The town website is open to all local residents to submit articles and the number of ‘Contributors’ is growing.
The following has been submitted by a very welcome new contributor who gives their views on the recently introduced 20mph scheme.


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20mph PILOT BRINGS MIXED RESIDENT OPINION

Since the introduction of the 20mph pilot in recent weeks it has been one of the most talked about topics in the town. Previous news articles concerning the 20mph pilot have been very pro-20mph, and clearly written by those who support and campaigned for it. I hope this piece will restore some balance and pick up on some of the ‘issues’ that are being raised by the community as a result.

After the scheme was implemented, the majority of noise seemed to be coming from discontent residents who feel that the pilot has been almost imposed upon them. Others believe that it has been done very poorly with hideous large painted roundels appearing all over Whitchurch’s roads (one small 30m stretch of residential road has 6 roundels!). Then there are other residents that are happy and believe there has been a noticeable improvement in the town since its arrival.

One question that has been asked repeatedly by its supporters is “Why do you want drive faster?”. It’s a frustrating question as people don’t want to drive ‘faster’, they want the speed limit returned to what it was, the nationally agreed and established speed limit of 30mph.

Was the 20mph pilot supported by the Residents?
There can be no argument that a consultation was carried out by Hampshire County Council, but questionnaires were only distributed to households within the pilot area. At the same time HCC also made it clear that “they only want responses from those in the pilot area”. Surely something that effects the whole town should include ALL residents during ALL parts of the consultation?

One of the main points that keeps being echoed by the pro-20mph campaigners is that “68% of residents were in favour of it”. However, this is only a percentage of the small number of households that responded during the consultation.

Some other important statistics have not been reported, until now. The consultation was sent to 1696 Whitchurch households (only those included in the pilot areas). Of this only 485 responses were received. A response rate of just 29%.

71% of households polled didn’t respond to the questionnaire.
Maybe this had something to do with the plain white envelopes that were used resembling junk mail with “To the owner/occupier” written on it?!

330 households did respond saying that they were in favour of a 20mph pilot. This means that

Only 19% of the households that were polled in the pilot area actually supported it.

Not a figure that is being shouted loudly about by its supporters!

Source: HCC decision notice ref 5007 (23 July 2013).

If only 19% of households supported it, why has it been introduced?
Unfortunately it seems that with the dedicated campaigners, the backing of the Town Council* and a seemingly disinterest from the residents of the town at the time, little opposition to it was met.

* Whitchurch Town Council unanimously agreed to ask asked Hampshire County Council to include the town in a 20mph pilot study.

What are the real benefits of the scheme?
One benefit that cannot be argued is that motorists driving at 20mph instead of 30mph increases road safety by reducing stopping distances. Supporters are putting across some valid points saying it will create a better, safer and more pleasant environment for everyone which will increase footfall. An increase in footfall is being reported by some but that is just as likely to be from the recent warmer sunnier weather.

Some other benefits being put forward by supporters of the scheme are less than convincing and in some cases absurd:
– Increased property values
– Lowering obesity, heart disease and stress placing less pressure on the health service
– Reduced fear for pedestrians
– Reducing congestion and improving traffic flow

Picking up on the last two, the real issue here is the towns notorious on-road parking. The benefits of smooth traffic-flow, by reducing stop-start driving, will not be achieved whilst the row after row of parked vehicles remain on the highways.

Parked vehicles cause poor lines of sight for both motorists and pedestrians. Motorists also tend to speed up to get around them with common instances of vehicles mounting town centre pavements. The Town Council have recognised the issue but no action has yet been taken.

The volume of traffic is set to increase with the opening of the Gin Distillery Visitor Centre at Laverstoke, which is planned to attract 100,000 visitors a year, many in excursion coaches, putting more strain on our roads. The recent approval of more housing to be built along Bloswood Lane will add yet more traffic to the towns roads.

Is it here to stay?
As a resident of the town for 33 years, I don’t believe having 20mph zones in the town is a bad thing but changes to it need to be made as it is unacceptable in its current format. By introducing the 20mph scheme over such a wide area of the town it has reduced its impact within the areas that it is needed the most. A community speed watch is being setup, but with a lack of enforcement by the Police force, those who previously drove faster than 30mph through the town will continue to drive faster than the new 20mph limit.

Hopefully, once the pilot nears its end, a greater number of the town’s residents will contribute and provide feedback to Hampshire County Council with their views. The result of which will ultimately determine whether or not it has a future in the town.

Comments (14)

  • Mike

    The best comment I have read on this matter, from the town Facebook page is

    “It takes literally no more than a minute longer to go the length of the town, if anyone is that bothered, leave a minute earlier.”

    The author has not addressed this most fundamental question: Where is it he/she is going that is so important that a few possible extra seconds matter?

    The extensive commentary on the town Facebook page has been sadly (but predictably) often confrontational, belittling, offensive and dismissive. Those objecting to the 20MPH limit put forward many reasons, which boil down to these eight:

      • I wasn’t asked
      • Only a tiny number of people want it
      • People who find traffic scary are wrong
      • People who are concerned for their children haven’t taught their children to live with 30mph traffic
      • No-one’s died yet, so we don’t need lower speeds
      • Doing 20MPH will make me late for work / cost me money
      • The road markings are ugly
      • I can’t drive safely past parked cars at 20

    ___________

    LET’S LOOK AT THESE IN ORDER:

    ‘I wasn’t asked’

    Yes you were – the town website, Facebook page and newspapers all carried extensive articles over many months on the matter. Leaflets were posted through many letterboxes. If you don’t want to pay attention to widely-promoted local issues, that’s your choice. Engage with your community and its elected representatives or don’t complain when things happen that you don’t like.

    ‘Only a tiny number of people want it’

    The author of the article throws around some damning-sounding numbers, and seems to hang the most weight on the seeming injustice of it all. So with the aid of a proper statistician’s calculator, let’s take a closer look…

    1/3 of residents who were asked responded to the County Council survey, and of them, 2/3 supported the introduction of the 20MPH limit. Fact. Those opposed therefore claim that (as 1/3 x 2/3 = ~1/5) only about 20% of residents asked support 20MPH. The author and anyone agreeing with him/her does not understand the concept of statistical significance.

    To be 99% certain a survey reflects the views of the community with +/- 5% certainty, for a population size of 1696 you need a sample size of 478. 1/3 of people responded to the survey – that’s (conveniently) 485 – ***more than enough to be 99% certain the overall result was an accurate reflection of the wider population***. Hampshire County Council understand this. They are political animals. They understand that based on that survey result, the majority support 20MPH.

    Therefore, the survey result reflects the view of the wider population, with a 99% confidence level and +/- 5% margin of error – a pretty solid result in anyone’s book.
    People claiming otherwise are either being deliberately disingenuous or do not understand basic mathematics. Across the UK where 8 million people now live within 20MPH zones, they meet with at least 70% approval. In having roughly 2/3 of residents supporting 20MPH Whitchurch is no different to the rest of the UK. We aren’t special. Not me, not you. Some don’t like 20, but the majority do. Maybe the 1/3 who don’t are fit adults with grown or no children, who don’t walk/cycle. Fair enough. The rest of us who DO have small children, who walk, run and cycle or are elderly/disabled do not like dicing with speeding motor vehicles on narrow roads.

    To throw the flawed ‘absolute numbers’ argument right back at the author, the town Facebook page has 1,516 ‘friends’, and it is much easier to type a few words than find an envelope, open it, fill it in and post it back. Even with the immediacy of reply, only a few dozen (at most) have complained about 20MPH. The rest sit quietly reading the pub race banter or news of the latest burglary. Therefore, by the author’s own logic, ***98.5% of residents are happy with 20MPH***.

    ‘People who find traffic scary are wrong’

    This is an insight into the workings of an individual’s mind. They are saying ‘I’m not worried about something so neither should you be, and if you are it’s your problem, not mine’. What a nice way to treat your neighbours.

    ‘People who are concerned for their children haven’t taught their children to live with 30mph traffic’

    Children do stupid, unpredictable things. The best parent in the world has lapses of concentration or errors of judgement. The result of childish misbehaviour or parental error should not be a death sentence because a motorist was driving at 30, not 20. 30 means a much longer stopping distance and less chance to react. 30 means a seven-fold increase in likelihood of death over 20, and likewise greatly-increased chance of life-changing injury.

    ‘No-one’s died yet, so we don’t need lower speeds’

    This is a pretty callous view to take. Overall you have a 1 in 20,000 chance of dying on the road in the UK each year, but the majority of deaths occur within 30MPH zones – that’s where we spend most of our time – in cars or on foot/bike, roads are narrow and there are many hazards to avoid. You have basically no choice but to use the public highway if you are to travel for work or pleasure. You wouldn’t willingly eat food that had a 1 in 20,000 chance of killing you, nor would you accept it being fed to your children at either of the local schools. So why is accepting an even higher level of risk OK in our local public space? We should do everything practical to reduce the risk of harm or death. 20MPH is a significant tool to do so at very low cost compared to the alternatives.

    ‘Doing 20MPH will make me late for work / cost me money’

    It is basic maths (again) that doing 20 instead of 30 will add no more than 60 seconds to any trip within Whitchurch – and that’s assuming you have a completely clear run with no stopping for other road users, which we all know is hardly ever the case and in many places 30 would be reckless anyway. It is inconceivable that adding at most 60 seconds to driving anywhere from Whitchurch would even be noticeable on arrival, given the inevitable hold-ups for other road users, traffic lights, weather conditions, etc etc – and that’s assuming you had to traverse the entire town from end to end. Regardless, if leaving your house 60 seconds earlier is too hard you have larger time management issues to deal with.

    ‘The road markings are ugly’

    This is the result of HCC having put in place a solution that is very stop/start with many ‘gateways’, each requiring marking according to national standards. The majority who support 20MPH had no say in *how* it was implemented. The 20MPH zone would be better covering the whole town, not in a piecemeal fashion requiring constant attention as to which speed zone you were in at the time. The author’s idea above that 20 should not apply in the streets where our children walk, cycle, play and cross the road is questionable. However the improved ‘liveability’ / safety of our streets is worth a bit of paint which will quickly become part of the background.

    ‘I can’t drive safely past parked cars at 20’

    If you feel that passing parked cars at less than 30 exposes you to danger from oncoming traffic, that is the fault of the parking placement or the oncoming motorist. On-street parking is not a legal requirement or right, and under UK law there is no ‘right of way’ on the road – there is no such thing as ‘my side’ or ‘your side’ and no right to charge headlong into the path of others. Many places in the town centre should have parking removed, as the previous good it did in artificially slowing traffic is now done by the 20MPH limit.

    Fundamentally a significant majority of residents want slower speeds, and residents are already noticing an improvement in how the town feels. This should encourage more walking and cycling, which will reduce short trips by car, therefore freeing up the roads and parking, and further improving the overall quality of our town as well as improving the health of its residents.
    Those opposed to the 20MPH limit should know that their objections are easily seen as dismissive/patronising by the majority who support 20MPH, are elderly, have small children, who run, walk or cycle for fitness, fun, to get to school, the shops or anywhere else.
    The idea that after being met with such clear support from a majority of residents that HCC would be forced to remove the 20 limit by a few vocal opponents is just silly. Don’t lose friends or respect over something that is proven to work, is already making the town nicer to move around, is being embraced nationwide, and is good for us all.

  • Richard

    Statistical significance – a tool used to tell the majority what they think based on the views of the minority!!! Ha ha joke.

  • Jim

    Enjoyed reading the article which I found informative and picks up on some good points from both sides of the argument. Shame the same can’t be said for the dismissive response from Mike.

    I’m not sure he understands the concept of a comments box either. Peope generally leave a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs at most. Maybe he should’ve written his own news article instead of trying to condemn this one?

  • The author

    “The author has not addressed this most fundamental question: Where is it he/she is going that is so important that a few possible extra seconds matter?”

    Response:
    This question wasn’t addressed as it isn’t a fundamental one.

    What an individual chooses to do or why is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to the argument. Maybe people have had enough of the ‘nanny state’ and being told how best to live their lives by people interfering unduly with personal choice.

    “The author of the article throws around some damning-sounding numbers, and seems to hang the most weight on the seeming injustice of it all. So with the aid of a proper statistician’s calculator, let’s take a closer look…”

    Response:
    Those “damning-sounding numbers” that I use are FACTS, unlike the figures Mike confusingly tries to justify which are more fantasy than fact. That statistical technique has more flaws than Facebook’s privacy policies and as is far from “basic mathematics” as he suggest. Reporting p values is likely to influence the reader by erroneously suggesting that the results are significant and replicable. Maybe you should take a look at some of the thousands of cases against statistical significance before using it so boldly in your argument.

  • Tina Hills

    But this has not stopped many cars etc still coming up Winchester Rd still doing over 20 only yesterday stood outside my mum’s who lives on Winchester Rd cars were not slowing down to me this has not helped on this road at all yes some slow down but others do not it needs especially on this road somebody there with a speed camera I know this is a pilot scheme but drivers are still speeding up that road

  • bluefox

    The debate surrounding the 20mph issue is certainly lively and very welcome, although it is regrettable that some of the comments seem to border on becoming personal.
    That said, the arousal of such passions indicates to me that those on both sides of the argument recognise that Whitchurch does have a problem with traffic flow and mobility, a problem that will only worsen with new house building programmes and the draw of local tourist attractions such as the Silk Mill and the new distillery at Laverstoke.
    Whitchurch itself is a very attractive and desirable place to live, situated by a fabulous river surrounded by beautiful countryside yet with excellant road and rail links. The community is vibrant and divierse.Local businesses are varied and an important source of employment. generating salaries much of which may be spent in the town.
    Yet all of this is threatened if the as the volume of traffic increases and the mobility of the populace is restricted. I believe we should be expanding the “traffic” argument to include the following to ensure the prosperous survival of the town for our children.

    1) Create a one way traffic system, including certain important roads in the town centre such as Newbury Road (from Dances Lane down th the town centre), Oakland Road, Bell Street (to the turning for the car park and doctors surgery Winchester Street, Test Road, London Street/London Road. This will ease traffic flow, reduce congestion, make it safer for pedestrian cross roads (no looking left AND right), and increase on road parking capacity.

    2) Retain as much on-road town centre parking as possible, to allow residents to continue ease of access to their properties, whilst providing more short-term spaces for residents and visitors to “stop and shop”.

    3) Introduce other traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures in the town. For example, a wide footpath, with traffic priority signage, over the railway bridge in Newbury Road. This would slow vehicles down as well as alowing foot access to the north side of the station, thus helping the disabled to access the up train platform IF Network Rail can ever be persuaded to eventually build a new car park there.

    4) New zebra crossings outside the Co-op at the entrance to Church Street and Bell Street.

    5) More bollards to prevent parking on the pavements in the town centre e.g. outside the printers/stationers, the bakers, and the newsagents.

    6) Local traffic enforcement against speeding motorists and those who chose to park on the pavements.

    7) High -profile support for complimentary bus and train services e.g. lobby SWT to provide an earlier and later (an hour perhaps?) service to/ from the Salisbury direction, and an hourly service on Sundays when buses are lacking.

    8) Regular proactive maintenance of the town`s footpaths to encourage pedestrian access and use of all areas and a campaign to instal a roadside pavement between Whitchurch and Wells-in-the-Field.

    9) Continued lobbying of the Highways agency make the A34 (south) junction with Nun`s Walk safer for people using the Tufton road.

    Planning now for a robust and interconnected travel network for our town, not only raises safety levels but will help to ensure that Whitchurch has properous future.

  • Claire Kingston

    Firstly, a great article – thank you!
    In reply to Mike……
    “I wasn’t asked”
    Facebook and the Town website should not be used as an example, there is a large proportion of residents who are retired and do not use this method of communication, neither is the local paper. People do not necessarily “take” a local paper either. the only way to guarantee all residents were aware of this scheme would be to canvass every household with clear and concise information, not an A4 sheet of paper with a fuzzy map which only stated it was a consideration. My elderly neighbour was shocked to wake up and find great big 20’s outside his driveway having no knowledge of the scheme at all.

    “Only a tiny number of people want it”
    True! You can’t blind everyone with statistics that don’t make any sense to anyone unless you have a degree in Statistics and are a Statistician. Later on in your reply you state “Fundamentally a significant majority of residents want slower speeds” How can a “significant majority” from a poll of a minority of households be a view of an entire town? Especially when a large number weren’t returned….would that have not made someone wonder why so little response??

    “people who find the traffic scary are wrong”
    They are not “wrong” but traffic should be treated with respect because it carries risk and risk can be scary. If we remove risk from our lives and that of our children how can we teach them to deal with it? which leads me to the next statement….

    “People who are concerned for their children haven’t taught their children to live with 30mph traffic’
    Yes, children are unpredictable. Yes, parents can have a lapse in concentration. But why are we dumbing down the responsibility of parents to teach their children to behave well and to be aware of road safety? Certainly have reduced speed limits around schools and nurseries where the risk (there’s that word again!) is greater. It is a fact that primary age children can’t judge speed by eye especially over 20mph which is why the “20 is Plenty” scheme came in, but where does that leave me when my child learns to judge a car at 20mph then goes to his grandparents and the cars are going at 30mph and he thinks he can cross in time?? It leaves him having a close call….or worse. But I take the responsibility to teach him to respect the roads because a car at 20mph or 30 mph is still dangerous.

    ‘No-one’s died yet, so we don’t need lower speeds’
    I don’t recall anyone actually saying this, what I do recall is people asking for detail of statistics of deaths or injuries that have occurred on our roads so they can see if that could be a consideration in their opinion.

    ‘Doing 20MPH will make me late for work / cost me money’
    I don’t think that this is a valuable comment to discuss as I feel it was probably a flippant remark and not really worth arguing.

    ‘The road markings are ugly’
    They are! They have been plonked down with no consideration. For example – on one street they are all facing one way which gives the impression it is a one way road system and by the school they are on both sides on a one way road (clearly sign posted) which implies it’s OK to drive in both directions. They are painted in random places on roads that make no sense, it seems that it was decided that it would be OK there because there were cars parked where they should have been. We live in a lovely little town and there have been numerous incentives for buildings around the town centre to be improved, the bollards are brightly decorated and the planters by the town hall make the town look attractive…………………..then in the roads massive great 20 roundels, lovely!

    ‘I can’t drive safely past parked cars at 20?
    If driving around parked cars is an issue then that is what we need to address both legal and illegal parking. trying to drive around parked vehicles at 20 just takes longer but once you get one driver getting past everyone wants to – that’s what takes the time. This is where having prioritised rights of way would be an advantage, works well under the bridge along Bell Street.

    I do oppose the blanket 20mph scheme, I don’t like how it all has come about and I don’t like to be accused of being dismissive or patronising to the people who support it. I respect their decision to support it, I also respect pedestrians, the elderly, children, parents and everyone who lives in this town. What I ask is that those who do support it respect my right to disagree with their point of view. I just feel that it has been forced upon us and that there are many other ways that the issues with our roads could have been addressed and our town be made an even more pleasant place to live.

  • Sue piper

    My concern is the 20mph signs all over the road in Fairfield. I would be most concerned if anybody did over 10 mph to be perfectly honest, it is 2 way traffic around a small close. That was a waste of time and money!

    May I also add the area that needs tackling is turning right out of station road. A mini roundabout would have slowed traffic and most certainly have solved pulling out blindly depending on whether traffic coming up the road is clear. That is an accident waiting to happen, 20 or 30 mph.

  • Mike Stead

    In reply to:

    Those “damning-sounding numbers” that I use are FACTS, unlike the figures Mike confusingly tries to justify which are more fantasy than fact. That statistical technique has more flaws than Facebook’s privacy policies and as is far from “basic mathematics” as he suggest. Reporting p values is likely to influence the reader by erroneously suggesting that the results are significant and replicable. Maybe you should take a look at some of the thousands of cases against statistical significance before using it so boldly in your argument”

    I’m glad we have elected representatives that understand local concerns and how they should be best managed for the benefit of all. Why a few people wish to impose their own views upon the majority whilst disregarding their concerns over safety and environment is beyond me.

    My final word on the subject is this: I don’t give a damn about anyone being delayed for a few seconds, if it makes my children safer.
    Anyone arguing against 20MPH argues against the safety of children and adults alike, and needs to take a long, hard look at their own motives.

  • Raphael

    Well, well! It seems to me that Whitchurch is a community under stress – and surely this will only get worse when the proposed new-housing is built!

    It is all well and good for some people to airily announce that ‘on-road parking should be reduced’ – but where are these vehicles supposed to go?
    It is not logical for pro 20mph limit commentators to suggest that everyone was consulted because clearly they were not – yet they still have to live with the consequences – unlike Tom Thacker!

    It seems ridiculous that although we have an enlarged station car-park, Basingstoke Planners have agreed to let it be developed into yet more housing – putting harvesting Council Tax above the interests of the community. Surely I thought this was the sort of thing the Localism Act was supposed to protect against by giving the community a voice? Surely Whitchurch Council should explore this avenue, even if it means running it as a Community Asset rather than vainly hope against hope that one day a car-park will appear at the north of the station? If they don’t it will mean that even more cars will be dispersed on our streets!

    It is unlikely that a one-way system will appear in the town for the simple reason that when there is an accident on the A34 between the Whitchurch turn-offs the resulting backed-up traffic is redirected through the town.

    In my opinion the worst thing that happened to Whitchurch was when it lost control over its own planning to Basingstoke in the 1970’s. Perhaps proper implementation of the Localism Act will allow us to get a little of it back.

  • nellibear

    There has been no noticeable difference, people are still driving the way they have always done ! It is not just the speed that causes problems.

    One of the better ways to sort the difficulties and make it safer to walk round the town would be to give Whitchurch a one-way traffic system.

    The results of the survey done to monitor the number large lorries bore no relation to actual numbers we see coming through. I agree with some of the suggestions put forward by Bluefox to improve Whitchurch life .

  • Jo

    I personally feel that motorists get quite a raw deal – I accept we’re not perfect, but it does feel that we’re supposed to take the blame for everyone else’s stupid actions. I agree with Claire that parents have a responsibility to teach their children to be aware of road safety. A couple of weeks ago in Whitchurch I had a very young child on a bike (who was out without any adult supervision) come straight out at the end of a road in front of my car, and was quite happily cycling up the middle of the road round a blind bend. Luckily no-one hit them but I wonder if they had (which does not even bear thinking about) who would have got the blame!!

    Unfortunately it is not just children that cause near accidents as I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to brake or swerve to miss an adult cyclist doing something stupid, especially those that come down Newbury Hill at speed and don’t feel the need to stop at the roundabout before zooming off down Winchester Street, or people who just step off the pavement to cross the road without looking and because they’ve got ear phones in or are busy talking on their mobile don’t hear a car approach and aren’t really concentrating. AND THEN THEY FEEL IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO GLARE OR SHOUT ABUSE AT ME LIKE I’M TOTALLY AT FAULT!!

    So yes I’m driving at 20MPH in the hope that it will make Whitchurch a safer place, and let’s encourage walking and cycling, but EVERYONE needs to take responsibility for their actions and be more careful when using the roads.

  • Philip

    I think there are some respectable opinions on both sides of this debate. Unfortunately as far as I can see they are all largely irrelevant as, from my observation, few people are driving any differently than they did before the pilot was introduced. In which case the new signs have unfortunately been little more than a waste of taxpayers’ (that’s yours and mine) money.

    I would be interested to learn, since this has been described as a pilot, how the success or otherwise of the scheme is going to be judged.

    __________

    Edit note:
    The town website has received comments that some don’t see a difference but that others do.
    It is understood that HCC will be doing surveys over the pilot period to compare with those carried out before its implementation.
    Hope this helps.

  • Mrs A Major

    I have no objection to the 20 mph limit, though 25mph would have been more agreeable. However it is spread over too big an area. 50 or 75 metres around the centre is much more sensible and probably residents would be happy with that.
    Thank you

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