CSS (County Surveyors Society)
RURAL ROAD SPEED MANAGEMENTA PROPOSAL
The initiative to investigate a road hierarchy
for speed management is welcomed but the main proposition of this
paper is that significant progress could be made by a few modifications
to what we have rather than promote a radical new hierarchy related
to speed limits.
Speed limits are not the panacea for improving
safety. Both the practicalities of provision and public understanding
of speed limits are crucial and influence strongly the approach
Typically there are 1,860 fatalities in a year
so we must take action to reduce casualties. There are differences
between urban and rural situations and little doubt that there
are significant casualties on rural main roads BUT not many casualties
occur on minor rural roads. On these the issue is far more one
of perceived risk.
The public are seeking less perceived risk for
both drivers/walkers. Both have a very different perception of
risk and this difference can come from the same person undertaking
the two different activities.
Greater use of minor rural roads for walking,
cycling and horse riding should be promoted. These three activities
are not necessarily compatible but all can unite against the common
Drivers have a poor understanding of speed limits.
Work done for the AA Foundation by Ross Silcock indicated that
drivers understood 70 and 30 mph limits. They were confused about
single carriageway limits which is the crux of this paperthe
current situation must be simplified.
The road environment can have a major effect
on vehicle speed but slow speeds of less than 30 mph are difficult
to achieve without physical obstructions. What we can be sure
of is that lower speeds mean lower (less serious) casualties.
Self-explaining roads which influence speed
are fine in concept and in some cases could be engineered but
most UK roads are not suitable. A single carriageway in the Weald
of Kent, for example, looks different from one on Romney Marsh
so people will use them differently and drive at different speeds.
We cannot have the majority of our network as self-explaining
because to do so would change appearance unacceptably.
Further, the same class of road can have very
different traffic characteristics in different parts of the country
so we should not rely on class to enforce limits.
The ascendance of the "consumer" make
them more questioning so more people challenge limits. If people
cannot see a purpose they tend to ignore. Yet the common attitude
is "they" must do something about people driving too
fast, not me. Changing attitudes to speed is just as important
as other types of intervention such as speed limits.
There are many hierarchies/networks already,
maintenance hierarchy, heavy goods
vehicle network, abnormal loads
the ABC route classification system,
traffic sensitive streets for NRSWA
So should we impose anotheronly if we
can be sure it helps understanding.
Main road congestion causes rat-running. Congestion
will not go away so "through traffic" on minor roads
is a fact of life, which is unlikely to change. We need to challenge
whether the perceived problem is "only" speed. It is
likely to be volume on minor roads as well.
Drivers adopting appropriate speed for the conditions
is just as important as the imposition of speed limits.
Sufficient enforcement deterrent must be provided.
Currently there is little fear of detection and prosecution. Safety
cameras improve enforcement BUT where there are casualties rather
than at locations where there is perceived risk.
How can a widespread understanding of speed
limits be developed? Surely this can be done by making speed limits
simpler to understand.
Quiet Lanes have been promoted in Kent and Norfolk
in partnership with the Countryside Agency. These involve little
physical action but a lot of publicity and local involvement.
Most action centres on removing signs and markings rather than
adding them. They cause speeds to drop so that the 85 percentile
is below 30 mph. Some residents say they are less worried about
speeding traffic when Quiet Lanes are instituted. Just under half
of drivers say they drive more carefully.
The Babtie/Ross Silcock Proposed "Template"
is far too complicated. For rural single carriageways, there are
seven different categories and four different speed limits. This
will not help understanding and so there is a need to deconstruct
Continue promoting 70 mph on dual carriageways,
Reduce the national limit of 60 to 50 mph on
single carriageways outside urban areas. This is because the vast
proportion of rural single carriageways are more suitable to 50
not 60 and so casualties should be reduced. Those where 60 mph
is appropriate would be positively signed and derestriction signs
would be scrapped in favour of signing the actual limit.
Use 30 mph for urban roads and villagesextend
current application as DTLR suggest and use other techniqueseg
vehicle actuated speed limit signs which are a big success.
Promote the concept of default limits. These
are limits which drivers should assume are in place unless they
are told otherwise. These would be:
70 mph Dual carriageway, including
50 mph All other A/B roads single
carriageway outside urban areas
30 mph Urban roads and villages.
While other limits such as 20s, 40s and 60s
drivers would be told that they applied using repeater signs/markings.
For rural roads therefore there would be two
default limits; 70 mph on rural dual carriageways and motorways
and 50 mph on all rural single carriageway roads. But can there
be more? Possibly, but one would need a "default" descriptor.
One could argue for another tier but this would be very difficult
to distinguish without a lot of signing, which would destroy the
appearance of the roads. So it is argued that the Quiet Lane concept
of appropriate speed should be promoted instead.
Scrap derestrictions signs and replace
with positively signed limits.
Introduce a national 50 mph limit
on rural single carriageway roads and 30 mph in villages.
Have publicity campaigns about "default"
limits and appropriate speeds.
Calculate and earmark additional
Leave the current road classification
largely as it is because from a speed limit point of view it is
The proposals seek to make speed limits more
understandable to drivers. They will minimise sign clutter, yet
give greater clarity to drivers through promoting a national approach
with local exceptions which are well signed. There is, however,
a need for more enforcement of speed limits.
So this should mean:
Less casualties on higher used rural
single carriageways but probably not on rural narrow country lanes
because casualties are not high now.
Less perceived risk both on rural
roads with a lowered national limit and through the use of Quiet
Dr A Jefford, Chairman
CSS Transport and Environment Committee
1 March 2002