PREDICTED ACCIDENT IN MILTON ROAD

Seven emergency response vehicles were involved in cutting out a driver from his Toyota following a head-on collision with a black Audi on July 9th.Witnesses stated that the black Audi sped off at high speed without stopping with the front bumper hanging off the car. The Toyota driver was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack caused by the accident.In a submission to a speeding survey Last month, ACER warned Wokingham Borough Council that a fatality was imminent in Milton Road due to the excessive speed of cars in Whitegates.  Please see ACER’S full report attached.  Volunteers from ACER have offered to collect evidence of speeding required to install traffic calming measures, but the scheme appears to be on hold due to Police funding shortages.

WBC SPEED LIMIT REVIEW – 2020

Response from ACER, The Whitegates Residents Association

Roads in Whitegates, RG6, which have particular speeding issues are:

  • Milton Road and its continuation into Erleigh Court Gardens
  • Palmerstone Road
  • Pitts Lane

Whitegates is a part of Earley which borders Reading and is a ‘gateway’ into East Reading, which has particular problems with road congestion and rat running.  Observing speed limits and looking out for pedestrians is not the priority for commuters. ACER welcomes this initiative on speeding and wishes to bring the following points to your attention.

Roads within Whitegates where excessive speed is an issue

There are densely populated roads within Whitegates which are currently popular as short cuts where speeding is a problem. These roads include Milton Road/Erleigh Court Gardens and Palmerstone Road.  Speeds in excess of 40mph are not uncommon on these cut-throughs and there have been a number of serious collisions.  The preferred speed calming measure would be to restrict Milton Road access at the corner of Erleigh Court Gardens, thus removing the race-track facility and directing commuter traffic to the wider bus route roads of The Drive and Culver Lane.  Similarly, by discouraging Palmerstone Road use, traffic would have to use Church Road and Culver Lane which are wider and more suitable for commuter traffic.  The alternative Eastcourt Avenue cut-through route used by no. 19a bus will need to be addressed e.g. bus and resident access only signage. Traffic congestion at the mini-roundabout at the end of Woodlands Avenue will also need to be addressed.

Pitts Lane by contrast is a wide and open road where speeding has been commonplace. White lines have recently been placed at the edge of the road with the aim of ‘narrowing’ the road and slowing down vehicles.  Before and after speed traffic data will be required to determine if this traffic calming measure has been effective.

Pitts lane does have a ‘reminder’ in the form of an illuminated speed sensor sign which indicates ‘30’ when a vehicle exceeds this limit. The sign was there before the white lines were painted and was seen to be ineffective.   More effective are the speed indicators in Thames Valley Park and by Sonning Primary School in Pound Lane, which indicate the vehicles actual speed accompanied with a smiley face…or the converse.  Courteous, amusing and helpful signs are memorable and therefore more effective.

Primary concern- Focus on speed limits

ACER understands from the News Release from Wokingham Borough Council dated 4th June 2020 that the primary concern is road safety and the focus of the Review is speeding. Whereas ACER accepts that speeding is a contributing factor to accident statistics, there are many other factors which can contribute to accidents, such as visibility at minor road junctions, separation of cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles, following too close, plus the perception of speed to drivers due to the features of the road. 

ACER is concerned that to attempt to make roads safer just by modifying legal speed limits, will not achieve the desired aim of reducing accidents unless changes are carried out in conjunction with all aspects affecting road safety

ACER has submitted papers to WBC in the last two years which have addressed traffic issues in a constructive manner.  These include inputs to Local Traffic Plan 4 in September 2019, Proposals for Yellow Lines at road junctions in Whitegates in August 2019 and input to the proposed new Local Plan in March 2020.  ACER hopes that this Speed Limit submission will be considered in conjunction with these other ongoing planning initiatives.

Adherence to Speed Limits and Speed Awareness

Drivers are notorious in their disregard of speed limits unless there is a high probability of getting caught e.g. by speed cameras, or, there are physical constraints such as speed cushions or alternating lane barriers.  Such deterrents cost money to install and maintain so are not universally present.  Many drivers who are on speed awareness courses for exceeding the 30mph limit are often not aware that they have unwittingly exceeded the speed limit. Until such times that all vehicles are fitted with audible warnings which alert the driver when they exceed the speed limit (as used in Singapore), an alternative means of alerting the driver to their speed is needed.

30mph for a reason

It is important for the public to be reminded that 30 mph is the standard speed limit in built up areas for a reason, which is that a car hitting a pedestrian at over 30 mph will usually kill the pedestrian. Of course, an impact less than 30 mph can still maim and cause life changing injuries

Road Design Incentives to Keep Within Speed Limits

The aim must be to ensure vehicles proceed instinctively at speeds appropriate to the local setting of the road.  Drivers will speed up on wide open roads and proceed much slower along roads which appear more enclosed.

Speed indicators which indicate the vehicles actual speed accompanied with a smiley /angry face are more memorable and therefore more effective.

Drivers naturally drive slower if feeling hemmed in when driving down an avenue of trees.  Roadside tree planting will go towards offsetting CO2 in line with WBC climate emergency measures as well as health benefits and creating an ambience of wellbeing. Pitts Lane has wide grass verges suitable for tree planting.

In densely built up areas, cars parked in the road provide a hemmed-in condition which will slow most drivers down.  Parked cars can provide chicanes which slow all cars down. These conditions will not be met where cars park on grass verges and pavements.

Measures can be taken to pursue motorists who park on pavements, and measures can be taken to discourage routine parking on grass verges. Grass verges are an attractive feature in many parts of the borough, including Whitegates, but getting spoilt due to inconsiderate parking, and increased parking demand due to inadequate parking provision from extended properties or conversion to HMO’s. Measures may be needed to allow parking on alternate sides of the street to allow enough room for emergency vehicles and to create chicanes instead of a straight road. This can be achieved while retaining grass verges.

The Philippines are following Japan in prohibiting vehicle ownership unless there is allocated off- road parking available.  Until such time as the UK follows suit we have to manage on- street parking and make use of parking zones to slow the flow of traffic.

Cycle Lanes

The provision of cycle lanes is to be applauded but they must be physically separated from motorised traffic, otherwise the roads can appear wider with consequent increase in traffic speeds. Ideally physical separation should be done using trees and shrubs, as in the Netherlands, but where this is not possible, waist level barriers as recently installed on Lower Earley Way can provide street narrowing as an interim measure.

Speed and reaction time

The speed of vehicles is only half the story. The other half is reaction time of the driver when presented with the need to brake unexpectedly. This delay in applying the brakes is typically one second regardless of driver or car make and model. At 30mph a car will have travelled 9 metres i.e. 2 car lengths before brakes are applied.  This can result in a collision because drivers are travelling too close to the car in front, leaving insufficient time to brake. There needs to be more safety message emphasis on leaving enough space in front of a vehicle.  Two seconds is recommended in dry conditions, more when wet.

Evidence Led Approach

ACER is well aware that in order to make a case for traffic calming measures there needs to be a documented history to back it up.  In the case of road traffic accidents, the local accidents in recent years did not give rise to personal injury in most cases, so there are incomplete police records of the accidents. 

In order to prevent a likely fatality, ACER members have applied for membership of Community Speedwatch in order that they can operate speed recording equipment to build up the evidence needed.  Regrettably the officials running the scheme appear to be busy on other duties.   Volunteers have been informed by the Police that; “due to organisational needs the recruitment… has had to be put on hold”.  There is also apparently a problem with kit availability. 

As a result, the use of Speedwatch to put traffic calming in place before a fatal accident occurs is going nowhere. ACER notes that temporary CCTV traffic cameras were installed in Talfourd Avenue by RBC which was subsequently changed to one-way.  ACER request similar CCTV evidence gathering if Speedwatch is not available.

Yellow Lines

Proposals to put double yellow lines at road junctions in Whitegates are broadly welcomed in order to increase visibility at junctions, where a number of accidents have occurred.  However the impact on speeding would be negative, as increased visibility is likely to encourage faster driving.

Reading Commuter Traffic

 Fundamental to traffic problems in Whitegates is the sheer volume of commuter traffic attempting to get in and out of east Reading.  This can only be resolved in conjunction with RBC who have yet to get traffic moving in and out of east Reading using effective flyover solutions to by-pass bottlenecks, as implemented in Hong Kong and Manila.

Enforcement

A perpetual problem of speed limits and parking is enforcement.  Without enforcement there is no deterrent, leading to repeated rule breaking.  Unfortunately speeding and parking on pavements fall under the jurisdiction of the Police, who do not have enough money or resources to deal effectively with these motoring offences.  Any fines resulting appear to go into central Government funds, rather than directly into the local police authority. Such a change could allow enforcement to be self- funding.  This appears to be a matter for politicians to resolve and outside the remit of Local Government.  What is now within the remit of local government is parking on yellow lines, however this is notably not enforced at the corner of Palmerstone Road and Culver Lane where visibility is frequently obstructed.

 Local authorities are powerless to enforce speeding. Local Authorities can, however, enforce parking on yellow lines, but this is proven to be ineffective in Whitegates.  Sadly, this brings into question the effectiveness of any new initiatives which may result from this Local Authority run Speed Limit review

SUMMARY

The apparent focus on speed limits per se, evidently does not encompass many of the factors which affect the safety on our roads including road design, separation of cycle lanes, parking and Reading commuter traffic. 

Roads in Whitegates which have particular traffic speed problems are Pitts Lane, Milton Road/Erleigh Court Gardens and Palmerstone Road

Proving the need for traffic calming measures will require evidence led data, particularly Community Speedwatch, which is not currently functioning effectively.

Public information on the reason for the 30mph limit plus the need to keep your distance to 2 seconds should be promoted on posters and videos via social media.

 Without enforcement, any speed limit changes will not be effective. Enforcement is currently outside the jurisdiction of WBC

Tim Marsh

Vice Chair, ACER, The Whitegates Residents Association

29th June 2020