A 20mph Borough? Speech to Council by Cllr Robert Thompson

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At a recent Council debate on cycling in the borough, Cllr Robert Thompson, a Space for Cycling supporter, spoke in favour of a number of measures to improve cycling in the Royal Borough, including introducing a 20mph limit. Below is what he said.

Speech in Favour of the Motion on Road Safety at RBKC Full Council 03/12/14
Cllr Robert Thompson, Labour Group Public Realm Spokesperson

Original Motion

This Council is very concerned to see that last year 64 people were killed or
seriously injured in RBKC; this is 64 too many. Two-thirds of accidents
involve cyclists and pedestrians. Most of these accidents are caused by
speeding and/or inconsiderate drivers of cars, delivery vans and
construction lorries. The problem of racing mopeds and super-cars is also
prevalent in certain areas.
This Council therefore commits to a review and upgrade of its target to
reduce fatal and serious accidents by one-third by 2020 and to introduce
the following:
• Immediate and enforced imposition of 20mph speed limit on all borough
controlled roads, and dialogue with TfL to implement a 20mph speed
limit on red routes;
• Dedicated cycle lanes on all other major roads where supported by
London Cycling Campaign and incorporate the west-east Cycle
Superhighway;
• Immediate review of accident black spots, particularly in relation to the
placing of pedestrian and pelican crossings and of mini-roundabouts;
• Campaign to require government to enforce retrofitting all lorries with
reversing beepers and wide side mirrors within 12 months;
• Proper monitoring and control of speeding and joy-riding mopeds, cars
and super-cars, this to be a requirement of our borough-funded PCs.
Mover: Cllr. Dent Coad
Seconder: Cllr. Bakhtiar
Amendment to Motion

‘To delete all words after “this is 64 too many” in paragraph one through to the end of the motion, replacing them with:
“This Council notes that this figure may be compared to the annual average of 101 in the period 2005-12, a reduction of 37% compared with a fall of 31% for London as a whole over the same period.
This Council resolves to continue its successful campaign to reduce road casualties and in particular:
•       to provide cycle training to adults and school children, to continue the accredited training programme for HGV drivers and to continue with our awareness training campaign, as the best way to prevent future accidents.
•       to support the traffic orders proposed by London Councils and the Mayor to make cycle safety measures mandatory on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
•       to consider proposals for cycle lanes, taking into account of the interests of pedestrians, especially the disabled, bus passengers and other road users.
•       to continue its programme of reviewing junctions and accident black spots and implementing improvements to enhance road safety and to monitor roads where traffic calming may be appropriate.”’
To be moved by: Cllr Williams
To be seconded by: Cllr Rossi
Madam Mayor

There was a wonderfully comic moment in the Vicar of Christ Church Kensington’s sermon at the memorial service for former Councillor Fiona Buxton. The Vicar was sitting in the church at his first residents’ meeting after his appointment. It was dominated by two issues:
1) the policing of cyclists
2) the problem of rubbish on the streets
Former Cllr Buxton, who was sitting beside him, then whispered into the Vicar’s ear: ‘welcome to Dibley.’

‘Welcome to Dibley’ indeed.
The phrase points out a focus on false or smaller problems and a failure to see the real problems and the bigger picture. It’s about a lack of vision.

The proposed amendment to our motion this evening is utterly Diblyesque.
It is Diblyesque because it fails to identify the main cause of our transport and accident problems –motorized vehicles.
It is Dibleyesque because it lacks any real vision of what a good, safe, transport policy for all the residents of our borough might look like.

There are four main effects of this amendment:
1) It fails to recognize that it is our careless driving of motorised vehicles that is the primary cause of road accidents.
2) It fails to identify that it is when we are walking or cycling that we more likely to be the victims of a road accident.
3) It deletes the vision for a slower and safer road culture in the borough by removing the commitment to introduce 20mph speed limits.
4) It also weakens the commitment to dedicated cycle lanes.

The overall problem with the amendment and our present transport policies in this borough is that they reflect a carcentric, institutionalised motorism. These are policies which prioritise the most powerful road users at the expense of less powerful ones. Such policies assume that driving is a right. But driving is not a right; it is a skill that requires those of us who acquire it to use it responsibly in relation to other citizens.

Our present polices, and this amendment, exacerbate the power imbalance between private mortised vehicles, bits of metal, and real people, living human beings of flesh and blood. But as our city and our borough become increasingly denser, in the coming decades, that inbuilt power imbalance in transport policy needs to be firmly challenged.

So the fundamental problem with our present policies and this amendment is that they fail to ask two basic questions:

1) What is the role of people, of human beings, in our city and borough?
2) Who and what are our streets for?

The motion that we propose this evening is quite clear:
Cites are made for people not for cars.
Our streets are there to be places of vibrant community activity, not simply conduits to get us from A to B.

The implementation of a 20mph speed limit and the promotion of cycling   are at the heart of our visionary motion. It’s a twin focus that was reflected in the July 2014 Report of the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee and which further called for
• The appointment of a cycling czar
• And an increase of the national cycling budget from £2-10 per head of population.

Our motion envisions a joined up policy that cuts across the various concerns of different departments of this Council.  A 20mph speed limit and cycling are not just about transport and road use; nor just about planning and infrastructure change; nor even limited to training and education; but they are about the health and wellbeing of all of our residents too.

We should have a joined up visionary policy that makes both walking and cycling the natural default choice of the majority of residents of our city and borough. When we design our public realm, streets and roads, with pedestrians and cyclists in mind first, then we end up with fewer road casualties but also
• an environment that is more attractive and healthier
• cleaner air
• reduced pressure on public transport
• a healthier and active population of all ages
• a saving of money in adult social care and the NHS
• addressing the problem of obesity among children

The promotion of walking and cycling is not just about pedestrians and cyclists, but to assume that pedestrians and cyclist come first, and to move away from out car centric motorism, simply makes the environment better for all of us. It makes the borough a better place in which to live.

I have no desire to be the Vicar of Dibley. Nor do I think that the Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Culture lacks vision. Vision is certainly not lacking in the arena of culture when it comes to the proposal for £5million spending on Opera Holland Park. We in this Group however, have a vision of a vibrant, safer, street culture, for all our residents, but especially for the most vulnerable: children, those with mobility, sight and other health problems, the older person.

So I call on members to be more visionary and to vote for the motion and reject the amendment. I call on members to vote to kill speed and to save people.

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One thought on “A 20mph Borough? Speech to Council by Cllr Robert Thompson

  1. The first priority of the amendment seems to have been to emphasise the fact that motor vehicle users had benefited from a reduction in casualties whereas vulnerable road users had not. One sometimes wonders if the people who propose such amendments do so in order that their party be voted out of office.They might have better served their party by ignoring the motion. Humans are a strange breed. Some people join the church just to undermine it – there are famous examples like Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College.
    Hugh Small
    Secretary, Westminster Living Streets

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