A13, trunk road to … where?

Wi-fi cameras to track drivers’ average speed | News (from Evening Standard)

Today, the Evening Standard reported that a new wi-fi-based speed camera system is to be tried out along the A13, the main road out of London to the east, between Canning Town and the Goresbrook interchange, which is the start of the new A13 relief road across the marshes; this means all of the old A13 between the end of the Docklands tunnels and the start of the Dagenham by-pass. The BBC, in their reporting of the story (they covered it in their London drive-time show), clarified that the scheme was not going to result in any fines, but was just a trial of the system.

As someone who drives quite often in London, I’ve got plenty of experience of east London’s dual carriageways. The A13 is the most modern of them, mostly a nice wide six-lane road east of Canning Town, and that nice wide stretch has a 40mph speed limit, which is really inappropriate for a road of that quality. To compare with other London dual-carriageways, the Kingston By-pass has much narrower lanes south of New Malden and roads entering and leaving at right-angles, but has a 50mph limit; the Blackwall Tunnel approach south of the Thames is much windier, but has a 50mph limit, and there are sections of the Western Avenue where the lanes narrow sharply to go under a railway bridge and over a flyover east of Perivale, but the 50mph limit stands there too. It seems that 50mph is the normal speed limit for a six-lane highway with underpasses and flyovers, so why should the A13 be any different?

Frankly, I avoid the whole area if I can these days, because I have no wish to get caught up in Transport for London’s game of tempting me with wide roads and then trapping me with their spy cameras. Apparently the purpose of this is to stop people getting away with speeding by slowing down for the cameras, but people would not need to if the speed limit was appropriate for the road’s quality, and the speed limits on nearly all of the dual carriageways in that part of east London are 10mph below what they should be. If this is not about making money, which the powers that be assure us is the case every time the issue of speed cameras comes up for discussion, what is it about, because road safety cannot be the name of the game if a higher speed limit is imposed on the much more dangerous Kingston By-pass, and when cameras are placed on roads where there is no great safety issue and no reason to keep to that particular speed limit other than that it is there (e.g. the South Circular north of Shooters Hill Road).

The presenters on BBC London noted that these types of cameras have been present on motorways for some time, but they have not - what is found on motorways is average speed checking, which allows motorists to slow down to give a slower average if they find they have crept above the limit, which is very easy to do if you are watching the road while driving along a wide, empty, straight road, but rather less so if you are in narrow lanes passing through road works. The average speed cameras on motorways are placed at much wider intervals; at the roadworks on the M11 north of Loughton, there are three along the whole stretch, that is to say, two stretches over which speed is measured, rather than a system of several short measuring ranges.

Apparently this system is expected to help in imposing the 20mph “default speed limit” which is likely to become a reality if Ken Livingstone wins another term in office, which I really hope he does not. As for strictly residential roads, I agree with having such a limit; when it comes to minor roads which actually lead somewhere, this is likely to cause an annoyance and inconvenience out of proportion to its likely benefits in terms of road safety. I suspect that the real aim is reducing noise, not road safety, but if journeys across large areas take a third longer, and are undertaken by drivers who start work when much of the population is just getting out of bed, this will not do us any favours in terms of road safety anyway. People have to accept that the society we live in requires things to be delivered along roads, and that the only alternative to building new main roads is the increased use of secondary ones - and most roads, major or minor, have people living on them, so why on earth are those living along B-roads in Brockley entitled to peace and quiet when those living along the Lee High Road are not?

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