Monthly Archives: January 2015

The latest on 20mph in Sheffield, Hackenthorpe, not outside Rainbow Forge Primary School where over 50% of traffic already breaks the 30mph speed limit

20mph Space for cyclingA 20mph area has been proposed for Hackenthorpe in Sheffield and the final decision on it was taken a couple of weeks ago. Local councillors, presumably responding to discussions with residents, asked for the speed limits of two main roads in the area to be included.

Sheffield Road and Beighton Road, one of two through routes that divide the area (the other being Birley Spa Lane) were originally omitted from the potential 20mph area. Local ward members felt that residents should be consulted on their inclusion. A further letter was delivered to all properties in the area explaining this additional proposal.

rainbow forgeRainbow Forge Primary School has their main entrance on Beighton Road, 71% of pupils walk to school. They say that there have been “numerous near misses or minor accidents” and that “the speed of drivers is usually the cause.” The school identified that the speeds of motor traffic outside their school causes parental anxiety, reduces safety and prevents more people from walking to school.

The primary school supported the 20mph limit outside their school.

As a school with a main entrance on to Beighton Road, we fully support the proposed 20mph speed limit. The road is a bus route and is very busy at peak hour times. Our parents park on the road as we have no parking area, so this adds to the congestion during school drop off and pick up. During this time there have been numerous near misses or minor accidents and the speed of drivers is usually the cause.

Not only are parents trying to safely help their children in and out of the parked cars, we also have a number of families and older children who walk along the road, or who need to cross the road on their journey home. Our most recent ‘travel to school survey’ (January 2012) showed that the vast majority of our pupils (71%) walk to school. A lower speed limit, both on Beighton Road and in the wider Hackenthorpe area, would make this journey safer for our children and families, reducing anxiety for parents and help to ensure that no one is injured. We hope that this will help encourage more pupils and parents to walk to school in future.

Head Teacher, Rainbow Forge Primary School

southyorkshire police crestHowever, South Yorkshire Police didn’t support the proposals. They said that “[vehicle] speeds on Beighton Road and Sheffield Road do not fall within the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph. In fact all three sets old data show that well over 50% of vehicles exceed the current 30mph speed limit on this road with the 85th %ile travelling 37mph/38mph.” The officer writing the response said that when he visited the site “The speed of the vehicle in front going uphill from Moss Way was in the region of 32 to 35mph. However, vehicles travelling down the bottom section towards Moss Way were in excess of 50mph.”

South Yorkshire Police submitted a formal objection to a 20mph speed limit on the two main roads included in the plans (included because residents and local councillors asked for them).

[Available speed data] shows that the speeds on Beighton Road and Sheffield Road do not fall within the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph. In fact all three sets old data show that well over 50% of vehicles exceed the current 30mph speed limit on this road with the 85th %ile travelling 37mph/38mph.

There is obviously a long term issue with speed on this road. I also noticed that there is a vehicle activated sign on Beighton Road, which would confirm this. Within the guidance for setting local speed limits, it does state that where there is poor compliance with an existing speed limit on a road, or stretch of road, the reason for the non-compliance should be examined before a solution sought.

I visited the site last week and followed vehicles travelling up and down the road. The speed of the vehicle in front going uphill from Moss Way was in the region of 32 to 35mph. However, vehicles travelling down the bottom section towards Moss Way were in excess of 50mph. I would say, that the road layout on this bottom section of Beighton Road did not make this speed feel uncomfortable at that time.

As this proposed extension to the 20mph zone is unlikely to be self-enforcing without some major engineering works, and does not fall anywhere near the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph, and that to achieve compliance there should be no expectation on the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity. I feel that we must formally object to this section of Sheffield Road and Beighton Road being included within the 20mph zone.

South Yorkshire Police

The council say that “people contacting the council to express a view regarding the proposals for Sheffield Road and Beighton Road have generally been supportive” of the ideas. However they say that “[council] officers share the concerns of the police and objectors regarding its inclusion within the 20mph speed limit area”.

Whilst acknowledging that people contacting the council to express a view regarding the proposals for Sheffield Road and Beighton Road have generally been supportive, officers share the concerns of the police and objectors regarding its inclusion within the 20mph speed limit area.

Sheffield City Council

There’s a lot of discussion in the report about why the officers are concerned, these include DfT guidance, talking to other local authorities, and the need for speed limits to be realistic, for speed to be reduced to an acceptable level, ‘complementary traffic calming measures’ would be needed, and there is no funding for this.

In the absence of funding for complementary traffic calming measures a 20mph limit would be artificially low and likely to result in excessive abuse and bring 20mph limits in general into disrepute the existing speeds.

Sheffield City Council

However, an alternative option is considered, and that is to provide an advisory, part time, 20mph speed limit. An advisory speed limit!

school 20mphWhilst officers cannot recommend the introduction of a 20mph speed limit along the full length of Sheffield Road and Beighton Road, improving the safety of school children remains one of the key objectives of the Sheffield 20mph Speed Limit Strategy. The Strategy expressly provides for the introduction of a localised, part-time speed limit around the entrance to a school that is located on a road that is otherwise unsuitable for a 20mph speed limit. This is the approach that officers recommend – the introduction of a part time, advisory 20mph speed limit centred around the entrance to Rainbow Forge Primary School as shown in Appendix C

Sheffield City Council

It’s clear to me that there are problems with our approach to traffic safety on main roads.

Local residents know that something is wrong and want change. We have funding to provide 20mph speed limits, but these will only be placed where average speeds are less than 24mph. We will provide advisory speed limit signs where speeds are too high, but it’s not clear to me what benefit an advisory speed limit will provide if people can ignore it.

For main roads we need to provide physical traffic calming measures, but the funding isn’t there for these. And we have key destinations (schools, shops, workplaces) positioned along these main roads that people have to get to, and won’t be moved in a hurry.

It’s a chicken and egg scenario. The trouble of living somewhere where more cars leads to more fear, which leads to more cars. And not being able to do anything about it.

The report I’ve been quoting from is here.

Sheffield Public Health Report 2014 – Climate Change and Health

Climate Change and HealthThe annual Sheffield public health report has been published and this year the focus is on Climate Change. All of the topics in the report impact both public heath and climate change.

Climate change is the defining public health issue of this century.

I’m very happy that such an important issue is right at the top of the public health agenda in Sheffield.

There are however links between present public health problems and the kind of steps we have to take to tackle climate change. Many of the things we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will benefit our health in the short term, too. We describe some of those things.

This is quite a good video of Dr Jeremy Wight explaining his annual health report.

As we know all too well, many the things that will help with climate change will help with more short term public health problems and Jeremy Wight sums this up very succinctly.

Active travel (walking and cycling) and public transport increases physical activity and social connections, improves physical and mental health, helps people stick to a healthy weight, and reduces harmful air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The recommendations focusing on active travel are right at the top of the list.

  1. The Council should develop and implement a programme of signposting walking routes with the time it takes to reach the destination.
  2. Sheffield people should consider traveling short distances on foot or by bicycle rather than by car, and sign up to ‘Move More’ at www.movemoresheffield.com.
  3. The Council should commit to increasing the number of 20 mph zones within the City as quickly as possible.

I don’t think that the reports recommendations for active travel will bring about a big enough shift on their own, there seems to be a focus on encouraging (signposing walking routes, people should consider travelling short distances on foot or by bicycle) rather than creating an environment where this is normal and designed in everywhere so that walking and cycling are real choices.

I wish that the recommendations in this report were more robust and pushed us to change the way we design our streets. We’ve seen examples in Sheffield recently where the walking and cycling environment has been eroded to increase capacity and reduce delay to motor traffic. Until we improve the environment, the encouragement will be wasted and we’ll only reach small numbers of people willing to cycling in today’s uninviting and hostile conditions, the low hanging fruit.

However, judging by the response I’ve heard Dr Jeremy Wight got at the council meeting where this was presented, he’s going to need all the support he can get!

His presentation drew an extraordinarily negative response from Labour and Lib Dem councillors, from which there is much to learn. [source]

The discussion also revealed that the chair of the Sheffield Council Cycle Forum, Peter Price, isn’t convinced about climate change being caused by carbon dioxide emissions!

One Labour councillor admitted to being a climate change sceptic (he believes CO2 emissions are due to global warming, not vice versa); [source]

We have the 20mph recommendation which should help to slow down traffic on our streets. Sheffield is very keen on 20mph areas and 11 more areas are planned for the coming year (10Mb pdf map). I’m still nervous that 20mph as we’re rolling it out will have as big an impact as we’re hoping, I think that it needs to be accompanied by a reduction in traffic volumes too, the benefits are amplified when the volume of traffic is reduced. There seems to be a slow realisation that there are problems with our main roads (which haven’t historically been included in 20mph areas) and we’re beginning to see ‘advisory part time 20mph limits’, a top for another post.

Whilst improved road safety alone justifies 20 mph limits, air pollution and traffic noise drop when speed is reduced and streets become more pleasant and attractive places. Increased use of shared public space contributes to an increase in social capital.

Link to the Sheffield Public Health Report 2014.

Edit 07/01/2015

The Star have reported today that Dr Jeremy Wight is resigning.

Edit 27/01/2015

The Shields Gazette has published an interview with Jeremy Wight discussing some of this. he says that “it’s absolutely not true that that [response to his report] has contributed to my decision to leave”.

Dr Wight recently presented his annual report to Sheffield councillors.

Some suggested he was given a bit of a rough ride for choosing to focus on climate change in his report. He said: “Last year, for 2014, I made the theme of my report climate change and health.

“I think that if you look at what the big health issues are going to be for the rest of this century, I think climate change is number one.

“If the predictions about climate change come true, it affects every aspect of our ability to lead healthy lives, including food production and water supply.

“People have made some very, very grim forecasts. The reason I chose to focus on it is because there are things that we can do now that will help to mitigate the impact of global warming.

“For example, fitting better insulation in your home. If people used more physically active transport, that is good for people’s health and reduces emissions.

The response to his report was not the reason he chose to leave.

He said: “I think the response was that there are a lot more pressing problems now like the impact of welfare reforms. But it’s absolutely not true that that has contributed to my decision to leave.

The Shields Gazette, 19th January