider that there are some specific aspects where further
consideration would be worthwhile, and we would wish to raise
the following points:
20 MPH SPEED
We would ask the Committee to give serious consideration
to the merits of introducing national, mandatory 20 mph limits,
or less, for certain categories of urban road, on the basis that
higher speeds on such roads are no longer appropriate (if they
ever were). We have in mind residential roads (residential roads
in this context are seen as cul-de-sacs and minor residential
roads, not local distributors bordered by housing). The aim would
(a) to improve the actual safety of all road
(b) to improve the quality of the living
environment for local people, by improving the perception of safety
and reducing the feeling of intrusion of the motor vehicle, leading
to increased walking and cycling. This is seen as particularly
important to the regeneration of local communities, and forms
part of the initiative to give roads back to the people.
We recognise that this proposal could meet with
the following objections:
(1) Existing measures such as Home Zones
and traffic calming measures can be used in such locations to
achieve lower speeds.
(2) This proposal does not accord with the
Government's stated view in the road safety strategy, which proposes
only selective use of 20 mph limits. Section 6.25 expresses concern
that a wide spread use of lower speed limits would have a negative
effect on air quality.
(3) The Police have made it known that they
are not able to enforce such speed limits.
Our responses to these points are as follows:
(1) Home Zones and traffic calming measures
are a valuable tool with which to tackle speeding problems, however,
the level of resources required for their use in all such areas
within Birmingham would be prohibitive.
(2) We share the Government's concern regarding
air quality but would suggest that changes to vehicle and engine
design, and engine management and gearing systems could be introduced
enabling vehicles to travel more efficiently and "naturally"
at 19 mph and 28 mph. Indeed, the motor industry should be encouraged
to introduce such changes. After all, such developments are likely
to follow if intelligent speed limiters are introduced to all
(3) We do not consider that Police resourcing
problems should form an obstacle to the introduction of lower
speed limits. Indeed, it re-enforces the importance of the early
introduction of vehicle speed limiters for speed management on
such residential roads. Research undertaken for the Government
confirms that there is significant potential for casualty reductions.
Findings suggest collisions could drop by 20 per cent if all vehicles
kept within present speed limits. We would wish to be assured
that they can be used safely and reliably, and cannot readily
be de-activated by anti-social drivers. However, subject to these
points, intelligent speed limiters would seem to offer a significant
opportunity for speed management in the future, particularly in
urban areas, and would be welcomed accordingly. Whilst there is
someway to go before they can be introduced, we would strongly
suggest to the inquiry that consideration be given to the adoption
of a formal timetable for their introduction. This would both
help local authorities to take this into their longer term planning,
and would help to focus the Government and the motor industry.
For the interim, we would ask the Committee
to consider whether the introduction of mandatory 20 mph limits
for residential roads is the sort of bold measure which is now
required if we are to achieve a step change in the attitude to
speed in general, and in speed management in urban residential
areas in particular. Carried out at a national level and accompanied
by widespread publicity and education, such a step would serve
at the very least to make a "statement" of intent. However,
there is evidence from research undertaken in Scotland that some
real changes in driver speeds could be expected (although the
extent may necessarily be difficult to predict).
Awareness by drivers in urban areas of the specific
speed limit of the road on which they are travelling does not
appear to be high (if driving behaviour is anything to go by).
The regulations governing road signs and markings do not allow
much flexibility to local highway authorities to provide physical
reminders in the form of signs and markings, in particular for
the 30 mph speed limit.
We would ask the Committee to consider the relaxation
of these regulations, thus enabling highway authorities to provide
reminders, either temporary or permanent, to drivers of the maximum
speed at which they should be travelling. This might include a
sign similar to the "RAPPEL" sign used on signs in France
to remind drivers.
I hope these comments form a useful contribution
to the Inquiry, and look forward to the publication of the findings
of the Committee.
Councillor Stewart Stacey
Cabinet MemberTransportation, Street Services