Speed humps in Waltham Forest: new evidence shows that activists’ call for a review are perfectly reasonable

It is pleasing to report that the campaign for a review of speed humps in Waltham Forest is progressing well, led by determined activists in partnership with the Chingford Residents Association, gaining support from local MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, and currently attracting ministerial attention in the Department for Transport.

However, barely a month passes without new questions arising about exactly what LBWF has been up to.

Take the recent statement about speed humps that Deputy Leader and Cabinet Portfolio Member for Climate and Air Quality, Clyde Loakes, provided to the Sunday Telegraph:

‘“We know for sure that vehicles travelling at speed do cause significant damage to people. And we also know the measures are working – the number of people killed and seriously injured on the borough’s roads has fallen from 97 in 2018 to 70 in 2022”’.

No-one could quarrel with his first sentence: it is what follows that appears debatable.

First, Cllr. Loakes’ statistics need to be put in context.

For while in 2018 traffic flows in Waltham Forest were at an all-time peak, by 2022 they had declined because of Covid.

And this is important because it suggests that the dramatic fall in deaths and serious injuries which Cllr. Loakes points to in part must reflect the fact that, over time, there were simply fewer vehicles on the road, and thus less potential for harm.

But, more generally, is Cllr. Loakes right in his apparently forceful belief that speed humps are a key – perhaps the key – to cutting lethal road accidents?

It would be foolish to deny either that speeding is dangerous, especially in urban areas, or that it is a laudable aim to prevent it. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt that, as a careful analysis of data for the borough (soon to be published) shows, many lethal accidents occur not because of speed, but because of a myriad of other factors, including negligence and mechanical failure. 

Against this background, the promotion of speed humps as a silver bullet seems misguided. They are really but one weapon in what should be a much bigger and more rounded arsenal.

The worry, however, is that LBWF has yet to grasp these realities, and indeed appears not even to be in possession of the relevant data.

Thus, for example, when LBWF was recently asked under the Freedom of Information Act whether it could evidence ‘a clear link between road humps in Waltham Forest and “the number of people killed and seriously injured on the borough’s roads”’, in other words, Cllr. Loakes’ key proposition, it had to admit, rather shockingly, that it couldn’t.

So much for the relationship between speed humps and accidents. 

What about the second component of the critics’ case, their claim that widening the focus beyond road safety reveals that speed humps have a variety of downsides, which are in most cases significant enough to demand consideration in any balanced assessment?

Previous posts have looked at some of the specifics involved (see links below), but a correspondent to this blog has provided a further illustration of what is at stake, describing how even something as mundane as a short car and bus journey, if it includes traversing speed humps, can blight lives:

‘My wife suffers with arthritis of the spine and we recently had cause to travel in Waltham Forest going to visit our son in Whipps Cross Hospital and when we got home she wanted to cry with the pain.  I drive a car which has a cruise control which can be set to 20 mph and had used it on…this journey so the vehicle did not exceed the prescribed limit. 

We now have to plan our journeys to avoid certain areas due to the speed humps which even when you travel over them at 10 mph there are still problems with the bounce on exit… 

I have spoken to several bus drivers who drive the roads of Waltham Forest who all mention the problems these obstructions cause including drivers being off work sick with back and neck pain and additional stress due to having to negotiate these structures’.

In conclusion, local residents have a reasonable expectation that when LBWF introduces changes that impinge on their lives, it will have examined the full array of evidence, properly evaluated alternatives, and throughout proceeded on the basis of reason as opposed to predetermined bias. 

In particular, councillors should never be allowed to ride their own hobby horses.

Yet in the case of speed humps, it is becoming ever clearer that the decision-making process has been flawed, and so calls for a review are both merited and proportionate.

Related Posts

The Sunday Telegraph reports the ‘misery’ that speed humps are causing in Chingford

Chingford speed humps: the prior consultation was manipulated, and what LBWF refers to as supporting evidence is revealed to be decades out of date

Traffic calming measures that are harming houses and people: a local resident fights on to force LBWF into recognising its responsibilities

LBWF’s ‘traffic calming’ measures again in the dock: an expert paramedic argues they worsen ambulance response times and so may increase fatalities in health emergencies

A local resident writes in about LBWF ‘traffic calming measures’ that do the opposite! UPDATED

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