The speed of traffic is a huge problem in villages and along country lanes, and is set to get worse as traffic levels continue to rise. CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) has long campaigned to tackle the problem by designating “Quiet Lanes”. After consultation with CPRE Quiet Lanes are unfortunately only appropriate for minor rural roads, C or unclassified routes, which are single-carriageway and ideally connected to a network of the same.
In 2017, Luddington Parish Council instigated the installation of village gateways, coloured tarmac and dragons teeth to complement the 20mph speed limit. Speed reductions can be achieved with this type of installation but often cannot be sustained over any distance, and nationally speeds within villages have at most been reduced by 1 or 2 mph if there are no additional measures in place. For maximum benefit, gateways need to be used in conjunction with other measures within the community, so that drivers are made aware that lower speeds are required throughout.
LPC have lobbied County Councillor Mike Brain several times who reported that he had received a response from WCC Highways concerning his request for a reduction in the speed limit on the B439 near Dodwell Park. The section of the B439 within the vicinity of Dodwell Park is currently governed by a 50mph speed limit, has red tarmac and also a flashing sign. A pedestrian refuge would not be a safe provision for pedestrians due to the lack of street lighting. It is also felt that there is insufficient carriageway width to accommodate such a feature. The request for a reduction in the Luddington Road speed limit would not be entertained by either WCC or the Police. This is due to lack of reported incidents (thankfully) and lack of funds. This, is despite the anomaly between the main Evesham Road being limited to 30mph, whilst the relatively rural larger stretches of Luddington Road have a 40mph limit.
It is a fact that Luddington Road acts as a short-cut for eastbound traffic heading into Stratford Upon Avon in the rush hour periods to avoid long delays on Evesham Road and Bordon Hill. Unfortunately this is likely to get worse due to new housing developments and planned changes to the highway network , especially with the already approved Bordon Hill roundabout and threat of the SWRR. The area also sees a major increase in traffic on race days and other events held at the Racecourse.
2017 saw the setting up of the Community Speedwatch group, an inter-parish agreement was set up to borrow use of a speed gun, signs etc and local resident volunteers attended training sessions run by the police. Unfortunately this scheme faded away due in part to abuse of volunteers by motorists.
What are the options?
Firstly, the impact on the local street environment including noise, vibration, visual impact, community perception and emissions must be taken into account which will affect local attitudes to any traffic calming scheme. The impact on pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, buses and emergency services and agricultural vehicles are also paramount.
Build-Outs, Speed Humps, Chicanes etc
Department of Transport figures indicate that physical barriers are effective in relation to the size of scheme, ie. whether a single or double build-out is in place. There is evidence to suggest however that barriers of this nature are seen as an inconvenience to be negotiated by the vehicle and once past, the driver will forget the reason for the barrier being there in the first place.
There is no doubt that research suggests that physical barriers help with speed issues, but where these types of barriers come into their own and are in place there is a dramatic Traffic Flow reduction. DoT surveys have recorded between a 7% and 15% reduction in the volume of traffic where chicanes have been installed. Would residents pay the price of changing the street scene for this ?
Luddington and Luddington Road are designated in the village design statement as being “dark”, meaning that there is no street lighting. This is a characteristic of the area that is taken into consideration as street lighting would be required during the hours of darkness for any type of physical barrier, along with extra road markings and signage. This would undoubtedly “urbanise” the area.
Vehicle activated signs (VAS)
LED or fibre optic signs have been used to address the problem of inappropriate speed where conventional signing has not been effective. They are usually blank until triggered by an approaching vehicle travelling at a speed above a pre-set limit and can be as simple as a ‘SLOW DOWN’ message or a message in flashing lights. The signs have the advantage of being blank when not activated, limiting their visual intrusion, which is particularly relevant in rural areas. A variety of methods e.g. battery, solar panel and wind generator can be used to power these signs in rural locations.
The cost of purchase and installation of vehicle activated signs can range between £8,000 and £15,000.
A recent full-scale evaluation by DoT found that the Vehicle activated signs along with speed limit repeater signs (ie; “Had You Forgotten?) reduced mean speeds of traffic as a whole by an average of between 3 and 9 mph. Speeds exceeding the limit were also reduced.
Using this psychological approach, most drivers will make the connection between their own speed and the signs being triggered.
Locally, and in similar circumstances to Luddington Road, the neighbouring village of Binton have recently installed VAS. This was an effort to slow down the very fast ‘rat run’ traffic that goes through the village. They decided on the flashing speed sign where the speed flashes and decreases when cars slow. Initial evidence suggests that vehicles really do slow when the sign is activated.
The sign is battery operated and is charged easily. The sign is moved between 4 pole locations every 3 – 4 weeks and the battery is changed then. The sign collects data of the speed of all the cars going through the village from both directions. When the sign is moved the data is downloaded which is being collated and used to send to various authorities (WCC, Police etc) to make them aware of the scale of the issue and support the argument for more regular patrols etc.
Binton Parish Council have been very helpful and even supplied a Data Sheet downloaded from the information gathered via the sign. The initial 2 months of data show that 80% of traffic exceeded the 30mph limit, average weekday traffic (both ways) is 1,600 vehicles compared to 700 at weekends, the average speed is 36mph and the the highest recorded average speeds entering the village were 76mph!
The cost for a sign, an additional battery, 4 poles and their attachments was approx £3,200 , not including installation.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) Commissioned Survey
In November 2019 a WCC engineer reviewed Luddington Road and Luddington Village speed limits. Unfortunately, in the engineer’s report received Spring 2020, VAS signs were confirmed to be unacceptable. A formal reduction in speed limit to 20mph in Luddington Village and 30mph on Luddington Road could cost in excess of £20,000 chargeable to LPC. A series of new signs warning of sharp bends was recommended at a cost to LPC. Due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, this matter was put on hold.
What is the way forward?
The Parish Council will be receiving CIL fund contributions from the Cameron Homes via the development of the DEFRA site, some of which could be allocated to the best way forward on this matter. LPC recognises that it may also need to look at other possibilities for funding measures as any major project may not otherwise be affordable.
It is hoped that a Traffic Calming and Highways Working Group will be set up at the end of 2020 to work on traffic calming recommendations to LPC.
LPC are committed to further public consultation and lobbying of WCC on this matter.
Luddington Parish Council, April 2019
Updated October 2020