TWO motoring experts last night claimed Oxford’s new 20mph speed limits would make the city’s roads more dangerous – not safer.
Both Mark McArthur-Christie, chairman of the Oxford group of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and Mark Strange, chairman of the Oxford Driving Instructors’ Association, told the Oxford Mail they had seen dangerous situations emerge on the city’s roads in recent weeks.
Oxfordshire County Council introduced 20mph limits last month at a cost of £300,000.
The council’s head of road safety, Geoff Barrell, claimed that a 1mph cut in average speeds would result in a five per cent reduction in casualties.
However, Mr McArthur-Christie, 42, from Bampton, said the introduction of the scheme was like “trying to repair a Rolex with a mallet”.
His judgment follows the publication of a Department of Transport review on what happened in the first year after the introduction of a similar scheme in Portsmouth, which showed the number of people killed or seriously injured remained exactly the same as when the 30mph limits were in place.
It also showed the number of accidents in which people were killed or seriously injured rose to 19 when compared with an average of of 18.7 in the previous three years. The report showed there was a 13 per cent drop in the number of accidents which resulted in “slight injuries”, but overall speeds fell by just 0.9mph, from 19.4mph to 18.5mph.
Between January 2006 and December last year, there were two fatal, 81 serious and 583 slight injuries on Oxford’s roads.
Mr McArthur-Christie, who is also a member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “I don’t think 20mph limits will reduce the number of accidents, because there are very few speed-related accidents in Oxford.
“The causes of crashes in Oxford are from inattention, lack of planning and people who look but do not see.
“The most fundamental thing of all is the council is now using speed limits in a way they were never intended to be used.
“Speed limits were designed to reflect the behaviour of the law-abiding majority – they were never intended to be used as a tool for speed reduction.
“The council is operating with the noblest of motives, but if we want lower speeds in Oxford, the money would have been better spent on a large-scale road education campaign.”
Mr Strange, 57, a driving instructor for 17 years, agreed the scheme would make the roads more dangerous.
He said: “When you look at the Highway Code it says to pass cyclists as quickly and as safely as you can, but if you have got cyclists who can pedal up to 20mph very easily, you can easily get cyclists passing you now.
“It’s also encouraging pedestrians to walk out in front of cars, because they know you’re going slower and they know you will stop.”
Mr Strange said six pedestrians walked out in front of his car while he was in a 20mph zone in Headington Road on Wednesday.
Rodney Rose, the county council’s cabinet member for transport implementation, said: “There is some encouraging information from the interim report into Portsmouth’s scheme, particularly on speed reduction – but the report is just that – interim.
“Oxford’s scheme will also be judged over the long term, as we have repeatedly said.”