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The mentality (or absence of it) behind 20MPH speed limits

I will copy below 4 emails between myself and Dorset Cllr Richard Biggs. Only a simple summary is needed:

1. Important and complicated matters of transport and safety are being driven by unqualified and ignorant people who seem to be acting on some kind of personal distorted belief, probably because, regardless of the damage, they feel that it will be seen to be "doing good".

2. When simple facts are put to them inconvenient to what they are trying to do, they will simply ignore them rather than properly consider them in balance.

3. Even if they start to understand the reality, they will not do the right thing, they would prefer to waste money and endanger the public rather than lose face. This is the reason they are so reluctant to get involved in any discussion about the subject.

4. This disease in public office has been constant and widespread for as long as I have been studying the police, councils and government, more than 2 decades now. The total damage that is resulting from this undemocratic, selfish and rather childish behaviour is immeasurable. The extraordinary waste and destruction of lives and businesses in London by Sadiq Khan, while he tries even to distort the science is perhaps just an extreme example of it. Regardless of how right he may have been, no one but a complete megalomaniac would bulldoze in such unpopular and damaging nonsense in total defiance of public opinion and common sense.

Ian Belchamber

First email:
Good Morning, I read with interest an article in the echo this morning: https://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/23693684.call-action-implement-20mph-zones-dorchester/ Could I please ask on what basis, evidence, analysis, etc, your belief of the benefit of 20MPH limits comes from? Thanks, Ian Belchamber

Good afternoon Mr Belchamber, Thank you for your question and I believe decisions should be backed up with evidence not just because they are popular. There is plenty of evidence that reducing speeds from 30mph to 20mph reduces collisions and death or serious injury by analysing data. Transport for London have significant evidence as do many other bodies while it is always difficult to prove a negative a clear trend of improvement can be seen. It should be obvious really that reducing speed increases the thinking time for motorists and should a collision occur the severity of injury would be reduced its not rocket science. The other benefits to anyone crossing the road ,walking and cycling or making a parking manoeuvre in traffic (such as parallel parking or coming out of a difficult junction) are clear. I spent a number of weeks visiting my mother in law in Scotland in a town that had just been made 20mph and once you had adjusted to the fact that it takes a little longer there were clear benefits to the motorist too. I should add that all modern estates in the last 15 years are build by design to 20mph and people want to live in safe communities my job as a councillor is to help them do that where ever they are in Dorset. The key is ensure public support so if an area is inappropriate then councillors need to be mindful. With Regards, Councillor Richard Biggs

Hello Richard, I agree, there is evidence to suggest 20 limits reduce casualties. However, as with all complex issues, I wonder if you are aware that there is also plenty of evidence that shows that 20 limits do not meaningfully reduce casualties, such as: https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/news/motoring-news/do-20mph-speed-limits-reduce-the-number-of-car-crashes-and-casualties/
Those who stand up to introduce such policies MUST be impartial and look at ALL the evidence, not just the evidence that promotes “doing something” or is convenient to personal preference or belief. One reason for this is that people do not drive (and collide)at 30 in 30 limits and 20 in 20 limits. At these low speeds, the simple reality is that the vast majority of drivers make a good judgement about what speed to drive. Where there are high densities of pedestrians, such as a supermarket carpark, do you find yourself making sure you are not breaking the speed limit, or do you find yourself driving probably at walking pace and putting all your attention checking the movements of people, and not looking at your speedo at all? I certainly hope so. The number in the circle is not the way to go here or indeed in other sensitive environments. The negative effects are not only journey times. 20 zones are likely to push drivers elsewhere, skewing casualty reductions, increasing journey distances, and emissions and collisions elsewhere. Have you thought about these other factors? Where is your balanced analysis, referring to positive and negative evidence, and ALL of the facts? Are you aware that even when combined with crime, drink, drugs, road rage, racing, etc etc speed (both above and below the limit) is only one factor in 15% of road deaths and serious casualties? Have you thought about how small the percentage must be for speed alone? Are you aware that the greatest factor is simple driver error and the greatest number of casualties are on A-roads? Are you aware that the general standard of driving is appalling and proper policing is non-existent? Do you therefore realise that spending money on 20 limits through lack of impartiality and failing to see the big picture instead of making sound decisions about where to spend is actually costing lives? Are you concerned that good, safe, respectful drivers are being penalised in huge numbers already for doing nothing actually physically wrong, while bad drivers can use simple technology to easily overcome speed enforcement? Are you aware that over the last decade, as we have endured widespread ridiculous speed limit reductions and the police and local authorities taken about a £ billion (yes, really) from courses alone, the long term casualty reduction we were enjoying has halted? So I’m afraid that the real and complete picture and the solutions are far more like rocket science than you think, other than one thing – total belief in the number in the circle is simplistic in the extreme. Ian Belchamber

Dear Mr Belchamber, You clearly have strong views the other way and I don’t intend to get in a fruitless back and forth email ‘debate’. You are welcome to attend the public half hour at Dorchester Town Council and or put questions to Dorset Council or indeed stand at next year’s local election on a platform of not reducing speed limits. With Regards Councillor Richard Biggs

No, I am simply asking you to fairly consider all evidence both for and against 20 limits, not just the evidence that is positive. I point out that it is your responsibility, if you are influencing the introduction of these limits, to properly understand what it is that you are doing. It is not my responsibility, having put to you a more balanced picture and having been ignored, to have to work harder to be heard. I have presented you with some facts, not debate, such as the contribution of speed to road casualty. You are not sufficiently qualified to be asking for these limits if you do not understand these facts. I find it astonishing (but not unusual) that someone who has put themselves in a position of public service could be so simplistic and blind to inconvenient truths, with the potential outcome of money and time being wasted that could have instead been used for something effective.

No further communication came from Richard Biggs.