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Opinion & Analysis

Can lower speed limits lead to faster journey times?

Eyleen Gomez

By Stuart Hedley

Another attempt is being made to threaten our god given right to drive our big cars at high speeds so we can get to where we need to go as quickly as we can. Why?

The proposal to introduce lower speed limits is made in an attempt to keep our road network flowing. To increase the efficiency of our journeys and reduce the stress, anxiety and kerbside pollution caused by vehicle congestion.

To some this will sound like utter rot. Some still manage to get where they want, when they want and how they want. Some are alright, Jack. Why does anything need to change?

Today we are blessed with social media which gives people voice to share their opinions, often without feeling the need to support them with any data derived facts. This can have the effect of the tail wagging the dog. Unfortunately, the silent majority remain exactly that.

What we can’t avoid is the fact that vehicle registration numbers have been escalating at a rapid pace while the road network has stayed pretty much the same size.

Estimates suggest that the number of licensed vehicles are up to between 40,000 to 45,000, from 32,637 in 2015.

In 2017, Jonathan Scott reported that Gibraltar had the highest number of vehicles per km in the world…nearly double the number of vehicles per km compared to the country with the second highest number at the time (Monaco).

Gridlock is already apparent during busy times or at any hint of rain.

Some may also have noticed that residential construction is booming. Mike Nicholls from Chestertons informs us that almost 2000 new residences are currently either under construction or about to begin construction soon. Almost all of these will have space to park a car.

With limited space and increased road users comes the responsibility of the entire community to unify and agree conditions which will prioritise essential vehicle journeys over the non-essential.

Public transport, emergency services, the elderly and mobile impaired, those transporting young families, taxis, and commercial vehicles.

Without policy to ensure the road network flows for these groups will have massive social and economic implications which will be felt by all.

There is no ‘them and us’ in this scenario, just ‘us’.

In 2017 the World Research Institute released a report outlining the beneficial impacts on society of lower speed limits.

In terms of contributing to the reduction of vehicle congestion, lower speed limits have two distinct effects.

Firstly, they make car and motorcycle journeys less convenient. It is in our nature to find the most convenient means for our purpose. If this is no longer the car and motorcycle then alternatives will be sought.

Secondly, lower speed limits create a safer environment for all road users, which further encourages people to adopt alternative personal transport modes such as cycling or walking.

It is speed and inconsideration, rather than one particular vehicle user, that brings the fear of accidents and death.

Considering the high level of car journeys which are single occupancy, encouraging one more person to cycle really can mean one less car on the road. But so what if limits are reduced?

A high number of our roads already have a 30 limit, but how often is this limit observed? With resources stretched, how is it proposed that 30 limits in more areas will be enforced and therefore have the desired effect of curbing congestion?

Fortunately technology is at hand to provide a solution.

In densely populated urban areas, average speed cameras are being used to rein in persistent offenders.

Number plate recognition software combined with automatic violation ticketing provide a system that is not only non-human resource dependent but also self-funding.

One alternative transport means that governments around the world are hoping will be adopted in place of the car and the motorbike is the bicycle.

Billions of pounds, euros and dollars are being allocated to active transport systems.

However, despite the massive benefits of cycling for both the individual user and society on the whole, it is of course recognised that cycling is not for everyone.

For those people a free-flowing road network will be appreciated and you would think it makes sense for them to want to see more of their fellow road users on bicycles, rather than sat in front of them in cars.

If we don’t act as a community now to encourage less dependency on cars, then all we have to look forward to is increased periods of gridlock.

At this point, for sure, you will be wishing you were able to travel at 30 kph.

Stuart Hedley, Co-founder EBike-Gibraltar. EBike-Gibraltar is a commercial venture but also a community minded project. It was created to give the local community and visitors the opportunity to experience a mode of transport which is a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to the excessive number of polluting and congestion causing vehicles on the limited road network.

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