Road Safety News

Ealing opts for borough-wide 20mph limit

Tuesday 28th July 2015

Ealing Council has agreed to the introduction of a new urban speed limit policy which would establish a 20mph speed limit in residential areas and town centres.

The move will make Ealing the first borough in West London to have a borough-wide 20mph speed limit, which would also be one of the largest area-wide zones in London.

The council will now undertake a public consultation on the introduction of a trial scheme in the Acton area. Subject to its success, the 20mph limit will be introduced in the rest of the borough. 

The council says the new 20mph limit will address traffic speed concerns raised in a residents’ survey.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz said: “We already have 20mph zones or limits in 37% of roads in Ealing and reducing speeds across the borough will bring many benefits, such as enhancing road safety and improving the health and quality of life for our residents. Studies have shown that a borough wide speed reduction could prevent approximately 60 casualties each year.

“We want our roads to be among the safest in London and actively encourage residents and visitors not only to reduce their speed, but also to get out of their cars and walk or cycle in our borough.”

The public consultation will take place later this year and, subject to the outcome, the trial in Acton is expected to start in the summer of 2016 and run for a year. A successful trial and review will see the speed limit expanded to residential areas and town centres across the borough by spring 2019.


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I don't disagree with your last comment Duncan, but there are degrees of 'bad-appleness' and whilst it may not be necessary to take everyone off the road, it would still be possible to target, in one way or another - by enforcement or education - a certain proportion that do have, more than others, a tendency towards precipitating unwanted outcomes, as you put it.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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If the road system is dangerous for being a system, then how dangerous is the average kitchen, where many more accidents happen on a comparable time basis. If we are evaluating safety, it's the operator who needs most attention in any scenario.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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When we evaluate systems Hugh we have to do so in the light of the fact that all system elements are so deeply interconnected that we have to consider them inseparable. We cannot look at the people without understanding how their actions and reactions are formed in relation to the other system elements of vehicles, roads and other road users. All any road user is doing is managing the variation in these interactions and as they manage them they too become variables that other road users have to manage. The fact that the occasionally unwanted outcomes happen when the number and type of variables exceeds any individual user's ability to manage them is the key piece of understanding.

In systems thinking we know that the majority (85-99%) of unwanted outcomes are due to the normal variation inherent in the (entire) system. The bad-apple theory that certain individual's behaviour is the 'cause' of this normal variation can be debunked by asking how many people (bad-apples) need to be removed from the system before only the 15-1% or abnormal variation remains? The answer is of course 'pretty well all of them' as it's only those system users that are capable of pre-empting 100% of the normal variation for 100% of the time that would be left. I'm afraid this excludes every contributor to this forum as the 100% effective super-human probably doesn't exist!
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

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How are you defining 'safe' in this context Duncan? To my mind, on the roads it means managing risk to the point where it can become negligble and we can all move around without fear of collsions. It's certainly down to the individual doing this for themelves, but you seem to have moved away from your previously held belief that individuals were somehow not to blame for their accidents and blamed 'the system', what ever that is, but youre now beginning to accept what most have been saying all the time, that it is certain individuals' behaviour that is causing the problems ('the only thing that counts' as you put it) and needs addressing.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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The mines become 'live' the instant they start to move so we mustn't fool people into thinking that slow moving mines are in any way safer than ones moving a bit faster. Rod's attempts to tell people that a slow moving mine is a safe mine can only lull them into a very false sense of security that is simply not supported by the facts.

The road transport system/minefield is unsafe at any speed and that 100% of the risks are embodied in the act of entering the minefield in the first place, not people's performance once they are in it. Their performance can only be a way of ameliorating those risks which remain the same irrespective of how well or how badly they perform.

There are no safe systems, there are no safe vehicles, there are no safe roads, there are no safe road users, there is only risk. How each individual driver, rider or pedestrian manages their performance in ameliorating that risk is the only thing that counts.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Good analogy Duncan. Perhaps more motorists should see the roads as minefields. After all, who would move through a minefield so fast that they couldn't see or avoid the mines in time?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Sure Duncan.

But surely road user and mine analogy is far too simplistic. The mines are actually people in control of and protected by motorised vehicles. And some of them are heavy goods mines, or even super-accelerating biker mines. And whilst mines are usually static these mines are both moving and unpredictable. And that's why the control of where the mines can move and how fast they can move is crucial to the safety of all concerned.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Rather than use Derek's analogy of a gun, it is much better to view the road transport system as an enormous minefield. A minefield like the road transport system only remains 'safe' until people start moving around on it when it becomes murderously unsafe. It remains in this unsafe state irrespective of the actions of the people that are wandering round in it until of course they stop wandering around on it when it returns to its safe state. What individuals do out on the roads is exactly the same as what they do in minefields in that they pick their way carefully through it using their skill and experience to spot the presence of mines and make sufficient adjustment to avoid them. Occasionally though (and thankfully very rarely) even the most diligent of road users will make an error and step on a mine with the resulting death and destruction.

The fact that the system is viewed by many people in this industry as being gun-like in that it has a 'safe' mode and not as minefield-like which has no 'safe' mode at all is why we have so many problems understanding how it sometimes fails. If an individual sets out to cross a minefield with even the remotest idea that it is somehow 'safe' is eventually going to be in for a very rude awakening. Our task surely is to convince people that the road transport system actually is exactly like a minefield and that it is only through every individual's own actions that they and anybody else within it can hope to remain even in the slightest bit safe.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Education and behaviour change do not "compliment the system" they are an essential part of it: the safe system is built on five pillars:

Road Safety Management
Safer Roads and Mobility
Safe Vehicles
Safe Road Users
Post-crash response

Each of these areas play a part in achieving safe road travel, with the last one being to achieve the optimum response and recovery if the other four between them have failed.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Derek's analogy of the gun is a good one. The gun will be safe if static and not picked up.

But what of its design? Does it have a safety catch? What is the size of the bullet? How much damage can it do? Has it a hair trigger or do you really have to pull it? How heavy is it? What controls are there on its use? If using full bullets, then is its use confined to a firing range? What training is in place before people can use it? Are those controls and punishments derisory or fully matching the potential danger to others?

I am sure that you can go through and make substitutes for vehicles and their total "system" in which they operate. But note that only some of those points reference the "education" or "behaviour change" of the users. Most are concerned with creating a usage environment that minimises the risks of casualties.

In the road "system" we know that road design, speed, signals, user behaviour (both proficient and negligent) all interact as determinants in turning incidents into casualties.

Whilst I recognise that Road Safety is largely about understanding the "system" and how "education" and "behaviour change" can complement the system, we should not neglect the opportunity to reduce road danger through optimising that system at source.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Surely it is commonly accepted amongst those who consider road safety is affected by human nature and human behaviour, that the system as it is works well enough to be called safe most of the time. But with the interaction of a few irresponsible drivers/riders it becomes unsafe some of the time. Remove the human element completely and the system would be 100% safe but precious little would be accomplished in moving people, goods, and services around. The road network and all its infrastructure is therefore inherently safe, just as a gun is safe until someone picks it up and misuses it.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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A road without any motorists on it - or any wheeled road users for that matter - is 'safe' but, when we start moving around in potential conflict with each other, it has the potential to become 'unsafe', but it is not an inevitable consequence of us moving around - only when one or more of its users gets it wrong. Some get it wrong a lot, some occasionally and some not at all. If we can influence or coerce, or remove entirely if necessary, the first group then we can make progress.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Whatever I did Hugh I most definitely did not give you an answer you knew anyway. All the individuals (apart from a very, very tiny few) are what makes the system safe. It's also all the individuals (including you and me) combined with the road layout and the vehicles that make it unsafe. That's what systems thinking is all about and that's why it's so difficult to grasp. The idea that unsafe individuals make the roads unsafe (bad-apple theory) is an idea that is appealing to non systems thinkers, but which is not borne out by the science.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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You've just given the answer that most of us knew anyay Duncan! It's the unsafe individuals who make the roads unsafe and the safe individuals who make them safe. The road transport system is generally safe because the road layout and our vehicles are quite forgiving of individual errors and carelsssness - but only up to a point! I, like you, don't allow accidents to happen to me, but too many don't have that attitude sadly.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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That's it Hugh, that's EXACTLY the question that needs to be asked!

In a system that's so fundamentally unsafe a better understanding of how things usually go right is the basis for understanding how things occasionally go wrong. The shift between thinking that the system is fundamentally safe, but made unsafe by the actions of people within it to knowing that the system is fundamentally unsafe so therefore it is only made safe by the actions of the people within it is the key to understanding all our problems.

I venture out onto the roads because I am utterly convinced it is completely unsafe, in the same way I climb into my aeroplane with the same conviction. I know that it is only through my actions alone that I will be guaranteed a successful journey outcome and that every error, surprise or unexpected event is down entirely to my own shortcomings as a rider/pilot. I know that I have to create my own safety and I do this by continually learning about the system it's shortcomings and possible failure modes. By understanding these things I put myself in a much better position to avoid any situations that can expose me to the massive risk that I took by using the system in the first place.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Why aren't we all continually having collisions then Duncan? Why do you yourself even venture out on the roads at all, if you're convinced it's so unsafe out there?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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No Hugh, it's the system that's unsafe, not the users. If it didn't exist and you were to invent it today the HSE would think you were a madman. Nobody that had 'safety' as their primary consideration would ever allow a system to be put in place that had such a huge potential for death and disaster.

The system does exist however, but that doesn't make it any less lethal in all situations. Like I said, the system is unsafe at any speed simply because of its in-built lethality.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (2) | Disagree (7)

I think it would be more accurate to say 'some motorists are unsafe at any speed'. The slower the speed we can get them to be potentially unsafe at, the better I suppose, although ideally it would be better if they weren't on the roads at all.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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The road transport system is "unsafe at ANY speed".
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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I agree Hugh. And that is why we have been campaigning for a 20mph default with local authority deciding where higher limits are appropriate. We also advocate changing the repeater signage rules so that repeaters are not required on 20mph roads. See

Of course "clutter" needs to be put into perspective. Most streets are far more cluttered by cars abandoned on the highway than strategically placed signs. Plus within a 20mph limit then many warning signs are no longer required by TSRGD.

Its time the national governments took a greater lead on residential speed limits rather than constantly hiding behind the "fig leaf" of localism!
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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All noted Rod. My own view is that the default urban speed limit should be 20 and Local Orders be made for those roads which should really stay at 30. Unfortunately, you then get a lot of signage issues and clutter. It's down to the Local Authorities using their common sense and doing realistic assessments of the roads they want to include. Some I've observed locally have been poorly implemented.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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The major roads and "red routes" are under the management of Transport for London (TfL) rather than the borough and hence are excluded from these plans.

However, TfL does see the value of 20mph limits and said in its press release timed for our March conference earlier this year:-

"While some roads in London are primarily traffic arteries keeping the city moving, others are also important places in their own right and therefore lower speed limits may be more appropriate. One of the key recommendations of the Mayor's Roads Task Force, which published its findings in July 2013, was that TfL and the boroughs should look to introduce 20mph speed limits across London "to improve safety, attractiveness and ambience". In response to this TfL has identified around 50km of its road network which could potentially be appropriate for 20mph speed limits."


"Although large sections of the TfL Road Network are main arterial roads, some sections pass through busy town centres, which are more attuned to lower speed limits as they have high pedestrian and cyclist numbers. Piloting 20mph speed limits form a key part of our continuing work to make central London safer, pleasant and more attractive for all."


This release covered the piloting of 20mph limits on several key TfL routes. What is clear in TfL thinking is that a sense of "place" for a road often is higher than its sense of "movement" and in these streets 20mph is the correct speed limit. In some places this will be complemented by any/or a combination of engagement, engineering and enforcement.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Fine - provided the wider local distributor or 'main' roads ae excluded, as this is where some existing wide area zones fall down. The physical characteristics and function of some of these roads - although still residential and urban - do not lend themselves to a 20 limit.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)