Tag Archives: road safety

Suffolk towns denied speed-cuts?

Do we want Woodbridge to be a 20mph town or not? Some people do, others don’t. Whatever we think, we need to be able to SAY what it is we want and have Suffolk County Council listen to us.

There was a premature end to today’s full SCC Council meeting when I – along with every other non-Conservative member present – got up and left the chamber in disgust, leaving the Conservatives to talk among themselves.

This was because the Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport  had  a difficulty in differentiating between amendment and replacement. (At least the amendment he wrote began “Delete current wording and replace with..” pretty much as if he thought Full Council  and the whole democratic process were nothing more than an incompetent typist.)

The motion in question was, at first glance, pretty benign. It asked SCC  to  “support, help fund and actively engage with those communities, local residents and other civic amenity groups, town – and parish councils across Suffolk in their requests for speed limits of 20mph in residential areas which are designed as community-generated actions to make their local streetscapes safer (particularly for children and older pedestrians and cyclists); and more tranquil places where community life can flourish and air pollution can be reduced”

What could be more harmless and useful?

It didn’t demand anything. It didn’t insist on anything. It just suggested that SCC should have a look at its green protestations and perhaps consider those residents who wished to travel by other transport than the car unimpeded.

And as I have been trying  to get SCC to look at Woodbridge becoming a trial 20mph zone for the last 2 years I was going to speak in support of the motion.  20mph is an impossible speed for pedestrians or runners and a good fast speed for horse and cycle – why should we decide it is unreasonably slow for cars in residential areas? The practicalities can be achieved without speed-bumps or signs by making the whole area a speed-exclusion zone,  and a study of one of these zones in London found they reduced casualties by 40%.

What’s not to like?

A lot, according to Mr McGregor. He eyed this motion much as his namesake may have eyed Peter Rabbit,  drove his pen through it, and wrote something he approved of instead. So much for democracy and the will of the people

His replacement motion said instead that SCC will:

  • continue supporting 20s Plenty
  • provide support and help with funding for those 20mph schemes where pre-determined road safety [my question: predetermined by who and to what criteria?] and other environmental criteria are met and where they are deemed necessary[o note that fatal, weaselly passive: who deems them necessary? and on what grounds?] and
  • work with Suffolk Police to maintain and improve road safety.

Eh? In other words Mr McGregor replaced an honest, intelligent intention for the future of Suffolk roads with a so-called ‘amendment’ committing SCC to absolutely nothing that they are not doing already.

And he seriously expected members would neither notice this, nor mind wasting an entire afternoon debating this  fatuous statement of the status quo.

When it turned out that new SCC Chair (and ex-Leader)  Jeremy Pembroke was happy to accept this ridiculous replacement for serious political debate, the Lib Dem, Labour, and Independent members walked out en masse. (As would the Greens, no doubt, only the poor souls, having proposed the original motion were stuck).  When I last saw the Council webcam the Conservatives were busy debating this non-event all on their own.

Let’s hope in the absence of anyone other than themselves, Tory members might actually  say what they really think on the matter for once, rather than toeing the Cabinet line..

PS This is what the SCC website has to say about  the Council’s attitude to 20mph zones on its Cycling page.

Suffolk’s public transport: going the extra mile

Workers at Suffolk County Council can now use an online Travel Portal as a central point of information for all  travel.  Very laudable.

To aid you in your travel choices,  it has a  Step-by-step decision-maker (which doesn’t work) plus  a list of Alternative Travel Options to firm up your mind as to how you are to travel.

And this is where we part company as to its use and intentions.  For it has to be said, this  list of Alternative Travel Options (although intended to be informative) suggests there is no real alternative to the car.

In particular, Alternative Travel Options fails to mention the cheap and efficient bicycle as any form of travel alternative. Yet I personally cycled 2,500 miles on council business last year.

I’d like to point out here  that far fron being a lycra-clad fitness freak,  I am (sadly) 53,  fat, with a bad knee, a need to arrive appropriately dressed, have many care commitments and live more  than 8 road miles out of Ipswich. In short, if  someone like me can cycle 2500 work miles a year there must be many many other SCC employees who could also be encouraged to do the same.

In the absence of the bicycle,  SCC’s  Alternative Travel Options list provides the following six options for their workers to consider:

  1. Fleet vehicle (car, van or specialist vehicle)
  2. Lease Car –
  3. Hire car
  4. Team pool cars
  5. Public transport
  6. Reimburse  vehicle mileage

Notice anything? Out of these six , five refer specifically to car usage .

Each option comes with ‘issues to consider’ – issues which are broadly financial.   However, not in the case of Public Transport.  Here the issues to consider are (in full):

  • Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access.
  • May be more expensive for some journeys.
  • Requires planning ahead.
  • Some personal safety considerations (location/time of travel).

Let’s not big it up too much eh? Leaving aside the ‘May be more expensive for some journeys’, (which  is not mentioned in any of the car driving options), surely it is deeply unreasonable to list “personal safety considerations” as a reason to  for the Greenest County to discourage its own employees  from travelling  by bus/train?    There are many many more deaths/injuries in transit amongst car drivers and passengers than among those using public transport.  I am therefore pressing SCC to list “personal safety considerations” as a risk  with all the car-driving options .

Additionally, the mention of public transport is glossed as “Journeys to meetings, conferences etc where train travel between mainline stations is available. Business journeys within more urban locations.”  Yet shouldn’t we be encouraging all employees to travel sustainably within Suffolk at all times?   So why not advocate public transport more strongly?

The difficulty is laid out fairly and clearly: public transport is “Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access”.   Right.  Yet public transport difficulties have become  major problems for the people of Suffolk because of the lack of support SCC has given to public transport .  Our legislators  and administrators  like to talk the talk, but instead of walking the walk  – or cycling the bike, or taking the bus  – too many are wedded to driving the car.

Which has led inexorably to the County Council’s cut of the Bury Park and Ride site and its continuing barefaced  insistence that Demand Responsive Transport (7am – 7pm weekdays only)  adequately replaces subsidised bus services (yes, those which also operated during evenings/Sundays/Bank holidays). These two decisions alone  have  added greatly to the problem of ‘time constraints/ availability/access” in public transport – sadly there are others.

Is it entirely reasonable that SCC should be diverting away its own employees from the transport difficulties it  has inflicted on others who do not have the chance to claim back transport expenses?

 

End Note

I wrote to the  SCC Travel Portal on 2 June giving feedback on ther portal pretty much in terms of the above. I was delighted to receive an email two weeks later telling me that as a direct reponse to my comments, the portal had been entirely redesigned ” in accordance with the sustainable travel hierarchy“. 

The officer who redesigned it has done a wonderful job. The portal  is  now both more helpful and useful, and is much MUCH more encouraging towards sustainable forms of transport. Congratulations!

Woodbridge: Clarkson’s Crossing opens live on air!

There aren’t many road crossings that have their own name, but the brand new Clarkson Crossing in Ipswich Road Woodbridge is very different. For a start, it’s probably the only one in Suffolk  – maybe in the country – that local students have helped plan, design and name, in a joint project with Suffolk County Highway Engineers and their County Councillor! Today students from Farlingaye school, together with Farlingaye Deputy Head Graham Smith,  came out in force to help unveil a specially designed plaque to commemorate their collaboration, live on James Hazell’s radio show.

Caroline Page joins Farlingaye High School Students to open the Clarkson Crossing - live on Radio Suffolk!

The Ipswich road has become increasingly busy over the years and I have been very keen to provide a crossing, since I was elected, two and a half years ago. Althought  I had earmarked the money from my Quality of Life budget, and gained agreement for it to go ahead, we were uncertain what would be the best  solution.  Huge congratulations are due to the public-spirited students of Farlingaye High School who kick-started the final phase when they investigated difficulties in walking/cycling to school last year. This led to Suffolk’s Highway Engineers working with the students to look together at how this problem could be solved  within the money available -to  provide a solution that was fit for purpose.

Working together, the Engineers and the students established that a refuge island would best fit the problem and the bill. The students helped work out where it would have to be sited, and – as a last idea – they christened it. Today they helped unveil a specially designed commemorative plaque to officially open the Clarkson Crossing  live on Radio Suffolk.

The road is not only a school route  crossing point, but it is also a crossing point for bus users (many of them elderly), other pedestrians, and for National Cycle Route 1.

“For years children and their parents have crossed the Ipswich Road on the way to and from school but each year, this has got more difficult with more and more traffic going  faster and faster. It was becoming a daily battle . The worst thing was you could never find a gap in both streams of traffic at the same time. With the new crossing, you don’t have to! And having that island in the middle of the road is also slowing the traffic down.”  Ipswich Road Resident

Here, the young people  of Woodbridge have shown their elders something important: that if you think ‘something should be done’, the answer is often in your hands!

The plinth was designed by SCC's Sam Harvey - and didn't she make a lovely job of it !

This project started a long time before people started talking about the ‘Big Society’ To my mind it’s what we people in Suffolk just call ‘society’ – and society working as it ought to!