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Alfred The Great and Winchester’s 20mph Speed Limit

Winchester ARH20141001-1757-Nexus5b Winchester 20mph roundell (resized)

The 20mph area was ‘made’ on 18th August 2014. It covers the city centre.

Alfred The Great, King of Wessex from 871 to 899, is said to have improved his kingdom’s legal system, military structure and his people’s quality of life.

Now, 1100 years later, his city’s quality of life is being improved once again: Winchester has joined the mushrooming number of places that are introducing a 20mph speed limit across much of their city (or town) centres.

There already was a small area with the 20mph limit but now it has been extended across the ancient city’s centre (but oddly not its residential outer areas).

The lower speed limit adds just over a 1 minute to a car journey across the city, which is about 1.2 miles whether traveling east / west or north / south.

systematic review study published on 28th September by researchers from Durham University found that 20mph areas:

“are effective in reducing accidents and injuries, traffic speed and volume, as well as improving perceptions of safety”

Unfortunately, enforcement of any speed limit is often required and for that you need the police…

Slowing motor traffic down makes a place more 'livable' and the people in the area more healthy.

Slowing motor traffic down makes a place more ‘livable’ and the people in the area more healthy.

In Force – Enforce

Even though the number of people driving cars in the area and the actual number of roads have not changed, Belinda Kingsley of Hampshire Constabulary’s Community Speedwatch was quoted by Duncan Geddes in The Hampshire Chronicle on 25 September as stating:

“They can go out with the Speedwatch teams, but you’re not going to get enforcement taking place. My understanding is we don’t enforce 20mph limits. Speedwatch is a deterrent”

According to the ‘Community Speedwatch‘ page on the Hampshire Constabulary website, “SpeedWatch is not enforcement, it is education.”

A week later, on 2nd October, another article by the same reporter stated,

“Police told a town forum meeting last week that they do not enforce 20mph zones.”

The reporter quoted Cllr Mike Southgate, Winchester City Council’s portfolio holder for transport as stating,

“The whole point of restrictions is to emphasise to people that you consider 20 as the appropriate maximum speed. I’m not too [impressed] by the fact that they’re not legally enforceable.”

Following the media publicity around the new scheme, people have been left with the impression that they can ignore the new speed limit with impunity (tip: they can’t).

Police Do Enforce Speed Limits

What hasn’t been picked up by The Hampshire Chronicle and other media around Winchester is that Hampshire Constabulary already do enforce 20mph speed limits: in Portsmouth, just as other forces around the UK do in their areas:

  • Police Scotland (Edinburgh)
  • Hampshire Constabulary (in Portsmouth)
  • Thames Valley Police (Oxford)
  • Cambridgeshire Police (Cambridge)
  • Metropolitan Police (Islington)
  • City of London Police
  • Merseyside Police (Liverpool)
Roundels in the road remind people of the 20mph speed limit.

Roundels in the road remind people of the 20mph speed limit.

The statement by Hampshire Constabulary flies in the face of the guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers last year. Chief Constable Suzette Davenport who is the National Policing Lead on Roads Policing said then,

“Enforcement will be considered in all clearly posted limits.”

When the police catch people who are driving faster than the limit, up to 31mph, a speed awareness course is offered. The Chief Constable continued,

Often, these drivers are mistaken or require further education on the local limit and therefore we are very pleased that the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) are developing a speed awareness course tailored to these zones…”

She added pointedly,

“Rest assured, deliberate high harm offenders will always be targeted and they will be prosecuted.”

The existing 20mph limits have been extended to cover the entire city centre of Winchester as of 18 August 2014.

The existing 20mph limits have been extended to cover the entire city centre of Winchester as of 18 August 2014.

Elected PCC Needs Reminding

Two weeks ago, I queried the elected Simon Hayes (independent) Police & Crime Commissioner (“PCC”) for Hampshire & Isle of Wight as to why his force had left people with the impression that speed enforcement would not be taking place.

He has just replied – after a gentle prod – and at length, quoting from the original consultation documents on the scheme.

The PCC, though, also appeared to contradict his Hampshire Constabulary because he quoted to me the Department for Transport guidance (my emphasis added):

“to achieve compliance there should be no expectation on the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity, unless this has been explicitly agreed.”

That is, the DfT say in effect that the police shall continue with their routine speed enforcement activities; The number of drivers and the number of roads in the area have not changed, so why should the enforcement of its speed limits?

The PCC also said in his note to me that,

“The Police are responsible for enforcing speed restrictions, however 20mph speed limits are intended to be largely self-enforcing and are only introduced in areas where existing traffic speeds are already at a level where they are considered to be self enforcing.”

Winchester ARH20140706-1443-Nexus5-46 (resized)

King Alfred improved his kingdom’s legal system, military structure and his people’s quality of life.

I have gone back to the PCC and asked him and the Constabulary to make a clear statement that routine enforcement – including in the 20mph area – will continue as usual. See the CORRESPONDENCE section below.

Hampshire Executive Replies

I also queried Hampshire County Councillor Seán D T Woodward who holds the position of Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment. He said simply,

I suggest you do not believe everything you read in the press. The police said no such thing and the 20mph limits are perfectly enforceable.

But that misses the point. Yes, we all agree the limits are ‘perfectly enforceable’ but we have the media quoting the police about not enforcing them!

I am dumbfounded as to why it is so difficult to get a simple statement out of any official along the lines of ‘we will be enforcing the speed limits, as we do in our normal routine’ (aside: I am looking for a plasterer who can patch up head-shaped dents in my walls).

How Democracy Works

Rod King, Founder & Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us wrote in his “20mph guru” blog:

Let there be no mistake, 20mph limits are enforceable and are being enforced by many police forces in the UK.

People in nearby Whitchurch also have 20mph and ran a campaign called "The Whitchurch Minute"

People in nearby Whitchurch also have 20mph and ran a campaign called “The Whitchurch Minute”

I followed up with him, telling him of what Hampshire Constabulary was quoted as saying about speed enforcement in Winchester, and he told me this:

We have a long tradition in this country of democratically elected representatives of the community setting laws, a professional police force enforcing and an independent judiciary sentencing.

So [it is] concerning to see Police attempting to thwart democratic law-making by selectively withdrawing their services based on their own prejudices rather than community concerns.

Unfortunately police show this trait on almost every new law that is brought in as a result of changing cultures.

Just like in the days of King Alfred, people’s quality of life has been improved in Winchester; The culture has shifted to one of making wonderful cities like Winchester more ‘livable’, a place where road danger is reduced and people feel more comfortable choosing to (or letting their children) walk or cycle for their short journeys in town.


Aside: Apart from Portsmouth and now Winchester, there are 9 towns around Hampshire that have 20mph. One of them, in Whitchurch, has published several articles about the build-up and roll-out of the scheme there; see: THE WHITCHURCH MINUTE.


Calculations

Here we calculate the difference in time taken to drive across the city centre when the speed limit is 20mph versus when it was 30mph. Speed (or velocity) is defined as:
velocity (mph, miles per hour) = distance (miles) / time (hours)

Google map Winchester City Centre - north-south 1.2 miles (with text box)

Winchester’s 20mph area spans just 1.2 miles North / South. If no traffic, then it takes 72 seconds longer at 20mph than at 30mph.

Rearranging that to find out the time we get,
time = distance / velocity

The distance across the 20mph area in Winchester is 1.2 miles, whether you travel north/south or east/west:
time A = 1.2 miles / 30 mph = 0.04 hours
(which is 2.4 minutes, or 144 seconds)

time B = 1.2 miles / 20 mph = 0.06 hours
(which is 3.6 minutes, or 216 seconds)

The difference in time is:
(time B) - (time A) = 216 - 144 = 72 seconds

That’s a difference of 1 minute and 12 seconds.

Normal traffic obviously affects the actual amount of time it takes to drive across the city; but that is not affected by the speed limit change: the number of roads and the number of drivers are the same now as they were before the scheme was introduced.

Google map Winchester City Centre - east-west 1.2 miles (with text box)

Winchester’s 20mph area spans just 1.2 miles East / West. If no traffic, then it takes  72 seconds longer at 20mph than at 30mph.

Over time, though, more people may switch to cycling or walking in the city centre, which would mean there would be less traffic slowing down those who still choose to drive there.

You'll rarely see Winchester this free from motor traffic!

You’ll rarely see Winchester this free from motor traffic!

CORRESPONDENCE

My emails to and from various government and publicly elected officials.

From: Simon Hayes [PCC] on 17 October 2014 09:13
To: Andrew Reeves-Hall
Dear Mr Reeves-Hall

Thank you for your response to my email. Dedicated Police speed enforcement activities are directed towards the areas where they will have the greatest impact in terms of reducing the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on our roads. This has been the case for some time.

As a consequence, there was no dedicated speed enforcement activity undertaken by the police on the roads now subject to the 20 mph speed limit before the limit was reduced. Therefore, any activity directed to those roads now, as a consequence of the reduction in the posted speed limit, would constitute additional enforcement activity.

The interpretation of the expression within the DfT guidance “to achieve compliance there should be no expectation on the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity, unless this has been explicitly agreed.” is that if an officer, engaged in routine patrol, were to see an offence committed then they are free to deal with that offence, however there is no expectation that officers would be deployed in dedicated speed enforcement activities.

The police alone are unable engineer social change, such as reducing the speed at which we drive our cars, we all share a collective responsibility for this. This is why I have supported, to the extent that I have, Community Speedwatch. I would therefore encourage any members of the community concerned about speeding to get involved with Community Speedwatch.

Regards
Simon
Simon Hayes

2 comments for “Alfred The Great and Winchester’s 20mph Speed Limit

  1. Duncan Geddes
    October 16, 2014 at 12:35

    I should point out that, despite the name, the Hampshire Chronicle is a Winchester paper, so we are concerned with enforcement in the city and not elsewhere.

    As you rightly point out, the response to our story has been that the limit is *enforceable*, which is different to whether it will be enforced. Nobody from the force has come forward to contradict its representatives after they told Winchester Town Forum that the limit would not be enforced. If our story were inaccurate or missed the point they would have been the first to say so.

  2. juliusbeezer
    October 20, 2014 at 09:53

    While your calculation above is correct, it oversimplifies the many factors that go into making a journey time. For example, it’s worth noting that lower speeds on main roads increase permeability of the road network to local traffic moving onto and off it–everyone has more time to make their manoevre safely. Paradoxically, a lower maximum speed limit might even reduce some journey times, for example off minor roads from which egress to the main road was previously difficult. Only empirical study of many local trips would determine the point conclusively, but this benefit should not be ignored completely. Of course things become more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists, but there are positive aspects for local drivers too.

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