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Keep going

It is about time that some mainstream voices were prepared to challenge the absurd and iniquitous eco-fascist-inspired war against the motorist and, much to my surprise, that voice is emanating from the Conservative Party:

The Tories promised yesterday to raise the motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph as part of a “fair deal for drivers”.

Tim Collins, the shadow transport secretary, said this was part of a set of reforms to be unveiled later this month.

They will include the removal of the bus and taxi lane on the M4 between Heathrow and London and speed cameras that trap motorists “unfairly”.

Unnecessary road humps and road tolls will be abolished. Some speed limits, through villages, for example, may be tightened.

Its a funny old world when the Conservatives are starting to make anti-establishment noises but that is what they are doing. I suppose it is symptomatic of having spent so long in the political wilderness that even they realise there is nothing to be lost by saying boo to a goose.

It is still a long way from the kind of radicalism that we need and it is not enough to cause me to review my poor opinion of them as an institution but I am prepared to give them credit where a little bit of credit is due.

30 comments to Keep going

  • Guy Herbert

    Sorry to be ever the pessimist, but it is hard to see this as part of a coherent strategy. They seem to be engaged in the “rainbow coalition” approach of trying to sweep up disaffected groups by appeals on readily dramatised lifestyle issues.

    You probably do have to use readily dramatised lifestyle issues in modern politics. But they should be the tools of strategy not its master. Let’s have “free to move” not “fair deal for drivers”. Drivers can work out for themselves that they might benefit.

  • Guy,

    You may well be right but isn’t that what party politics is all about?

    What I find encouraging is that they are prepared to make these kind of noises at all after years of consistent surrender to the bullies of the green/left.

  • Go, IDS, go! 🙂

    Keep that champagne on ice Mr Carr, and hold that lamp-post spot in Smith Square for me Mr De Havilland, for in May 2005: The Bald Quiet Bloke Will Win!!!

    You read it here first.

    I am a believer!!! 😎

    (This blip-vert was brought to you, by the “The Bald Quiet Bloke Will Win” South Oxfordshire contingent, of the Monster Raving “Mad as a Banana” Party)

  • S. Weasel

    Ach! Is it the M4 where the speed limit signs every few miles are electronic and variable? I know it’s on the way to Heathrow. That’s one of the most jaw-dropping examples of regulatory incompetence I’ve ever seen.

    The signs advise you to slow down to 40 or 50 mph because there’s congestion ahead. Of course there’s congestion ahead – they keep forcing people to slow down! Then forcing the people behind them to slow down to react to the people ahead who’ve slowed down. Which eventually gums up the whole works.

    I haven’t made up my mind whether road planners are too stupid to realize that slowing people down causes traffic congestion, or if they know that perfectly well. I’ve never seen anything like the car-hatred of the present government. (It’s…it’s…downright unAmerican!)

    In any case, why would we need a sign telling us to slow down because the traffic ahead is slow? In the absence of especially dangerous blind curves or steep hills – none of which are present on the M4, thankyouverymuch – or thick fog or overt psychosis, people generally do not react to an approaching traffic jam by applying the gas and slamming into the back of it.

    And don’t get me started on ‘traffic calming’ measures!!

  • Beware the ‘radicalism’ of opposition parties – it tends to curdle once they have power. Take Labour’s pre-1997 enthusiasm for constitutional reform, which has since become patchy and ill-judged, and far from enthusiastic.

  • A_t

    …or the much-vaunted liberalization of licensing hours, which was frantically texted to young voters before the last election… Still seem to get chucked out of most pubs at 11 🙁

  • Adrian Ramsey

    S. Weasel wrote:

    “people generally do not react to an approaching traffic jam by applying the gas and slamming into the back of it.”

    Enough of them don’t pay attention to what’s in front of them, be it a sudden slow-down thanks to some ninny in the overtaking lane suddenly realising she’s about to miss her exit and cutting across the road, a downpour reducing visibility, or a contraflow where the people in front have slowed to something resembling 50mph.

    I’m not a great driver – 4,000 miles a year if that. But in the last year I’ve had to brake for the ninny, swerve to avoid being hit by Coathanger Man who wasn’t going to let a torrent and 100′ visibility slow him down from 90mph, and pray fervently that I and my family weren’t going to end up as the meat in the sandwich between two 40-tonne artics in a contraflow, given that the one behind had no intention whatsoever of slowing down.

    Yes – trying to get everyone to move at a uniform speed on our overcrowded, under-funded roads causes problems – but it’s mainly due to stupid sods who don’t believe any laws – even the laws of physics – apply to them.

  • S. Weasel writes:

    Ach! Is it the M4 where the speed limit signs every few miles are electronic and variable?

    No, that’s the M25. Thankfully, they haven’t got round to the M4 yet (which intersects the M25 near Heathrow).

    What the variable speed cameras ARE very good at, however, is the creation of all sorts of cunning short-cuts around the west of London. If you’re coming from Gatwick, up to glorious South Oxfordshire on the M4, there’s a great cut-off at the Staines J13, which takes you through Windsor, and past the Queen’s house! 🙂

    (Though there are some nasty Thames Valley Police cameras, especially on the Maidenhead stretch of this short-cut)

    Slowing down for all these hazards, this can still shave up to 40 minutes off the ol’ journey time, if the variable cameras have brought the M25 to a north-direction halt.

    What a lot of people do, as well, to avoid the variable cameras, is slip off the motorway, then slip back on again, at every junction. Hardly sensible, and not what the regulators intended, but hell, do those idiots ever get what they intended?

    (Be careful not to do this on the M3 exit, or you’ll end up in Bagshot ten miles away, with no way back to the M25 – I found this out the hard way! 🙂

  • Dave O'Neill

    Having driven on the M25 before and after the variable limits, I’ve got to say they actually do work.

    You are right in talking about people over compensating and causing problems by slamming on brakes, but the thing with the variable speed limits is they slow the natural flow down so the effect is dramatically reduced. What you find with this system is that the number of complete halts has been reduced to slow traffic.

    The M25’s biggest problem is under capacity – it wasn’t designed to support current loads. None of the motorways in the South seem to have been. Either we build a lot more or find some other way to deal with it.

    Most traffic calming measures are insane, especially pinch points. I’d rather see a much higher limit on motorways but more strict controls on speed in towns where speed really does kill.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “Having driven on the M25 before and after the variable limits, I’ve got to say they actually do work.”

    As someone who is forced to use that hateful road rather a lot, I’m with the Weasel on this.

    Far too often, variable speed restrictions are nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are used to slow traffic down because whoever is holding the big red switch feels like slowing traffic down ‘just in case’ or (say it is not so!) possibly because he damn well enjoys it and thinks it is good for us.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I have passed Heathrow to find no genuine congestion at all, no great flow of traffic leaving the M25 at that point and a sudden return to 70 mph driving, the inconvenience having been caused simply by some officious twerp in the control centre.

    Similarly on other motorways, where traffic is often slowed to a crawl for either no reason at all, or simply because there is a broken down truck on the hard shoulder.

    There are two quite important points here. From a road safety perspective, if the police cry wolf too often, no one listens, so when there is a genuine need for speed reductions, people go steaming on, oblivious to the dangers ahead, because they have learned not to believe the speed restriction signs.

    The second point is about the perception of risk. Someone exposed to nothing but traffic carnage is almost guaranteed to have a skewed perspective. No doubt if I had the job of gathering up severed heads in blankets I might feel the same, but (mercifully) I do not.

    As a consequence of this skewed perspective, motorway authorities and the police tend to regard all drivers as homicidal maniacs who, in an ideal world, wouldn’t be allowed to drive anything more ambitious than pedal cars. They tend to be listened to with great earnestness by our liberal elite because they advocate both ‘safety’ (the great contemporary Shibboleth) and control of individual autonomy. As a consequence, our roads suffer unnecessary congestion and, sometimes, an actually increased safety risk as a consequence.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Far too often, variable speed restrictions are nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Yes, that’s what they are meant to be. Slow the traffic down in a controlled way so that you don’t just push the problem at the M4 around to beyond the A3 at Leatherhead, which is what used to happen, or back up beyond the Amersham turnoff above the M40, which also used to happen.

    I have passed Heathrow to find no genuine congestion at all, no great flow of traffic leaving the M25 at that point and a sudden return to 70 mph driving, the inconvenience having been caused simply by some officious twerp in the control centre.

    Actually, this is what the models predict the controlled speed zones would do. The problem is you have no personal control “sample” on which to your comparison.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “Yes, that’s what they are meant to be. Slow the traffic down in a controlled way so that you don’t just push the problem at the M4 around to beyond the A3 at Leatherhead, which is what used to happen, or back up beyond the Amersham turnoff above the M40, which also used to happen.”

    I find it hard to imagine anything more stupid than forcing traffic to bunch at slow speeds on the clockwise approach to Heathrow.

    Like most ‘traffic experts’ schemes it is a triumph of the idiocy of central planning.

    As with economics, people left to their own devices handle things far better.

  • Mike HHH

    Kelvin McKenzie is so confident the Tories will win the next election, he has wage 10,000 on it. He said:

    I’ve got to get back some of the taxes Labour have taken off me!!!!

    I would love unneccesary speed humps to be got rid of. They damage my suspension and my exhaust costing me hundreds of pounds a year.

  • Dave

    G Cooper:

    It does sound stupid, I agree, but then people didn’t believe in the shockwave effect until it was shown from the air.

    Slowing the traffic deliberately avoids causing complete standstills many miles away from the actual problem.

    It seems mad, but the M25 does actually work better than it did without them.

    You want stupid ideas – the M4 bus lane must be the worst.

    Or the M1 and A10 junctions where the M25 goes down to 2 lanes.

  • 70MPH now and soon to be 80MPH? I’m jealous! Here in the States, the top posted limit is just 70MPH, and that on rural stretches of the interstate highway system. There are allgedly stretches of highway in Montana and Wyoming where people typically drive MUCH faster because 1) settlements and homes are so far apart; and 2) nobody’s enforcing the law. But to have an 80MPH limit BY LAW is remarkable.

    US lawmakers are getting some pressure to ease drug laws (especially for marijuana), based on the examples of tolerance and common sense provided by Canada and Britain. Perhaps we can now start pointing to Britain as an example of reasonable highway policy, as well. I’m encouraged. Vroom vroom, you Brits!

  • Eamon Brennan

    The speed controls on the M25 are a poor solution to a very bad problem.

    The M25s real problem is its gradients. Motorway designers (civil engineers) have know for 30 years that if a motorway is not as flat as possible then the shockwave effect is exaggerated massively. When faced with a hill. People slow down while thinking that they are maintaining the same speed. On ring motorways this effect is worse than on open ones. When the M25 was built, the consultants advised massive landscaping to eliminate this problem. They were ignored for financial reasons. The result was a road that does not work and never will.


  • I must confess to being a bit anti-car in outlook, but so many people are passionately expressing themselves here on this, I have to test an idea one car-driving London friend shared with me.

    He suggested M25 congestion could be reduced sharply by closing some entry (not exit) roads onto the ring – so reducing traffic using it for short local hops, and allowing it to mainly carry long-distance traffic round London as originally intended.

    What do the motorists here think of that idea? Is my friend Dan onto something or not? I’ve no idea myself.

  • I’m jealous too! The fastest road around here used to be 70 mph, but was turned down to 65 in the day and an absurd 60 at night. I think it had to do with federal matching funds and compliance with air quality restrictions.

    Question: can a sour economy cause speed limits to drop? I believe local government budget shortfalls, where the mayor encourages the police force to write more tickets and turns down some key limits to assist them, proves it can.

  • let’s see them offer to drop the gas tax to american levels. 10 pea per liter. and cut spending to match. then they might be popular again.

  • Liberty Belle

    James Merritt – You set your goals too low! Speed limits in France are 120kph – which I think roughly translates to 90mph. French drivers automatically award themself an extra 15 klicks or so, meaning the French routinely travel the autoroutes at 100 mph. But then, French autoroutes are very well engineered and maintained, and they’re not crowded.

    I don’t know whether they’ve changed the law in Germany recently, but if they haven’t, there are no speed limits at all on the autobahns. This is why BMW et al make “performance” cars with ability far beyond anything legal anywhere else in the world. I had an American friend who was actually pushed along the autobahn by a furious German driver in a BMW who wanted him to go faster. To say he whirled off at the next exit clutching his heart is to understate the case.

  • mark holland

    James Merrit,

    I’ve done 90mph on the New Jersey turnpike for a short burst. The rest of the time I trundled along at 65ish. Pretty much everybody else was doing the same. That’s still 25mph less than my top ever speed on the A38 in Devon.

  • Dave

    120kph is about 65mph.

    140kph is just over 90.

  • Tom

    I reckon the Tories have noted the popularity of TV journalist and motoring nut and all-round-good guy Jeremy Clarkson, a sort of British version of PJ O’Rourke. His Top Gear shows are very popular. He appeals to the mass of middle class voters who have cars, hate speed bumps, speed cameras etc, and he constantly takes the piss out of Liberal Democrats and Labour.

    The car is also a symbol, however imperfect, of freedom, property ownership and independence. And driving fast is one of the few adranalin kicks any average Joe Public is allowed to get these days.

    The Tories have hit a winner.

  • G Cooper

    Tom writes:
    “The car is also a symbol, however imperfect, of freedom…”

    Actually, when the history of the 20th century is written by people with perspective, it will almost certainly emerge that, just as the steam locomotive was perhaps the single most radical cause of change in the 19th century, so was the motor car in the 20th.

    The car isn’t a symbol of freedom, it is a very direct means of it. This, of course, is why it is so hated by socialists, Marxists, eco-fascists and other control-freaks.

  • “You set your goals too low!” – Liberty Belle
    LB: Who said anything about my GOALS? My goals are for there to be no speed limits.

    In California, we have “white” speed signs and “yellow” speed signs. The “white” ones are the posted upper speed limit. The “yellow” ones are the recommended safe speed. My goal is to get rid of the white ones and keep the yellow ones. The former empower the cops to write tickets. The latter actually provide scientifically determined information to the motorist and are of some use to those who don’t know a particular road very well.

    The California law already allows a cop to stop you if you are driving below the “white” sign speed limit, but unsafely for conditions. But they can ALWAYS stop AND cite you if you are driving faster than the “white” sign speed. I’d let them stop you if your driving speed or other behavior seemed unsafe at the time, under the prevailing conditions. But that’s the most they should do. Fines and worse should be reserved only for those who actually endanger or harm people or property (in a way that could be proven in court).

    Incidentally, 135 klicks is pushing 85 MPH. Fast, but nothing I don’t see routinely on Hwy 85 heading south from the Sillicon Valley toward bedroom communities. Many of those speeders are driving Beamers, too, perhaps while playing Kraftwerk on their stereo: <>

    Mark Holland: I’ve done my share of high-speed driving in urban and suburban areas, too. What American driver hasn’t? In fact, traffic typically travels at 15-20 MPH over the speed limit on a very dangerous stretch of road that I travel nearly every day. Ironically, one impedes the flow and makes that road LESS safe by driving “at the limit.” On the other hand, there are a great many “yellow” speed signs on that road, advising speeds slower than the “white” sign maximum, and they are no jokes. You have to have a very nimble car to go any faster without being completely unsafe, and most people are driving trucks, SUVs, and big sedans, as if they were Formula 1 cars. Needless to say, we have noteworthy crackups on that road nearly every day, some of them fairly grisly.

    At one point, we had a special team of Highway Patrol cars that went back and forth on that road (Highway 17, which I call “Deathrace 17”), stopping cars that seemed to be decreasing the safety factor, whether they were exceeding the speed limit or not (although most were). This did have the effect of slowing down traffic and reducing the number of accidents. No arbitrary speed limit was needed for this important, lifesaving service, just more cops than usual and their own good judgment about traffic flow.

  • But James, aren’t speeding tickets a significant source of revenue? You’d have to replace that income with some other source of revenue. Or cut spending, but that’s not going to happen. I don’t know how the climate is in your part of CA, but here in Dallas mayor Laura Miller recently publicly admonished the PD to please write tickets at a much higher rate.

    I don’t see a push to do away with “preventive” speeding fines being very popular.

    By the way, it’s Bimmer. :o)

    G Cooper, my environmental science professor used to rail against the automobile in almost every class. I mean, he REALLY HATED cars. He was proud of the fact that he hadn’t taken a ride in a car for years. He’d talk about how “man” is so arrogant to think we can “destroy the earth” just because we don’t want to walk and how if he can get by without a car, everyone should be able to. He especially directed his anger toward me when I’d walk in with my motorcycle helmet, because motorcyclists often go riding “just for the fun of it”, and that’s totally immoral. (he was the real deal–he’s building a house that doesn’t use electricity, and he has a very limited strictly organic Vegan diet.)

    I’m sure I’ve got everyone beat in top speed–I’ve gone 140 mph or so, although that was on a motorcycle (thus, the time it took to get to that speed was extremely short). 8)

  • Oops, I narfed up the html. Oh well, the third paragraph should read “By the way, it’s Bimmer”. :o)

    And then I had a paragraph about my environmental science prof, who was militantly anti-automobile. Oh well.

  • Kevin: Maybe “bimmer” to the natives of Texas, but here in NorCal, it’s a “Beamer, Dude.” 😉

    And you are too-cynical-by-half with the observation about traffic tickets being too significant a revenue stream to permit any reform in the speed laws. Next you’ll be telling me that drug prohibition is too lucrative for the cops and the crooks to ever be repealed, and rain all OVER my parade…

    That’s Texans for you. Hee hee hee.

  • “Here in the States, the top posted limit is just 70MPH”

    Unless they’ve changed it recently, the top posted limit is 75MPH in Arizona, or at least the I40 around Flagstaff. I think I might have seen a 75MPH sign somewhere in CA too. I’ve done 90MPH+ for extended stretches in the Southwest U.S. and the I5 through CA’s Central Valley, and even got to over 100MPH on the 10 around LaBrea in L.A. late at night. At those speeds, however, you burn much more gas than going slower, and, more importantly, your chances of being able to avoid something in time or safely deal with a malfunction are greatly reduced.

  • Lonewacko Blog says, “Unless they’ve changed it recently, the top posted limit is 75MPH in Arizona…”

    Yes, and throughout the intermountain west. I also read somewhere that some place in the country has an 80MPH limit, though because I haven’t been able to find out where, I have treated the story as false, until proven true. I should have said, “here in California.” My apologies. Until recently, at least stretches in Montana had no posted speed limits, but federal pressure brought them into line with the “Max 75” crowd, I believe.

    For those who are interested, here is a federal government map of maximum posted speeds in the States.