How a 20 miles per hour Camden might actually work


CAMDEN Council has been banging on for yonks about making the borough (or the streets it manages at least) a flat 20 miles per hour zone and this hearts-in-the-right-place policy was finally approved by senior councillors at the last cabinet meeting. Good luck to them. Slower speeds clearly have their benefits. The council’s stats show a big leap in danger as the speed limits go up, and nobody needs to get the shops quicker for the cost of somebody else getting a broken leg. Or worse. 

In their neighbourly  game of one-upmanship Camden Labour hate admitting when Islington Labour council does something which looks good first, but Islington did do it first. At the end of 2011. So maybe it’s Islington where we should look to see how it might work.

Here you’ll find that before starting his scoop-laden career at the Manchester Evening News journalist Tom Brooks-Pollock brought in a little investigation for the Islington Tribune in which he showed that while the roads might be set to 20 miles per hours, nobody was going to chase down anybody who dared driving between 20 and 30. The police had to remind confused residents that the 20 mile per hour roads was only self-policing.

“ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) policy is that we should not routinely afford it, ” said one local sergeant in emails uncovered by Tom.

Camden has already said that it recognises police resources are stretched and does not expect them to collar motorists speeding above 20 miles per hour. So slower speeds clearly have their benefits, but whether the council gets them might be another question.

A little anecdote to keep it mind: A friend of mine, you probably know him too but we’ll spare his blushes and keep his identity secret, recently was ordered to attend a speed awareness course recently after narrowly knocking over the 20 mph limit on Tower Bridge. It was way past bedtime, nobody was around and so he lit up the road by doing a massive 22 or 23 miles per hour, probably trying to impress a girl. He got stung by a camera.

So there is a way of catching drivers who go rock n roll up to 21, 22, 23 miles per hour.

You just need to install a hell of a lot of cameras – you’d probably get the money back in fines – but a hell of a lot of cameras nevertheless. 

6 Comments on How a 20 miles per hour Camden might actually work

  1. It was 27mph. The speed awareness course cost £100 to escape getting points on your licence. You have to take a trip to a place called Ealing for a three-hour lecture and refresher course in the Highway Code. The most interesting piece of information was that the code was introduced in 1931 by Transport Minister Herbert Morrison, grandfather of Lord Peter Mandelson.
    Our compere for the day said this narrow stretch of Tower Bridge was one of the only places in London where the 20 mph speed limit is actually enforceable with speed cameras. The historic old bridge needs special protection and might fall down if cars travel at 30 there anymore. If you believe that you will believe anything on this blog. There were 30 people in the room paying £100, three times a week – that’s around £500,000 a year to save the poor old wobbly bridge.
    There has been a 20 limit in Gordon House Road for a million years. Few drivers observe it despite pretend cameras..

  2. Very arresting picture at the top of your piece Richard. Shows car that skidded and spun-off into the house on corner of Offord Street and Offord Rd in (ahem) Islington a couple of years ago. In Islington we adopted the 20mph policy not because we expected every driver to immediately comply or that the police would routinely help to enforce but because, over time, we want to reduce speeds on our roads by adjusting drivers’ behaviour. When I was a younger I remember it was regarded is broadly Ok to have a few drinks and then drive home. Now anyone who does that is a pariah. In a Borough where about two thirds of us don’t even own a car or van, it’s not unreasonable to ask people driving through our neighbourhoods – usually going from somewhere else to somewhere else – to cut their speed. Simple reason: knock down a child or an elderly person at 30mph, chances are they will be killed or maimed; at 20mph they will probably survive.

  3. Richard Osley // August 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm //

    The post is not about the wisdom of a 20 miles per hour speed limit. Of course, lower speeds, less accidents, less harm make sense. See the first paragrah.

    …but there is an issue with enforcement.

  4. Tom (or anyone else) do you know what the criteria is for eligibility for speed awareness course relating to tower bridge?
    I’ve just got a letter saying 31mph (at 4:15am after flight diversion and being up all night, just didnt see it) but nothing about a course.

  5. refaz chowdhury // June 30, 2016 at 12:21 pm //

    Hi, I saw newly fitted 20 mile speed camera in Gordon House Rd, NW5 (near Gospal Oak station). Does anyone know if the cameras are active?

    • Newly fitted 20MPH speed cameras? The cameras and 20MPH speed limit were introduced at least 10 YEARS before you spotted them. The average speed cameras are mounted on three poles located on Mansfield Road, Gordon House Road and Grafton Road, however, they were only part of a trial and as far as I’m aware, they have never ended up being used (no fines ever issued).

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