Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't listen to what you're saying.

A couple of items on the news, a local bit first about a pair of flintlock pistols going up for auction worth thousands that had been hanging up on someone's wall for 50 years, the auctioneer blithely stated that the owner had picked them up from a ruined French ch√Ęteau during the war. So that would be looting then? Expect a call from the descendants asking for them back please.

Discussing the proposed reduction in speed limits down to 20mph an instructor mentions that he accepts such limits on "dangerous roads". So if these are dangerous roads why don't they have those limits anyway? It's not as if the speed limits are engraved on stone, the divine wishes of some higher power; though from the emails from some councillors incorrectly stating that 20mph zones aren't legally enforceable you might well think so. Good to know some councils are so on the ball.

Watching the Great British Menu, and boy could I take that programme apart, Jennie Bond in voice-over tells us that one of the chefs hopes to get a dish into the banquet; quick as a flash I quip "The only way he'll get a dish into the banquet is if he becomes a potter".


Orphi said...

Heh. TV time must be a barrel of laughs in your household! ;-)

What puzzles me is that I can legally drive past my house at 30 MPH, but at my place of work you must drive at 20 MPH. (And there are violent speed ramps to make sure you do.)

Now let's look at this for a moment. Where I live, there are houses and trees everywhere. There are pets and small children running around and cycling in the road without looking where they're going. Sometimes you turn a corner and find children sitting in the road counting pebbles or something. And because of the trees and houses, you can't see them until after you get round the corner.

So, clearly, for safety reasons the speed limit must be 30 MPH. Which is fine, really.

Now consider my place of work. It's a farmer's field in the middle of nowhere. According to TomTom, the nearest road does not, in fact, exist. You have to drive 4 miles to find the nearest human dwelling. There is nobody here. More to the point, there are no trees and few buildings. You can see for miles. And even at noon when the office boffins come out of the woodwork and stroll directly down the middle of the roads in the expensive suits, there are still no children or pets to worry about.

In short, my place of work has exellent visibility, minimal hazzards, and… a lower speed limit? Plus, there's nothing to stop you driving past my house at 80 MPH. You'd need a powerful engine to reach that speed in such a short distance, but you could do it. But my place of work has speed ramps. And even at 20 MPH, like you're supposed to, you risk destroying your suspension system. They really are violent!

PS. “Dish”? I take it you're not one of these people hoping that Britain will “meddle” at the next Olympics then? ;-)

FlipC said...

Only when I have an audience -
Homer: "I guess those guys are barking up the wrong Bush..."
Homer's brain: "There it is. The smartest thing you'll ever say, and nobody was around to hear it!"
Homer: "D'oh!"

As for speed limits, well I've mentioned the problems with removing driver's judgement from the equation - the road only has a maximum of 30mph, you should lower your speed as circumstances dictate. If you are on a housing estate and driving around a blind bend you should slow down.

Trouble is we're not thought smart enough to be able to judge things the other way - as you say a clear road, with no pedestrians or obstructions; and you're stuck at 20mph and if it were a public road probably enforced by a speed camera that'll snap you if you do the 'dangerous' speed of 30mph.

That's where the law has screwed-up with automation. You're automatically done if you travel above the maximum speed because said speed has been defined by experts as being the maximum safe speed for that stretch of road. What doesn't get asked is were you travelling dangerously, because by definition you were, even if you weren't.

PS. Que? But don't get me started on the Great British Menu a truly interesting programme with a completely flawed arrangement.

Orphi said...

Ah, but cameras can't measure dangerous driving, but can measure speeds exactly and precisely.

Except for that guy who got a speeding ticket, took it to court, and proved that the camera was actually set off by the bus behind him going the other way.

Wait — the bus was driving dangerously? Aren't the drivers paid by the council?? Maybe we should be making the council pay a fine for dangerous driving by its own employees? :-P

As an aside… is the speed limit on a business park (which presumably is therefore private property) actually legally enforcible?

FlipC said...

But of course cameras can measure dangerous driving, provided you define such as "Travelling above the speed limit" :-)

As for the cameras themselves I used to work for a company that made both hardware and software for them; hence me going through every speed camera at least 5mph slower than I need to.

Also always fun to visit speedcameras.org and look at their interpretation of things such as that instead of speed being the cause of 33% of accidents it is in fact 4% and that includes speed unsuitable for the conditions but within the speed limit that cameras wouldn't always catch.

As for the estate, it depends if the roads have been adopted and thus fall under the purview of the council. If so it's legally enforceable; if not then it's going to be similar to those 'bogus' PCNs that private parking firms hand-out. You're breaking the contract that you have tacitly accepted from the owners for being allowed to drive on their roads.

Dan H said...

Cambridgeshire has just changed its policy on 20mph speed limits: previously they would only introduce such a limit in an area where average traffic speed was already less than 20mph, to avoid creating enforcement problems. Now they will introduce it if the average traffic speed is as much as 24mph.

It doesn't sound like a huge change but it's being reported as a big U-turn on the Council's part, and it means that some 20mph limits can actually be introduced on residential streets.

Nationally, there's a big campaign to make 20mph the national speed limit for built-up areas: http://20splentyforus.org.uk/

20 isn't plenty for me, as I often go faster than that, but speed limits don't apply to bicycles anyway...

FlipC said...

Hmm but are they applying it because they genuinely believe that it is unsafe to travel above 20mph on that road (in which case why isn't it that already) or solely on political grounds?

As for speed limits not applying to bicycles, be careful that you don't get convicted of "wanton and furious driving" if you hit someone :-)

Dan H said...

In the one case it's been introduced locally, it's because of pressure from residents. National road safety campaigns have made people much more aware of how much difference there is between 20mph and 30mph - remember that the amount of energy in a collision goes up with the square of the speed - so residents on roads that see an inappropriate amount of motor traffic are starting to focus on speed limit reduction as the primary way to control the hazard.

I'm not sure what you mean by political grounds. If the Council doesn't really believe that the speed limit will make a difference, but is giving in to residents' pressure, does that count as political grounds? As it happens, I think that many of our councillors do generally believe that lower speed limits would help. The way you phrased the question made me think you were thinking of something else, though. The answer to "why isn't it already" could just as easily be the same political grounds.

FlipC said...

For those unfamiliar the energy equation Dan eludes to is ½mv² as the mass remains the same for the same vehicle (or with negligible change relativistically) you're left only with comparing ratios of the squares of speed. So travelling at 40mph produces four times as much energy as travelling at 20mph rather than twice.

What I meant by political grounds is that speed assessment is normally carried out by experts who look at the full layout of the road, hidden hazards, pedestrian use etc. and judge that someone travelling at this speed and no higher will avoid mishaps.

My "why isn't it already" is intended to ask what those pushing for the reduced limit know that the experts don't?

If the council are pushing for it due to the will of the people, but know it will make no difference it's political.

If the council are pushing for it as well as the people because they know it will be better then they're ignoring the experts and I'd like to know why.

Dan H said...

But speed limits on residential roads don't stop accidents. People run out into the street, people have "looked but didn't see" errors; the effect is that accidents happen whatever the speed limit. The point of the speed limit is to control how much damage is done when the inevitable occurs. The "experts" in this case are not the people who look at the road, they're the national researchers behind the "kill your speed, not a child" campaign and its successors. The experts do say that reducing speed limits reduces the number of deaths caused by motorists.

As for the "experts" who inspect road layouts for safety implications, I think your blog has plenty of evidence for why these people should not be trusted.

FlipC said...

Hah yes okay people on site vs experts with site plans say this road should be a 20mph. Except those who are likely to be careful and prevent accidents are likely to be travelling at that speed anyway or are less likely to be in accidents.

Whereas those who travel everywhere at the maximum speed or more aren't going to take a blind bit of notice, which in turn requires more policing, which means more speed cameras, which, as we started off, can't tell the difference between safe and unsafe except by defining unsafe as "above the speed limit".

So yeah I don't trust experts to get it right, but at least I try to show why they aren't :-)

Dan H said...

"So yeah I don't trust experts to get it right, but at least I try to show why they aren't :-)"

I only mentioned it because it was related to your post; I wasn't expecting to reproduce the whole debate in your comment box.

Amusingly, the County's original excuse for their policy was that 20mph limits would be unenforceable (in practical, not legal terms), but when the police (out of character) said there would be no problem enforcing it they had to find a new pretext.

As for political motivation, it may not be a complete coincidence that this back-down comes shortly after the local paper's online poll was "Do you think all residential streets should have a 20mph speed limit?" with a result of 95% of votes cast being, "Yes."

Perhaps one day the people who want to keep their children safe from the maniacs driving up and down, and the people who see speed limits as rules for other people to follow, will realise that they are the same people.

FlipC said...

Hey no that wasn't a dig at you it was aimed at the politicos who take the experts' advice that the road is safe at 30mph and override it to a 20mph at the behest of the residents and use that and only that as the reason to do so.

As for "one day" well sure but everyone else can't drive as well as 'I' can [sigh].