Sometimes I hire a motor vehicle. They are really useful for some journeys. Depending on the load, the number of passengers and the distances involved hiring can be cheaper and simpler than the alternatives.
So far this year I have hired two cars and two vans. The best part is being able to take them back and hand over the responsibility but this year I have had the extra pleasure of being able to drive around Bristol at 20mph. It’s such a civilised speed in a busy city. On a journey of three or four miles within the city the time involved in not racing up to 30 where the rare opportunity arises makes so little difference that it’s irrelevant. Rushing is a waste of adrenaline.
The pleasure of driving more slowly is being able to consider each section of the journey as an experience in its own right, paying attention to junctions, side roads, other roads users and the unexpected things that always crop up. Hard acceleration and sharp braking become unnecessary. All manoeuvres become stress-free events. Smiling becomes common. Other drivers seem to be mellower and less likely to get too close behind.
The general idea seems to be that the whole of Bristol will soon be a 20 mph city and the very thought of it is a source of pleasure. My usual cycling and walking will be much improved.
You can imagine my shock and unhappiness when I saw a recent set of proposals to make a whole list of exceptions to the 20 mph rule in a chunk of Bristol near to my home. Inexplicably, some of the residential and linking streets are going to be left as 30 mph routes for pointlessly short sections wherein quicker driving can be indulged in for no more than minutes at a time. I wrote my objections (ruefully noting that I was a day late in doing so.) I wrote:
Dear Bristol City Council
I note that I have missed yesterday’s deadline for submission of the following comments. I hope, nonetheless, that you will be able to take them into account.
Although I live just outside the inner north area, I travel into or through it on a regular basis – usually on a bicycle and sometimes on foot.
I have one clear objection to one aspect of the plans for the Inner North Area and that is that too many exceptions have been made to the principle of a blanket 20 mph limit.
As I understand it, the designation of a few roads as 30 mph was to allow some arterial or through routes to be treated as different enough in character and capacity to distinguish them from the residential, local and shopping streets that made up a lot of Bristol’s road network.
When I look at Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton Down, Bridge Valley Drive, Church Avenue, Bishops Close, Stoke Park Road South, Downleaze, Stoke Hill, Stoke Road, Roman Road, Downside Road, Pembroke Road (especially near its junction with Clifton Down) and The Avenue. I see roads that are either residential streets (not motor vehicle routes at all) or roads that are immediately adjacent to and part of a wide area of residential and recreational use. Allowing short sections of them to be 30 mph will save tiny amounts of time and serve mainly to introduce uncertainty and anxiety for those large numbers who are not in motor vehicles.
The Downs area in particular has very large numbers of runners, walkers, football teams, zoo visitors, cyclists and sight-seers crossing and re-crossing the roads between the grassy areas. Ball games, dog walking, fitness training and other activities are frequently in play.
All these things suggest to me that all the roads that service and pass through the area should be treated in the same way, and for the same reasons, as all the roads that will be improved by the 20 mph limit. If the case for 20 mph makes sense (and I firmly believe it does) then it makes the same good sense on these roads as well.
I would also agree with many other commentators that the more unusual or contentious exceptions there are, the less likely it will be for other areas to get the full benefit of calmer and less dangerous motor vehicle traffic.
I would also argue that Kellaway Avenue would benefit greatly from a 20 mph limit. I see that, as with Stoke Road and the junction of Clifton Down and Pembroke Road, Kellaway Avenue has been a site of notified road traffic accidents. Lower speeds would (as evidence available to the Council shows) reduce the number and the severity of casualties.
The officer responsible was quick to reply, as follows:
Dear Mr Saunders,
As your comments have been received outside the consultation period we regret to inform you that they will not be included in the objection report for the proposed Inner North 20mph speed limit scheme.
For future consultations please ensure any comments or objections for consideration in an objection report are submitted within the advertised period.
Traffic Orders Team -Highways Delivery
Bristol City Council
I hope there is a sensible outcome. Fingers crossed.