20mph speed limit in Tower Hamlets makes roads ‘more dangerous’

Councillor Andrew Wood
Risk: Cllr Andrew Wood has criticised the 20mph speed limit. Photograph: Tower Hamlets Council

The 20mph blanket speed limit in Tower Hamlets has increased “dangerous overtaking” on some roads, according to a local councillor.

The speed limit was brought in on a trial basis for all council-controlled roads last April.

With the trial set to end in October, Canary Wharf ward councillor Andrew Wood has called into question the new speed limit, arguing it makes some roads more dangerous rather than less.

After conducting his own survey of 427 residents, Cllr Wood said: “Some roads have become more dangerous because although some drivers drive more slowly, many do not. It has resulted in more overtaking, which has increased risks for all users.

“Most residential roads should clearly be 20mph but all roads including A-roads? I have followed buses and police cars driving at 30mph even though speed cameras are now issuing tickets at 28mph.

“Residents have sent me videos of dangerous overtaking, including by council vehicles.”

Over half of those surveyed agreed with Cllr Wood that roads in the borough have become more dangerous since the speed limit was introduced.

One unnamed respondent commented: “Twenty miles per hour is causing more danger as drivers are overtaking, getting impatient and angry, and speeding or slowing down suddenly.

“Driving at the same speed as a cyclist is ridiculous. The speed limit is only causing chaos rather than safety.”

But another commenter said the restrictions are “safer” as long as they are properly policed: “The lower speed limit does make it safer for everyone else using the roads. But it needs to be enforced.

“On Manchester Road, it is now quite common to see people refusing to abide by the 20mph limit making occasionally dangerous manoeuvres to overtake those who do abide by the new limit.

“Installing average speed cameras would certainly help.”

Rod King, director of speed limit campaign 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “Councillor Wood says that in order to obtain ‘evidence’ he created a survey to solicit resident views. However, by heavily marketing this through the Say No to 20mph campaign in Tower Hamlets he automatically skewed any responses so that they would not reflect resident opinion.

“The degree of how unrepresentative his survey is can be seen in the fact that whilst, according to the 2011 census, just 37 per cent of all households in Tower Hamlets have a car or a van, in his survey 89 per cent of respondents use the roads as a car driver.

“He claims that the 20mph limit has shown that whilst many drivers are complying, some are driving faster and dangerously. It would be unreasonable for the council to base any speed limit on the illegal actions of such a class of driver. He, the council, police and other local agencies should be working to reduce the illegal speeders who create the danger, particularly to pedestrians and cyclists.

“Interestingly even his own survey indicated that only 37 per cent of respondents opposed greater enforcement.

“All over the UK, 20mph limits are being set for most urban roads and now the majority of the largest urban authorities take such an approach. Wherever they have been piloted, they have been followed by wider implementation on the evidence of increased safety.

“Whilst there will always be ‘teething issues’, elected representatives should be working together to maximise their success and hence I would encourage Cllr Wood to take a more collaborate and constructive approach to supporting 20mph limits and making Tower Hamlet roads a better and fairer place for all.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “Speed causes about one third of road accidents in the UK. Especially in urban areas, speeding vehicles can adversely affect the quality of life of many communities.

“Consequently speed limits have been introduced to improve road safety.”

  1. George Simon on Friday 26 August 2016 at 9:21 am

    Is the suggestion by some that because people are breaking the law then the law is the problem? The lawbreakers are the problem which means law enforcement is the answer.

  2. Andrew Wood on Friday 26 August 2016 at 12:22 pm

    The police originally said they would not enforce the 20mph speed limit i.e. between 20mph and 30mph but will over 30mph as per normal. Then Tower Hamlets Council cut £270k from their contribution to the police budget this year resulting in for example on the Isle of Dogs only having 1 local police sergeant for 40,000 people rather then 3 as we are supposed to have. I argued against that and showed how we could increase police resources but was out voted.

    There are currently only two portable speed camera guns available to the police, as they tend to lose kit they are owned and kept by the Council.

    It is under these circumstances that I launched the survey on what we should do next once the 20mph trial ends in October. If 20mph is to work it has be ideally self enforcing or else needs a major investment in enforcement which means less investment elsewhere.

  3. Richard on Friday 26 August 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Perhaps more road closures would help – if it’s not a circuit, it can’t be used as a racetrack.


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