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Blind Alleys

I was out on the bike the other day and came across yet another lowered speed limit. I gritted my teeth and complied with it – sort of.

As I’ve said before, whilst some of the limits are overdue (in villages or where towns have grown beyond the existing signs) many of these limits are of dubious validity – they now extend WELL beyond the villages they are meant to protect (which means everyone ignores them), and frequently change where they cross parish boundaries, leading to a confusing patchwork quilt of seemingly random speed limits, rather than changing where the level of hazard changes – I even know one where a 30 changes to a 60 whilst you’re still on the village fringe, with a blind junction just around the corner in the higher limit.

The other problem is they are often ill-signed. I came across one last year where a 60 had been reduced to 40, but the sign on the nearside was actually placed in a tree. How stupid is that? Yes, they’d cut back the branches to make the sign visible, but it doesn’t take an amateur gardener to know that by the middle of the summer, new growth will obscure the sign. They’ve also taken to only putting one “derestriction” sign up on the nearside, with no matching sign on the offside. Why? To save money? Or to sow more confusion about what the speed limit actually is and slow traffic down?

The M20 past Maidstone is now officially one of the busiest roads in Europe as it carries huge amounts of lorry traffic from the Channel Tunnel up to the M25 and on around the UK. So much so that apparently Maidstone Council’s plans to exploit the positioning on this artery by building more homes and industrial estates have apparently been put on hold by central government, pending a more detailed infrastructure impact study.

But that kind of begs the question; who IS ultimately responsible? I really do think that we are losing sight of the fact that the roads are for getting places. If pressure on the roads is causing more congestion, more frustration and ultimately more accidents, then it seems clear that means a complete rethink at the highest level of the trend to centralise everything from hospitals to schools to supermarket distribution networks and to remove some of the traffic this generates.

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