Thursday, 22 September 2016

La Route des Champs

La Route des Champs

For some time now I’ve been looking at speed limits on La Route des Champs in St Brelade.

In 2011, I noted how the consultation on speed limits by TTS didn’t really seem to be looking at inconsistencies with the speed limits.

“What really will improve matters, however, is common sense. The tiny twisting back hill, for example, beside St Brelade's Church, is at the end of a 20 mph zone, and the sign cheerfully says the speed limit for the hill is 40 mph, which obviously would only be safe to a lunatic. This is not an isolated example, but the consultation, with its emphasis on "standardisation", seems to think that making it (presumably) 35 mph would be better!”

I also noted one feature that was problematic with Departmental consultations:

“One thing I noticed where it differs from a Scrutiny review is that the Scrutiny Panel has transcripts of all hearings, and all the written submissions available to read in their entirely. The Transport and Technical Services reports, by contrast, pick and quote only those bits of the consultation submissions that they choose to do so, and do not, as far as I am aware, list the people who have made submissions.”

“This means, on the one hand, that one has no idea where the bulk of the submissions are coming from - the general public, the road lobby, environmentalists, etc and secondly, that those submissions quoted - only in part - for the report - don't show their total context, so that any substantive arguments are reduced to sound-bite quotes, which is rather like those people who cite verses from the Bible in isolation, with no details being given on the context, but which is used to support their case. “

In fact, the consultation by Education on Les Quennevais School (promoted by Education Minister Rod Bryans) last year shows that this can be achieved. It was one in which all submissions were put online and available as a printed copy, only redacted to remove names of those submitting to comply with Data Protection requirements. But a holistic and complete picture was given and showed best practice for future.

Since that my submission in 2011, further reductions in speed have been put in place across the Parish of St Brelade. The whole of the road to Portelet and Noirmont is 30 mph, other areas have been reduced to 20 mph, and the whole of Route Orange has been reduced to 30 mph. That’s a large, wide road, with lots of visibility. The start of La Route des Champs, past the curtain shop, is windy and narrows, with poor visibility, and yet the speed limit on there is 40 mph! That disparity often astounds people, and demonstrates, I believe, why we need a rationalisation of speed limits to ensure consistency and common sense.

So what has happened with La Route des Champs? The Minutes of the Roads Committee (very helpfully supplied to me by Constable Steve Pallett) show that after concerns were raised by a local resident. On Friday 11th May 2007, it was decided at that meeting to implement a ‘ 20mph speed limit from its junction with La Route des Camps /La Route du Sud to its existing 20mph speed limit at Le Mont es Croix.

However no further action was taken of that decision by the previous Constable in consideration that such action would have required both Parish and wider public consultation and would have ultimately required the approval of the TTS Minister at the time (Deputy Guy de Faye). This would have been a lengthy process taking 9 months or more and would not have been considered in isolation. Such a change could have been considered during other speed limit changes during 2011 but was not included.

A petition from residents was made in 2014 to introduce speed bumps to slow traffic. I am not in favour of that for a variety of reasons. While it may slow some traffic, research shows that speed bumps can produce substantial driver discomfort, damage to vehicle suspension, and even loss of control if encountered at too high a speed.

The alternative design, speed humps can make the work of winter maintenance vehicles more difficult and can slow emergency vehicle response speeds. Research shows that speed humps can slow down emergency responders by 6 to 11 seconds, which can be a critical few seconds, especially if there is more than one. Series of traffic delay devices turn seconds of delay into minutes, as vehicles fail to regain cruising speed between the devices. Moreover, the sensitive equipment and injured victims transported by these ambulances requires drivers to slow almost to a stop to negotiate the devices safely.

A study by scientist Ronald Bowman showed that even minor delay to emergency response by calming devices imposed far greater risk on the community than vehicles, speeding or not. Bowman’s analysis, based on the curve of survivability for victims of cardiac arrest and severe trauma (AHA) has been verified by professional mathematicians.

Other factors against the continual change in engine note when vehicles negotiate the bumps that itself can become a source of irritation for residents. Noise levels increase at the bump due to rapid deceleration and noise of the vehicle going over the bump. Researchers of one study estimated that the undulation of cars passing over the speed bumps increased the volume of car noise by 10 to 20 decibels, and for trucks even more.

There are also the resulting problems and additional costs caused when utilities need to dig up the road.

Returning to the petition by residents, these were noted in the minutes of 23rd December 2014 and culminated in the decision to install signage on the 24th September 2015. This signage includes slow signs painted on the road, and two signs warning drivers that the road is about to narrow.

However this is not the end of the story. Constable Steve Pallett informs me that the Parish Roads Committee are in the process of reviewing all the speed limits in the Parish and are due to consult more widely in the Parish very shortly. This will include a Parish Assembly for sign off .This review will include reducing Rue des Camps to a 30mph speed limit in line with criteria set by the Department of Infrastructure.

This is excellent news, and I look forward to the consultation being announced in the near future, perhaps also via the Parish Magazine La Baguette which is an excellent conduit for Parish news stories and consultations, and was used to great effect for the Les Quennevais School consultation.

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