DRIVERS LEFT TO SPEED IN 20mph ZONES

Friday, 22nd January 2010

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MOTORISTS are regularly speeding on Islington’s 20mph limit roads, but police claim it is not their problem, the Tribune can reveal.

The news has drawn accusations that the scheme – set to be introduced on all of the borough’s residential roads in March – is “unenforceable window dressing, only put in place to appease the Greens”.

Police issued 23 verbal warnings or speeding tickets in eight hours to motorists in Tufnell Park Road, Tufnell Park, during a week-long traffic survey in May last year.

But correspondence released to the Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed what the force really think of the limit.

In a letter to Islington Council in response to residents’ complaints of speeding in July last year, Sergeant Kevin McKeown, of the Met’s Central Traffic Unit, said: “The results … do not indicate that there is a problem with speeding vehicles.”

Sgt McKeown had earlier written to his colleague, Andy Sibley, in May: “As you know Tufnell Park is a 20mph zone. 20mph zones are meant to be self-enforcing through appropriate traffic calming. I understand that it would appear there needs to be more work on this by the local authority.

“I have now also discovered that zones are meant to be self-policing … and ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers] policy is that we should not routinely enforce it.”

Columnist Peter Oborne, who lives in Highbury and who originally supported the 20mph zones, said: “It’s a good idea but it’s ludicrous to introduce a law which is impossible to enforce. It brings the law of the land into disrepute. It’s a law for which you suffer no consequences. Islington Council is a shambles because they have introduced a law which the police aren’t prepared to enforce.”

Danny Michelson, a strong opponent of the blanket zone who owns La Fromagerie in Highbury Barn, said: “Islington Council has to curry favour with the Greens to ensure a majority so they’re going through the motions. 

“There’s no point in having it if you don’t enforce it – the police haven’t got the resources, they can’t put road humps in every street and I don’t want cameras spying on everyone. It’s pathetic, unworkable and will make life impossible for everyone.”

Taxpayers’ Alliance chairman Tim Newark, who lives in ­Highbury, said he had seen a report from Camden Council, which will not be introducing the blanket ­limit. 

“They’ve come to that conclusion by talking to the police,” he said. “It’s unenforce­able, pointless window dressing that means nothing, only put in place to appease the Greens – an empty political gesture. The police have better things to do.”

A Met Police spokesman said 20mph zones are “designed to be self-enforcing”, under government guidelines. 

He added: “Where drivers continue to exceed the speed limit in these zones, the MPS [Met Police Service] and Islington will look first at increasing engineering solutions to further reduce the speed of vehicles.”

Islington’s environment chief Councillor Greg Foxsmith said: “Most motorists respect Islington’s 20mph limits, but where there are continuing problems with speeding the council and police will look at what further enforcement is needed.

“Checks were carried out along Tufnell Park Road in early May 2009, but there was not evidence of a general speeding problem.”

But Highbury West Green councillor Katie Dawson, who was instrumental in introducing the zones, said self-enforcement had been ineffective on some roads.

She added: “There are some areas where some of the speeding that goes on is obvious, like the road where I live, St Thomas’s Road.”

Cllr Dawson said  she wants more mobile speed cameras which could be moved around the borough.

Independent Lib Dem Councillor Andrew Cornwell, who also pushed for the zones, said: “I don’t think police should treat death and injury on the roads as a minor issue. 

“We’ve many more deaths on the roads than murders. Police should give more resources to dangerous driving and driving offences because a car can kill as much as a knife or gun. 

“We’re not going to have a policeman on every corner and so we need physical measures.” 

A spokeswoman for Brake! the anti-speed charity, said of Tufnell Park Road: “The figures do suggest an issue with speeding. Any of those 23 people [who were speeding] could have caused a crash and killed a child. 

“As well engineering measures, we need more enforcement measures like safety cameras and bobbies on the beat.”
TOM BROOKS-POLLOCK AND ROISIN GADELRAB

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