Drivers and cabbies slam Camden’s 20mph speed policy

Camden Council's decision to roll-out 20mph speed limits has divided opinion

Camden Council's decision to roll-out 20mph speed limits has divided opinion - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Taxi drivers and motoring groups have accused Camden Council of “political posturing” after a 20mph blanket speed limit across the borough was announced last week, claiming it will increase accidents and air pollution.

Both the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and the Alliance of British Drivers say 20mph is an unrealistically low speed to maintain and prevents a smooth flow of traffic, only serving to frustrate drivers.

But safety campaigners and environmentalists have welcomed the move and say it is part of a national trend which is seeing pedestrians “win back the streets”.

Camden Council’s cabinet formally approved the 20mph scheme last Wednesday (July 24) following a public consultation which found almost 70 per cent in favour of the reduced speed limits.

The 20mph roads will, in effect, be self-policing, using road signs and road markings. They are set to be in place by next April.

The general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Steve Mcnamara, said: “20mph speed limits achieve nothing except increased pollution and frustration resulting in episodes of outrageous driving as irate drivers attempt to make up lost time.

“London has a major problem with air quality and anything that increases stop, start driving or prevents smooth flowing traffic has an adverse affect on the levels of pollutants.

Most Read

“They are ill thought out, badly planned proposals that will have a detrimental affect on all Camden residents and wider parts of London.

“They are an excellent example of how Camden Council cares more about grabbing the headlines than actually tackling problems like congestion and pollution.”

His views were echoed by the Alliance of British Drivers. Chair, Brian MacDowall, said: “It’s political posturing that doesn’t do anything for road safety.

“Road safety figures show that areas which have 20mph limits have worse rates on accidents.

“It’s an artificially slow speed for drivers to maintain while trying to pay attention to what’s going on.”

He said it was also important to have a differential speed between cyclists and drivers to reduce hazards on the road.

“Trying to maintain 20mph around housing estates will increase petrol consumption and emissions, countering the whole argument that there is an environmental benefit,” he added.

But the Camden branch of the London Cycling Campaign, which has called for better conditions for cyclists for 30 years, praised the council for going ahead with the scheme.

Coordinator Jean Dollimore said: “Car ownership and use in Camden have dropped substantially in recent years - 60 per cent of households are now car-free and only 12 per cent of journeys to work are made using private motor vehicles.

“The introduction of a 20mph speed limit shows that Camden is in tune with the needs and interests of the majority of its residents, many of whom now walk or cycle to work, while many others are likely to do so with a 20mph limit because it will make the roads feel much safer and less polluted.”

The 20mph speed limit will be in place on all roads managed by the council but will exclude red routes which are managed by Transport for London.

Founder and director of the 20’s Plenty for Us campaign group, Rod King, said: “There’s a trend we’re seeing across the country where people are beginning to see streets as public spaces more than just places to drive.

“It’s about winning back the streets and seeing them from a different perspective rather than just as drivers.

“Slowing down speeds doesn’t effect journey time a great deal but makes a huge difference to the liveability of those streets.

“We know there is a very firm relationship between speeds and casualties. Every one mile per hour reduced in speed creates a six per cent reduction in casualties in an urban environment.”

Green Party councillor for Highgate, Maya De Souza, said the scheme would benefit the environment in the long-term, with more people likely to walk or cycle.

“The main reason for reducing speeds is road safety, with evidence showing that lower speed limits much reduce serious injuries and deaths, making walking and cycling much safer,” she said.

“Any increase in carbon would be offset by shifting more people to healthier cleaner modes of transport.

“We know that kids in particular would like to cycle to school and this helps make it all possible.

“But it also means that people can cycle to work or for pleasure with lower levels of risk and that the fear of old people and disabled in crossing roads is reduced.”